When I was a kid, we ran from one activity to another. We were involved in EVERYTHING. While I appreciated being able to do nearly every activity I ever desired, I reflect on childhood as a very frazzled time – always running from one activity to the next. Today, I struggle with performance-based approval which I believe stemmed from this frequent activity. How much can I get done and how well can I do it – these are questions I began asking myself at a very young age, when people would comment on how much we were involved in and my parents would respond with how well we were performing in each activity. I would tell myself – I can handle this – look how well I am doing! But the truth is, I was always tired and yet never felt like I could do enough.
Now that I have small children (8, 6, 4, & 2) I have learned to be intentional about the activities outside the home that we are involved in. I want my children to be exposed to great things, but I want even more for our family to reach the objectives we have set as a family. I do not want to look back on these years and feel like I missed the things that were most important. Here are some ways I try to prevent being that super-busy family, while still exposing our kids to a lot of great things:
1. Does this activity align with our vision statement? This is where yesterday's Mission comes in. It doesn't matter how cool the activity is, how much the child wants to do it, or how many other parents are doing it – does it align with what you said were the priorities of your home, when outside pressure did not surround your decision? It can be difficult to decide what to do if you do not have a Vision statement – but your Vision statement gives you the freedom to say "no, that just won't work for our family", and to have confidence in that choice.
2. Teach first – before I sign them up for the next activity or class, I think about my ability to teach them that skill together as a family. It is easy to toss a ball with a 3-year-old in the backyard rather than signing them up for T-ball. It is NOT easy to entertain a toddler, and two older kids while the 3-year-old gets taught the skill by someone else. In addition to reducing the busyness, you might miss out on great memories and the building of trust that comes from your child when you teach them child a new skill. Not to mention the blessing you receive as a confidence booster when they master (or just learn the basics of) that skill.
3. Can you combine instruction? Rather than signing this kid up for that class, and having the other children wait, or the next kid up for a different class, and wasting your precious time with your children telling them to sit down, be patient, hurry up or wait, try to select activities that multiple children can participate in. For us, that might mean the older two have one class, and I get focused time playing with the little ones. I generally do not sign my children under 5 up for activities unless they are joining in with their siblings. For example, we attend a gym class that has options available for all ages at the same time slot. The 8, 6, & 4-year-old participate and the baby and I can walk around the track. The whole family looks forward to gym because it benefits everyone – all at the same time.
4. Is it the right season? Some things sound great, and fit well with your Vision statements or intentions as a family, but it is just not the right time for your family to participate. "Seasons of life" can mean many things. Many times, those with very young children are in a season where you need to take into account nap times, attention spans, energy levels, etc. Other families may be dealing with prolonged illness, financial difficulties, or emotional distress. Saying "no" today doesn't mean you are saying no forever. It just means that you recognize your unique family needs at that time and are courageous enough to let that pass. It is inevitable that your child will want to do everything – this is good that they have many interest and are excited about life! But show them how to manage their time wisely when they are an adult by learning how to evaluate where they should best spend their time when they are still in your home.
Think about the activities you are currently involved in, and activities you would like to be involved in. Examine them in comparison to the Vision sentences you created yesterday. Which activities support that vision, and which ones detract from that vision? You will need to decide in your heart to let go of the ones that do not support that vision and perhaps get involved in the ones that do. Be courageous! It might not be the popular thing to drop out of that art class that everyone is talking about – but the result may teach your child a much greater lesson than the art class ever could. Pray about and consider the activities the Lord is calling your family to, and align your time commitments to them.
Tomorrow we will start to outline the specifics our schedule….don't miss it!
This Post is part of a series titled "Creating a Family Schedule That Works for You". The other links to the posts in this series may be found here: