I’ve been immersed in a number of parent discussions this past week and I’m struck with how hard parents are driving their kids. I stumbled upon a great documentary on Netflix and highly recommend you take the time to watch it. Check out Race To Nowhere. The gist of the documentary is the pressures we are putting on our kids. Between excessive homework, extra curricular activities, sports clubs, religion, and the pressure to straight A’s to get into a the top college, we are putting tremendous pressure on today’s children.
Stress coming from school, parents, peers, media, social media leaves kids struggling with the fundamental question of adolescents, which is, ‘who am I?’ If you remember back to the uncertainty and fear when you were in adolescents you understand what kids go through. Mix in the barrage of social media pressures, the 24 hour media cycle and the hyper focus parents put on getting into a good college and you can see the dilemma.
By no means are parents maliciously putting undue stress on their kids. It is purely out of love, concern, fear of falling behind. The burden to keep up is causing that parents push too hard and ends up turning kids into little professionals. When success is defined by good grades, trophy’s or awards we create empty kids. Kids need down time, creative play time, recess and the ability to fail and pick themselves back up. From the movie you’ll see that these pressured kids end up as cutters or with anorexia or stomach pains. More and more kids are turning to adderral to perform at every higher levels.
My friend, Dr. Kevin Leman has written on the subject of over stimulated kids. His book ‘It’s Your Kid, Not A Gerbil’ takes the topic head on. To sum up his book;
Sit down around the dinner table and talk. Play a game.
Smart families look at the calendar and realize time goes by quickly, and their kids grow up fast!
Steps to slow down:
- Start slowing down by looking at your calendar from last year and asking the question, “What was this like? Do I want to do this again?”
- Recognize the problem.
- Revise how your calendar will look this next year.
- Decide what you are willing to give up to get more family time.
In my book It’s Your Kid, Not a Gerbil, I recommend 1 activity per kid per semester.
Making the change will take some determination because once you have your family on this gerbil wheel, kids can get addicted to the rush of all the activity. In the end, your family will benefit from time to communicate, be together, get to know one another and more!
If your kids are still young, you can avoid this rat race.
Remember, the reason people get into it is often they don’t want their kids to fall behind. Ballet and soccer at 3 are not necessary! These kids need to play and be imaginative.