It seems to start as soon as they can walk and talk – sometimes even before. Parents are bombarded with invitations to enroll their kids in a multitude of activities – all claiming to guarantee your child’s future success.
Every one of these activities can and usually does give you a long list of all of the wonderful benefits your child will receive by allowing them to have your child’s time (and usually some of your money). It’s hard to even begin to filter through all of the options.
Thankfully, the parental peer pressure group is there to “help” you through the maze. They know exactly which activities your kids should participate in – ironically usually the same ones as their kids.
Do all of these activities really help your child? Or are you sacrificing crucial things for fitting in with your parenting crowd? There are some important questions you need to ask yourself before enrolling your child in any activity.
- What is the true amount of time required for the activity? It’s amazing how “just an hour a week” suddenly morphs into much more as you get deeper into the activity. Don’t forget to factor in travel time to and from the activity, outside requirements for practice at home, “special” extras like trips, extra rehearsals or practices before major events, etc.
- What are you giving up to free that much time in your child’s schedule? Is it family time? Church? Time for your kid to do homework and still get a full night’s sleep? Time for your child to just relax and think? Every hour of every day is currently filled with something in the life of your child. It’s really important to factor in what will no longer happen because of this new activity.
- How much margin time does this leave your child in every day? Your child must have margin time in each day. Unexpected events, homework and other things will often use that margin time. Your child also needs margin time to process what is happening in his/her life – what God is teaching him or her and where God’s path may be leading. They need time each day to talk with you about anything and everything and get your feedback and guidance when necessary. If a new activity will take all of your child’s margin time, something needs to change.
- Is God who will get neglected with the missing time this activity requires? Trust me, I have seen this more times than I can count. If your child has to miss church for weeks and months on end for some traveling team – well, I have yet to see one of those kids go pro or get an athletic scholarship. I also would be hard pressed to name one who is a faithful Christian as an adult. I’m sure there are some positive examples, but they are extremely rare. And it’s not just about missing church. Are family discussions about God, family service projects and mission trips, family devotionals or other spiritual family times going to disappear with this new activity?
- What does this particular child need the most right now and will this activity really provide it? Frankly, most activities make a lot of false promises. Those coaches and teachers are often promoting ungodly ideas, attitudes and priorities. There can be hidden exposure to hazing, bullying, sexual harassment, drugs, alcohol and a dozen other things they will never tell you in their fliers. I’m not saying your child will experience any or all of these things. Just be aware of the hype and the reality. Sometimes an activity can worsen an issue your child has and add other new issues. Your child may actually benefit more from additional focused family time than another organized activity.
Activities can be good for kids – in moderation. The trick is choosing the ones that will truly help your child reach his or her godly potential without pulling him or her away from God in the process. Taking the time to ask important questions and really researching and praying about the answers is crucial. Then you can make the best decision about whether or not your child needs to enroll in an activity.