Can we push our kids too much and too far?

Reading an article in Parents as part of my self experiment to push my comfort zone and perceptions I read about the issue of the amount of pressure we place on our children to excel at activities. This article and topic lead me to connect the contents to Passion which has been my hot ticket item this summer on this blog.

As a parent of 8, 6, and 2 year olds I feel great pressure that my kids are not involved in activities on a daily basis, participating on travel teams, being involved in scheduled events all day everyday, and not competing like every other child that we know and run into.

I feel torn and this has been an issue that I struggle with as well as my wife. We both are quite competitive coming from college sports backgrounds in basketball and volleyball. We loved what we did. It is hard not to have kids loving what we did. They are young and my heart tells me they will develop their love of things on their own. However, the crazy culture and society we live in today makes me feel like I am doing a disservice to my children by not forcing them into drills and travel teams and being part of an organized system all day and night.

My instinct as a parent along with my coaching experience that includes all the good and bad parenting pressures leads me to believe that my kids need to be kids. They need to experience the world on their terms and find their own passions. By giving them the freedom to create, play outside, be bored, experiment, and just not live a structured life of always being in an organized activity will pay off. So many children today do not know how to entertain themselves on their own. How will they ever find their life passion if they cannot accomplish the most important ingredient in life – making oneself happy? To be clear my kids are involved in activities, but during the summer they are left to figure out how to entertain themselves, create their own games, organize their own fun with the neighborhood kids, etc.

The article discusses how parents are getting kids to find their speciality early to appeal to college. Parents feel like they have a head start if they start their children on these paths early. I love the quote by Michael Thompson, Ph.D when he states, “The goal of childhood is to become independent, moral, loving, and productive young adult – not to go to a great college.” I think it is easy as a parent and also as an educator to lose sight of this central idea.

This quote stuck with me as an educator. As we work to be the best teachers we can be I think his quote is a great reminder of what our jobs are as teachers. We are trying to help students and kids become independent, moral, loving, and productive young adults. Schools are so focused on standardized tests and college prep that we are overlooking the most important ingredients to our recipe for success in the classroom. Those ingredients are the ones that we should be focusing on because if we can help students become independent, moral, loving, and productive, then the scores and curriculum content will just naturally occur and the test scores will take of themselves.

“Enthusiasm motivates a child to keep getting better at something.” quote by Madeline Levine, Ph.D. strikes another chord with me. As parents and educators we have to share our passion and enthusiasm for life and learning. I have blogged about finding our passion and sharing our passion as teachers to engage learners. Enthusiasm is key. It is contagious just like passion. Look at a young kid loaded with excitement for life and try not to smile!

Reading this article made me feel better. My kids will find their niche. It took me most of my life to find mine. I have bounced around to explore. I have to remember that basketball was not always my desire, but for a large part of my youth it was. It has once again changed. I have to remember that my instinct is right. My kids will be fine. When it comes to my classroom I have to allow my students to explore and learn and bounce around. I cannot worry that my children bounce around from activity to activity. I have to remain open to this idea both as a parent and an educator because after all life is the passion of child. Kids by nature are to explore and therefore bouncing around from this activity to this activity is part of the process.

Whether a parent or educator our jobs are to provide many different experiences and opportunities for students and kids to explore and find more about themselves. Mix things up. Appeal to the senses. Move around. Try new things. Share your passions for life. By doing these things  we are creating the next generation of passionate learners of life.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Ideas were based on reading of article from August 2013 issues of Parents magazine: http://www.parents.com/parents-magazine/

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