Overindulgence..Are Your Children Over-Scheduled?

By Ms. Cindy, Early Childhood Teacher

overscheduled preschoolerIf you have come to an ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education) class with your child, you may remember the song where the children play the instruments slowly and then they play the instruments as quickly.  It is a rare child that doesn’t break into a huge smile when they play the instrument fast.  As I look around at the happy faces during the song, I think about how if we played the instruments fast for the entire song it wouldn’t be such a positive experience for the kids.  My E.C.F.E.  students also enjoy an instrumental song where they play along when they hear the music and then they stop and just hold the instrument until the music starts again.  It takes self-discipline to not play, but it makes it all the more fun when they play again.  As an educator and a musician, I am amazed at how well they perform these musical concepts at such a young age.  Along with the musical concepts, there is a wonderful parenting lesson that can be learned from these songs.

It is the contrast between the fast and slow that makes “playing fast” more appealing.  Children need parents to provide their life with structure, healthy foods, chores, expectations of positive behavior, limitations of media and rules.  When children are raised with the normal “slow” setting of a calm and secure life, the contrast of a celebration brings excitement and a smile to a child’s face.  If they live in a constant state of “playing fast” it is not a healthy lifestyle.  If they don’t learn the needed skill of self-control, then we have not prepared them for the future.  “Overindulgence is doing or having so much of something that it does active harm, or at least prevents a person from developing and deprives that person of achieving his or her full potential.” (Connie Dawson & David J. Bredehoft)

We live in a society where indulgence is a serious issue, and it may be hard to see blind spots with our own parenting.   Mary L. Hughes, a Family Life Field Specialist, raises 4 questions for parents to consider.

  1. Does the situation keep the child from learning tasks that supports his or her development?
  2. Does the situation give disproportionate amounts of family resources to one or more children? (Money, space, time, attention)
  3.  Who benefits the most from the situation the child or the parent?
  4.   Is the child’s behavior potentially harmful to others or society in some way?

Mary L. Hughes sites the “troubles of indulgence are inability to delay gratification and knowing when “enough is enough, selfish thinking, incompetence in everyday skills, self – care skills, and interpersonal skills, difficulty in establishing a sense of personal identity, and inability to take personal responsibilities.”  This certainly is a list that any parent should take seriously!

Parenting is daunting and challenging task. We live in a culture where parents spend an evening taking their child to soccer practice so the child can have fun and then need to provide elaborate snacks to “reward” them for their effort.  It wasn’t that long ago that it was a financial advantage to have more children to help work on the farm.  Now people often limit the amount of children they have because the cost of raising children.  I wish our society would place a higher value on raising children that have a positive work ethic, care about others, have manners and are responsible.

Parents can feel a sense of importance if their child is successful in sports, music, beauty pageants, etc.  I want to say that I am a firm believer in supporting your child’s talents and exposing them to many experiences.  There are certainly positive things to be learned from these activities.  I learned discipline, leadership and gained confidence from the experience of performing.   It is the extreme time commitment often required that reminds me of a song with the instruments playing loud the whole way through.  Children need to have some simple quiet activities too.  If I could rewind my parenting choices, I would want to spend more family time together enjoying bike rides and bonfires and less time divided by the demands of activities that require an unhealthy time commitment. Children need the opportunity to experience being a child instead of the pressure of being a “star” at some activity.  For some reason though it seems like we have lost a sense of balance in raising children.  Children aren’t there to make parents look successful.  Parents are there to guide children into being healthy productive adults.  We have friends who own a company and they have found their best employees have been raised on farms.  Installing a hard work ethic in our children is critical!

To use a musical analogy I feel like I am using a jingle to discuss this topic and it should be a 20-page symphony.  I hope the questions raised challenge you to think about your goals for your children.  Our future as a society is greatly influenced by the children we are raising!

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