Many of us today are guilty of over-scheduling our children’s lives with activities, ostensibly in order to make them more well-rounded individuals. Yet, when a mother like Amy Chua comes out clean about her over-scheduling method of parenting, we deem it too military. And is it really such a bad thing to send our kids to classes and other activities. And when has a music or art class ever harmed a child?
Well ostensibly it hasn’t. But remember that old adage which goes ‘Too much of a good thing can be bad’. And there is more than some truth to it. Research has shown that free-play and alone time are crucial in developing thinking and creative skills. Imagination thrives in a less structured or regimented environment.
And not all children will have the innate ability for certain things like violin or dance or even karate. Pushing them into learning something that they do not have a natural aptitude for may actually have the opposite effect of deterring their morale.
Does that mean that we do not send our children to any classes or other extra-curricular activities and make them hermits? No. That would be extreme. The idea is to be more child lead and do activities that are closer to the child’s forte and therefore enjoyable to them. This will ensure that the child goes for the classes without resentment and also learns something there. Interest is the strongest impetus to learning after all. If you are uncertain about which activities to enroll your child in, the best thing would be to set up a few trial classes to begin with. This will help you gauge if the class matches with your child’s temperament and talents.
The other important thing is to keep these extra classes down to one or two in a week. It may be tempting to enroll for more than a few activities – especially if there are peers who are doing it. But remember, we need the free time in between to grow and develop!
One of the unfortunate by-products of our modern lives, which are scheduled down to the minute is boredom! It is true. Faced suddenly with an unscheduled slot of time in the day, we (or our children) do not know how to spend it. Television is unfortunately the recourse for many.
However, boredom should not come so easily. An empty slot of time should be seen as an opportunity to do something new or just be still. We need to teach our children that. And the easiest and most beneficial way to do this is to allow for patches of unscheduled time in a day when a child can learn how to entertain herself without any adult guidance.
As always there is a very thin line in decisions about scheduling. And like many decisions that a parent must make, these choices also have to be vetted with practicality and pragmatism. Follow your gut and try not succumb to peer pressure or the latest fad. The ideal childhood environment would be one where there is exposure to several stimulating activities that are spaced out with enough free time to allow for assimilation, enjoyment and growth.
Nidhi Dorairaj Bruce is a Freelance writer from Mumbai. With no formal education in Parenting, she has been getting on-the-job training ever since her daughter, affectionately referred to as ‘the kidlet’, arrived on the scene 5 years ago. On Twitter, you can connect with Nidhi @typewritermom