You might think busy kids mean happy kids or successful kids but when does this go too far?
If you are a mom or dad, you are bound to have encountered it at some point, it is insidious but real- the competition! The competition I am referring to is the one between parents so desperate for their child to excel at everything that they don’t hesitate to enrol them in as many activities as they can squeeze in.
Children of today are expected not only to be amongst the best at school, well behaved and sociable but also to impress with their extracurricular activities and hobbies, be it music, sport, art, foreign languages or whatever it is that is supposed to give them an edge.
Children ‘s Activities – When Less Is More
There is no denying that the world they are growing into is tougher than it has ever been, meaning they have to be sufficiently armed to thrive as adults. But is filling their time with endless learning opportunities, entertainment or activities of all sorts the best way to go about it? Is it really what children need to become the happy and successful adults they deserve to be?
Opinions are bound to diverge on this because at the end of the day, parenting is a very personal matter. I have myself started to seriously doubt the common assumption that children need constant stimulation to become more intelligent, more capable, more talented or more competent! I believe that every child is different and as such their need for stimulation will invariably differ.
Overstimulation of Busy kids
In her book, The Highly Sensitive Child, psychotherapist and author Elaine N. Aron explains the counterproductive effect of overstimulation on highly sensitive children who by nature become easily overwhelmed. As infants, these babies need more time alone and less fussing around. If their need for less stimulation is ignored, they will start showing signs of distress.
As toddlers, highly sensitive children can become over-stimulated by events as insignificant as a long or exciting day, too much noise or too many things to see. Elaine Naron points out that too much of even the nicest activities are a cause of stress for highly sensitive children; they can’t physically cope with as much stimulation. It is worth noting that as many as 15 to 20% of children fall into that category.
Busy Kids and Boredom
The sight and moans of a bored child is sure to send any parent on a guilt trip. We can’t help but thinking that we are failing them if we don’t make their days meaningful and fun. Interestingly, some child specialists are now challenging common views by highlighting the virtues of boredom. A little boredom could actually be good for children as it forces them to develop their imagination and creativity.
French child psychiatrist, Roger Teboul explains that the lack of activities stimulates a child’s autonomy and independent thinking, encouraging them to take initiatives and to stop expecting adults to provide everything for him. It does make sense to me, how else can they possibly learn to invent games , engage in pretend play or get a book?
Busy Kids and Balance
Obviously, I am not advocating neglect- leaving a 5 years old to his own devices, day in and day out, is not going to help his development. But like with everything in life, a balanced approach might be the answer. Next time you are tempted to fill every single day of your child’s holiday with activities, you might want to consider including some no-activities time; allowing him to spend some time by himself and encouraging him to come up with ideas for things to do.
You can read more about this here in this excellent article on overscheduled kids