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Parenting Advice #4 January 6, 2006

Posted by TimTheFoolMan in Football, Love, Parenting/Children, Sports.
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In the last of the big 4 chunks of parenting advice that I’ve felt compelled to pass along is probably the one most people seem to get. In fact, they get it a little too well: Keeping your child busy.

Here’s the version I got from my mother-in-law:

If your kids are busy doing the right things, they won’t have time to do the wrong things.

The key to getting this one right is answering the question, “What are the ‘Right Things ™ ‘?”

In some families, like ours, the Right Things ™ are athletics. In all honesty, if my sons hadn’t been interested in football, basketball, baseball, and soccer, I don’t know that I’d have survived. In my childhood, I wasn’t much of an athelete, but I’ve always had a spectator’s interest, which makes it nice to have lots of events where your children are playing.

Unfortunately, it’s very easy to go overboard, and leave your kids with virtually no time to themselves. This is the infamous “over-programming” that you’ll hear some parents complain of, and it’s a very hard balance to strike. The key to avoiding it is this: listen to your child.

If your son or daughter is involved in an activity because they want to do it, you’ll probably not have any issues with lack of motivation (which is the most obvious indicator of over-programming). In contrast, if they’re playing “Dad’s sport” or involved in a given activity because you want them to do it, you may find yourself listening to a long tirade of complaints about “not enough time” for any number of things.

One caveat is that you will almost certainly hear time complaints when it comes to homework. The right way to deal with this is to make it clear that there is a “grade minimum,” regardless of whether the team (or organization providing the activity) applies one or not. This is much easier if the organization enforces one. (This is really easy with school-affiliated activities, because they generally understand that the student is a student first.) However, even if you’re homeschooling or involving them in something with an outside organization, you can enforce a “minimum grade rule.” Be careful though, because this may create too many rules.

Lastly, all of this goes out the window if you use these activities as a way of babysitting. If your kids are involved in something, and you’re not consistently there to share it with them, something is wrong.

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