While The Overscheduled Child by Alvin Rosenfeld and Nicole Wise tries to avoid giving advice because they believe “there is no single right way to raise a family,” at the end of the book, they do provide parents with some fundamental principles to help you make decisions about what might work best for you.
- Limit Activities – Weigh the benefits of participation against the cost, which includes “time, energy, logistical effort, stress, and expense.”
- Develop Healthy Skepticism – “Experts should help alleviate stress, not add unnecessary anxiety to an already overloaded life.”
- Give Yourself a Break – “Do it your way. You only get one chance. The next time you experience it, you will be watching your children being parents. So embrace the uncertainty.”
- Family Is a Priority – “If your family is too busy to hang out together, if you and your spouse hardly ever spend time alone together as a couple, adjustments need to be made. Family time should be as important as education, athletics, social activities, and other outside commitments.”
- Buyer Beware – “We live in a market-driven society, where just about everyone is selling something, directly or indirectly. Go into the world with that awareness, and ask yourself whether a particular product or service will enrich your life or merely distract you.”
- Character Counts – “Know that how you live your life in front of your child matters more than how you tell him he ought to be living his.”
- Be Unproductive – “The fact that you, the parent, enjoy spending time with your child with no apparent goal lets her know you find her more interesting than just about anything else in the world – there is nothing that will bolster her self-esteem more effectively.”
- Childhood is Preparation, Not a Performance – “By definition, children are immature and should not be expected to perform to adult standards. Resist the pressure from coaches, and the media, that tells you how to push your child to excel early.”
- Pleasure Has a Place in Parents’ Lives – “If we aren’t having much fun with our children, spouse, friends – and even ourselves – we need to consider making some changes in our lives.”
- Pleasure Has a Place in Kids’ Lives Too! “Childhood needn’t be an endless treadmill of productivity and self-improvement. Kids deserve to have fun.”
- Leave Empty Spaces on Your Calendar – “Empty hours teach children how to create their own happiness – and that is an important skill we would all benefit from developing.”
- There is No Single, Right Way to Parent – Still parents should make an effort to “rush a little less and reflect a little more.”
- Trust Yourself
Of all the suggestions on this list, the one I find most effective is Leave Empty Spaces on Your Calendar. Here’s my twist on it, however. I know it might sound neurotic, but I can’t have empty spaces on my calendar. The reason being because when someone calls to make plans I quickly glance at my calendar and I think that I’m available when in fact I’m not, as I’m committed to myself or my family. If I write in “Stay home,” it’s a gentle reminder for me to stop the madness and slow down.
The next step I took to battle my overscheduled calendar was to tell people I had plans, without an explanation as to what I’m doing. This can be tough for me, as I always feel compelled to explain myself, but unfortunately, it was necessary. I found when I told people I planned to stay home and regroup, they often felt slighted, as if I was saying “I’m free, but I just don’t want to see you.”
Finally, I book family time in advance. Authors Rosenfeld and Wise argue, “If your child enjoys his time with you now, it will stay with him forever. And emotionally at least, the relationship that has meant so much to him as a child will stay with him and bolster him as an adult.” So at the beginning of the month, I take a look at the commitments we must keep. Then, I block out weekend days for us to stay home to together. The key is stay home. Family outings don’t count in my book. Whenever possible, we don’t leave the house – pajamas from morning to night if my kids so choose. Sometimes, it involves passing on a birthday party, forgoing a Girl Scout event, or skipping church, but for me, staying home as a family has become an integral part of our connectedness.
If you’re still not convinced, listen to Taylor Swift’s, “The Best Day,” a sweet song about the positive impact of days with her family during childhood. I’m willing to bet by the end of the song you’ll have tears in your eyes and empty spaces on your calendar.