One of the many struggles of raising kids has to do with their extracurricular activities. What should we sign them up for and how much should they do?
The first thing we signed our kids up for was swimming. In fact, we started with a “mommy and me” class at our city pool when they were six months old. From there we went on to private swim lessons. The reason for our focus on the pool was water safety. We live in an area where most homes and all apartments and condos have pools, including our home. Young children die every year where we live and I was doing all I could to make sure my kids would not be included in those numbers.
While at the pool, we noticed older kids swimming laps with the Piranha Swim Team. We were impressed with their technique and the exciting energy of the team when they were on deck. We asked our children’s instructor if she thought our kids could ever make the team. When our son was six or seven years old, our instructor said he was ready. By that time we were taking him to piano lessons once a week, Boy Scouts, Karate, Tennis and had already dropped Tee Ball. Doesn’t that sound like a ridiculous amount of activities for one wee kid?
I remember racing from school to one activity followed by another. Realizing I forgot something, I erratically made a U-turn and hit a curb. I was shaking as I called Triple A to change my flat tire. Something had to change. This was not a healthy way to live.
We let go of Boy Scouts and Karate. We stuck with piano lessons and swimming. My son continued with tennis for a few years and in middle school tried basketball at his school, plus school plays.
I enrolled my daughter in ballet because that was my passion. Piano too, because it is supposed to do so much for mathematics and the brain. She wanted to swim, not be a ballerina. And she hated piano with a passion. She throws it out from time to time, how I forced her to take piano years beyond what was reasonable. It took both her ballet and piano teacher to suggest that enough was enough!
I wrote a story this week for SwimSwam.com with five tips for when your child wants to miss practice. There are so many things I’ve learned through the years. I wish I could go back and let my son know that he didn’t have to go to swim meets or practice and his love of music was just as important. I’d ask him if he wanted to quit, but he’d always say, “No, I love swimming.” He did, but he had interests that he was more passionate about and he didn’t want to disappoint us, because we’d invested so much of our family time around the pool and team. He wanted to be in Junior Statesmen of America. Plus, he started a band was writing music and performing around the area. We tried to make room for everything, but it was a struggle. Also, if I could get a redo, I’d have let my daughter quit piano early on. Why go through daily battles of practice and dragging your kids to an activity they don’t enjoy?
My advice looking back is to expose them to a number of activities and let them find their passion. Then support them wholeheartedly in whatever they choose. Also, don’t overschedule them. Allow them downtime to dream, reflect, play and be kids.
What advice do you have when choosing activities for your kids?
Let them pick what they want, try all different things, but once you sign up for a class or whatever, they must see it through to the end of a session and give 100%. Remember it’s their free time, and they might enjoy something you’d never thought of. Don’t let them sign up for something that you are committed to. I’ve seen parents sign up kids for weekend sports, and then the parents say they have other weekend commitments. That’s a bad lesson
I also have seen parents who don’t like the weekend meets and volunteer commitment that comes with being a swim parent. The parents can be the ones dragging their feet and surely the children pick up on their feelings. Good point! I also agree with making a commitment and following through.
So many parents think it’s ok to sign their kid up for a team and not follow thru. Kids learn the absolute wrong lesson
agree. Parents need to honor the commitment. As a former team manager, my heart used to break for kids who wanted to be there and whose parents had other priorities despite having committed to being on the team.
The kids don’t have any control and suffer the consequences of their parents’ actions. From my experience on the swim team, if the parents aren’t involved and have other priorities, the children don’t stick with it very long.
The parents are what frustrate me the most. It’s horrible to do that to your child!
Again, I agree completely. It was one of the main contributors to my decision to end managing, In addition to being ready for some free time after seven years
Unfortunately, I went through it with my mom and ballet. I was in a ballet recital and hardly ever made it to rehearsals. The instructor had a private meeting with my mom and me to discuss whether I would be kicked out or not. I had to perform what I knew on the spot and the teacher agreed to let me stay—but only if my mom drove me to every rehearsal from then on. I felt like I was in trouble.
Yep, you figured it out, I’d say. And your kids are recovering. Okay to make mistakes as a human and parent, and even more important to own them, and be willing to grow and change. That’s a really important thing to model for kids.
Thank you! I’ve talked to both my kids about this topic recently. They’ve given me more insight and fortunately there’s understanding and no resentment.