By Matt Dawson
Do you recognize these symptoms?
- You are running your pre-schooler from play date to play date, day care, kinder music, story time, and grandparents house day after day… because your child is bored and lacks the ability to creatively play by themselves.
- You have multiple children in different activities and sports programs ALL at the SAME TIME, running them to mid-week practices and weekend games – often having to split up & car pool because games overlap. This results in very few evenings at home with the entire family and even fewer weekends that your entire family can enjoy together.
- Your teenager always seems to have a pressing program, sports activity, extra school activity, or opportunity to hang out with their friends so it seems like you’ve gone from being “mom and dad” to the family chauffeur and taxi service.
Chances are you know parents whose lives look like this and if you’re a parent – there are elements of this that hit far too close to home.
Believe it or not, what seems like great opportunities and the pursuit of our children’s happiness (in the moment) may actually be the same activities that are challenging your family’s “Core Values” and leaving many destroyed families and dysfunctional children in it’s wake.
Our lives are only getting busier and our increasingly connected culture that we live in is developing an instant satisfaction drive within our kids and is causing parents to lose the ability to say “NO” for the benefit of their families.
What if there was a BETTER Way?
I believe kids should participate in a number of beneficial programs, sports, and activities throughout their childhood. However, it should NEVER come at the cost of what matters MOST to the ENTIRE FAMILY.
So the first question is:
What is the END GOAL for my FAMILY?”
For me, it’s simple. Sure, I want my kids to be respectful, reliable, and wise young adults one day that love God and live risk-filled lives full of awesome! (Don’t you?) But that’s not the END GOAL for my family.
The END GOAL for my family is that they would DESIRE to come together as a family and ENJOY that time when they are 5 yrs old, 15 yrs old, 35 yrs old, and even 50 yrs old!
There is NOTHING I want more than for my kids to WANT to have close relationships with their siblings for years to come and when we have the opportunity to gather as a family (holidays, vacations, or just one Sunday afternoon) that my kids and my wife WANT TO GET TOGETHER and ENJOY BEING WITH EACH OTHER.
You might be asking the question – “how do my kids’ busy schedules TODAY affect this END GOAL?” Great question!
3 Suggestions to Reach Your Goal
1. Determine What Your Kids NEED, Not Just What They WANT
Let’s face it, your kid can usually only see what they WANT. I want the lollipop… NOW. My friends have gone to this party…. I HAVE to BE THERE! It’s not your child’s responsibility to know what THEY need or what is BEST for the family. That is YOUR ROLE. You know what your child needs and if you don’t, you should be living life in a community with other parents who can help you.
If one of the major lessons we are NOT TEACHING our children is how to differentiate between our NEEDS and our WANTS – then we are going to unleash some very entitled young adults into the world – we don’t need any more of them… there are plenty already!
2. Teach Your Kids the Value of Intentional Choices
There will always be opportunities for your kids to busy themselves. (Play Dates, StoryTime, Scouts, Sports, Drama Club, Robotics Club, Cheerleading, Book Clubs, Study Groups, and Part Time Jobs) There is nothing WRONG with ANY of these programs. I love that we have them. They only become an issue when we are not INTENTIONAL about WHEN we engage in them.
Our kids want to do them all, all the time! They HAVE TO DO IT!
Teaching our kids to make intentional choices has to be MODELED by us as parents FIRST. How will our kids learn to make choices as young adults if we are not helping them see the “whys” behind our YES’s and our NO’s?
- Why are we going to do that? – Because it’s a good opportunity this year and fits within our family calendar.
- Why are we NOT going to do this other thing? – Because it’s not the best for our family and it’s not a “once in a lifetime” opportunity that has to be done now.
We have to teach our kids how to make their choices intentionally.
3. Let Your Kids Help Make Those Choices
I know this might seem contrary, but I believe there is HUGE value in letting your kids participate in the things that affect family time and the family calendar. It’s not a “whatever you want to do” kind of choice (especially when they are younger).
You might have a couple of options that are BOTH beneficial and would be a good choice. Ask them to help decide which one they would like to do this time (maybe they can do the other next semester, or next year).
Letting our kids be involved in these decisions helps them understand that every choice has a COST. Not just a $$$ amount, but an overall cost.
- It might cost them family time.
- It might cost them time with their friends.
- It might cost their siblings an opportunity to do something they would like to do.
There is always a COST in EVERY CHOICE we make. Helping our children see and understand this will promote what is BEST for the family and help them make their own choices later in life.
Okay… Now What?
What is your OVERALL END GOAL for your ENTIRE FAMILY? Just picture life 30 years from now… what would you LOVE to see?
That’s your END GOAL.
Now, follow these 3 suggestions and be intentional about making that goal a reality. Your goal will be different than mine – that’s okay. Our desire as parents should be to LOVE and LEAD our family towards whatever that GOAL is.
It’s up to you. Don’t let the busyness of your children’s schedules dictate the health and well-being of your family! Make the changes necessary to save your family!