• Melissa Manente

When is too much too much

With the new baseball year upon us, I started thinking about how some parents overschedule their kids. What are we teaching our children when we overschedule them? More importantly, what are we teaching our children when we allow them to do multiple activities in the same season?

We have always been a one sport/activity per season family - with the Fall of 2020 being the only exception - same sport but different schedules. Neither of the team’s schedules for practices or games overlapped. But what about the schedules when practices and games overlap each other? As a parent, what are we saying to our child....well, this travel soccer game is more important than that rec baseball game? First, let us remember they are children. At grammar school and middle school age, the odds of a professional scout coming to watch that is...well.... slim to none. Do you honestly think a professional scout is going to give one shit, never mind two shits about how many goals your child scored in sixth grade? Or how many solen bases your kid had in fifth grade? So back to the original question - what are we inadvertently teaching our children when they have to decide what game to attend? What are we teaching our children to continue to overschedule them? Let’s take another approach - What are you saying to the teammates of the sport you decide not to attend? Now the coaches have to redo their lineups, kids get moved around to positions they may not be used to playing, and how can you become bonded with a team if you can’t go to most of their practices and games. Do you believe the abundance of activities will foster a sense of pride and accomplishment? Or does it have the potential to cause detrimental effects such as anxiety and burnout?

When we overschedule and over organize our children, it does not allow for downtime and, more importantly, can lead to burnout. Yes, burnout. Kids need to learn how to unwind, decompress, free play. When we have our children in multiple activities, the parental pressure we put on them is the children handling the stress? Most children struggle to become successful at one activity, never mind multiple. Do we want our children to think that they need to be superior in multiple activities?

Clinical psychologist Polly Young-Eisendrath, author of “The Self-Esteem Trap,” blames parents who are too interested in their children’s lives and put them in activities mainly to compete with other parents. She argues that “before age 11 or 12, when children begin to develop self-consciousness, activities risk distracting children from their natural development.” Young-Eisendrath argues that kids need time to lie around, play more freely, and have non-goal-oriented activities with their parents.

So before you sign up your child for those additional activities, ask yourself first, why am I doing this?

As parents, the greatest gift we can give our children is our time, not more lessons.

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