21st Century Parenting #11

As our list of “The Seven Worst Things Parents Can Do” continues, we encounter this troubling “mistake” that parents make: pushing their child into too many activities. In other words, creating a “hurried child.” Somewhere on our way into the 21st century, we decided it would be a good idea to work ourselves to death. And then for good measure, to work our children to death as well. We are a busy, pressured, stressed-out and hurried culture of families.

This hurried culture… the idea that we must make sure our child is in every possible activity in school and extra-curricular… so that they by no means miss an opportunity… has taken a toll on us and our children. The plethora of anxiety-based conditions; of people who report just feeling “numb” is an indication that we have come to a state of dissociation… of disconnecting… of separating ourselves from the pressure of life run at this pace.

In reality, our pressured and hectic schedules make certain that we can no longer connect with each other; no longer know each other on more than a superficial level. It takes a toll on marriages as exhausted spouses tumble into bed overwhelmed by the day’s running. It takes a toll on our children’s future; finding themselves in a lifetime search for the emotional connection they wanted with their parents but who never took the time for that to develop. It creates children who are angry, sullen and depressed for what they have missed out on in life and who have no desire to succeed. These children learned that a new house, a new car, a new boat or the best summer camps can’t really substitute for the love and close relationship with Mom and Dad.

Somewhere, we need to pull off the track that we are on and ask an important question: “Why are we doing this?” Why are you rising up early and staying up late to shuttle your kids to pre-school activities and post-school activities and weekend gymnastics or dance or soccer or any number of extra-curricular we find our way into? Why is it important to us that they not miss? So do this:

1) Ask yourself, “Is my child well-balanced?” Do they already have enough activities in their life to make sure they are experiencing life as they need to without pushing them into three more?

2) “Are these activities really consistent with my highest values?” Spending time is like spending money, except it’s even more precious. What we spend our time on gives our value system away. Ask yourself the hard question… Is this event/activity/class/lesson/practice/team really in line with my values and that of my family or is it in conflict with what is most important to me?

3) Who am I doing this for… really? Is this to make me feel better as a parent? Am I feeling pressured to do these things?

4) Sit down with your children and ask them the three questions above. Is there something that they feel lacking in their lives? Do these activities really measure up to what is most important to your family? Are they doing these things… for you?

There are families on the edge today because they don’t know how to declutter their calendar… simplify their lives… live authentically in the presence of the other people in their family. Few things, in fact, are of more threat to families than this issue. It’s time for the hurry to stop… and for God’s rest to enter your home.

May the Sabbath of God begin for you today!

FOR MEDITATION: Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-burdened and I will give you rest. (Jesus)           Matthew 11:18

FOR REFLECTION: Carefully take your weekly schedule and evaluate each activity prayerfully. Then, as a family, make some hard decisions:

  • Are there things we need to stop doing that will make our lives less hurried and less stressed?
  • How soon can we stop?
  • How can we invite the “rest” that Jesus promises into our hurried lives?