Inside: For mothers of toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary aged kids who are making decisions out of fear… this will bring you great encouragement!
On Monday Jennie has piano lessons and Janie has soccer.
On Tuesday Janie has ballet and Jimmie has baseball.
On Wednesday there are no activities because it’s bible study and youth group at church.
On Thursday Jennie has singing lessons and Jimmie has a math tutor.
On Friday Jimmie and Jennie have games and Janie tags along to one or both.
On Saturday, the whole family goes out of town for the long weekend to “get away.”
On Sunday, church, church, and more church.
Dinner is mostly to-go every night and the kids don’t get in bed before 9 pm. Oh, and Janie is 3, Jennie is 5, and Jimmie is 7. And, just to be clear, we are doing this for the kids.
Now, almost every parent alive wants what’s best for their kids. We want them to have the chance at awesome schools, activities, opportunities, and everything else. But sometimes we organize our family’s activities based on something insidious…
The fear our kids will miss out.
To be sure I don’t get hate mail here, I am most definitely not against kids playing sports, taking lessons, or having pursuits outside the home.
If your child is thriving then that is the goal! I’m talking about the situation that occurs when the entire family becomes overloaded due to activities the kids aren’t really into.
Read: Why Modern Moms are Raising Victims (And How to Stop)
How to make decisions based on your family values, not fear
Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves if we find ourselves in a frenzy of kid activities and we aren’t exactly sure why.
1. Are you choosing this activity or opportunity for fear they’ll fall behind or because it’ll bring them joy?
If your kids love the hustle and bustle and aren’t burned out and anxious because of your busy schedule then that’s great for your family. If you are enrolling your children in all sorts of things just because others are doing it, and because you fear they will be put at a disadvantage, then take heart.
They will live without a soccer participation trophy. You can put off those music lessons a few years until you don’t have to cart a baby and fussy toddler around with you everywhere.
Sure it’s a good idea to find out your children’s talents and passions early, but odds are you don’t have a prodigy. And if you don’t have a prodigy then there’s no need to load up your 5 year old’s schedule just because you are worried they will miss out. In fact they probably will miss out.
They’ll miss out on proper meals, good sleep, and simple time with their families. And those things are more important for their emotional development which effects every other aspect of their being anyway.
2. Think long-term with balance
It’s a great quality in a parent to think about and plan for their children’s future. Making wise decisions that will affect the family long-term is something great parents do. But you can take this too far. In fact, many things you try to do too early and with too much frequency can actually backfire.
It’s like growing an avocado tree. The first few years you probably don’t let it produce heavy fruit because the weight will be too heavy to allow the tree to grow properly. For a while, you have to prune, stabilize, and actively keep the load lighter so later it can grow tall, strong, and be fruitful.
3. Don’t project
We can all be guilty of this to a certain extent, and it’s why we put our children in things they don’t even care about. We force “opportunities” on our children they don’t really want because we’re miffed we didn’t have them.
If your child isn’t excited about the activities, if they would rather stay in the car than go inside, if they say they want to go home instead of games or practice, take a step back.
Do they want to do this or is it just you? Don’t do your kids the disservice of trying to live vicariously through them.
4. Stop parenting outside the funnel
Parenting in the funnel means we give age appropriate privileges at the right times. Letting a preschooler watch a Rated R movie would be an extreme example of parenting outside the funnel.
Why strap your family’s wallet to put your child in the “best” preschool when, really, all they need is a clean safe area to play and make friends? A young elementary student doesn’t really need the pressure and stress of a competitive sport and endless weekly practices on their shoulders.
There is time for that and, if you want them to able to hold up well under pressure later, don’t weigh them down now.
5. Do the cons outweigh the pros?
Children are like sponges and learn in every environment they are put in. But do we stop and weigh the pros and cons? Pros of soccer or baseball might be learning teamwork, obeying instruction, and physical exercise.
The cons of soccer or baseball might be exhaustion, the effects of busyness on the whole entire family, lack of family time, and negative behavior.
And this grows exponentially the more children you have doing various things.
Your family may thrive under the busyness and activity. Right now, I’m talking to us parents who are tempted – out of fear – to overextend their children because they’re worried they are going to miss out on something they can never get back.
The effects of a perpetually busy lifestyle are exhaustion, burnout, depression, anxiety, and stress. And if you, as an adult, need more margin and less busy, what on earth do you think a child needs? Well…. less time spent in a vehicle being carted around to things they don’t care about.
Some fears we have that cloud our decisions
- Fear of our kids missing out tells us our kids need the best clothes to fit in, even if we have to charge it.
- Fear of our kids missing out tells us our children will get behind in school if we don’t have them in structured activities by age 3.
- Fear of our kids missing out tells us we’re depriving our kids if we put the family’s needs before extras.
- Fear of our kids missing out tells us we must do everything – ALL OF IT – now, because later it’ll be too late.
Ladies… the fact that you are concerned with providing your children special opportunities and helping them to live life to its full is proof that you are a good mom. They don’t need more of everything else, they just need more of the simple things you’re already doing.
Next time you are visited by this fear just remember: it’s a liar. And liars only have power when you listen.
I love the way you ended this post! The fear of missing out is often irrational, but when we make those decisions for our kids (who are, after all, Other people) due to irrational thinking, we are doing more damage than good. Thanks for this glorious reminder that kids are happiest when they know they are loved, they have quality time with their families, and they are doing activities they truly enjoy.
Rachel Norman says
Thanks, KT! So true, our fear is irrational and we gotta banish it!! And you are right, plus there are so many things families can do together while kids are little, you know? They aren’t even yet trying to get away from family until around puberty. Ha! why push them that way?