Are We Keeping Our Kids Too Busy?

We are knee deep into summer, finishing up our second week of summer camp for Ashlyne and Rachel. Kathryne helped to coach cheer camp last week. And Charles is a CIT (counselor in training) again this week – and will be most of the summer. In addition to camp we’re trying to squeeze as many good afternoons in at the pool as we can. And we’ve had a couple of play times with friends scheduled in there.

So I’m sitting in the car, driving, as I’ve done for the majority of summer so far. And the thought struck me- “Hey, maybe we’re just too busy?” Maybe you can relate. And maybe you’re thinking “Uh yeah” because it was obvious to you that that is definitely the case. But then my thoughts- interrupted momentarily by a kid from the backseat- went a little deeper. Why do we, as a culture, feel the need to keep kids so busy? And is this a good thing? Or, are our kids too busy?

Are we keeping our kids too busy?

It keeps them out of trouble?

I was sitting at one of the kids’ activities one day waiting. I’m pretty good at that. Another parent and I began to talk about all the activities our kids were doing and to commiserate over our busyness. And she said, “Well, it’s good to keep them busy. It keeps them out of trouble.” I agreed with her and the conversation continued. But later I came back to that thought.

Here’s the thing. I don’t want to keep my kids out of trouble. I wrote a whole post about how I don’t want my kids to be good! I don’t want kids who are too busy to do anything wrong. I want kids with hearts that seek to do right. There’s a huge difference.

You see, while staying busy can keep my kids from doing wrong things, it takes away my time to teach and train them to have hearts that seek right. In order to have the time to do that, we have to have time together where we aren’t all running around madly or driving to just one more place. We have to have slow, unhurried days at home where direct and indirect heart parenting happens- times when I have the opportunity to turn my kids’ hearts toward God.

We all need margin.

Margin is white space around the paper. It’s the place we keep empty when we write and fill the paper with words. In the same way the paper has white, empty space, we need margin in our lives. We need empty spaces.

Empty times with no planned, structured activities are when we can have family times. It’s when Daddy makes breakfast and kids eat it still in pajamas at 11am. It’s when kids have time to play outside and ride bikes in the road. It’s when the whole family is cracking up laughing at an impromptu play the kids put on.

That empty time is often when chances arise to talk about things. With space to think and talk, kids bring up problems they have. They talk about things that are bothering them. Within those empty spaces we have time for those conversations.

Don’t do the good and neglect the best.

So are all extra activities bad and evil? Should we avoid summer camp and swim team and sports opportunities? No. Some of these things are great. In fact many of them are great. The problem is that we often get caught up in all the good opportunities and we forget what’s best.

What’s best is to make sure that we have time to breathe. Make sure that we have family time. Make sure that our focus is on what is best for our kids instead of just what’s good.

What’s best might- and probably will- shift as kids get older. As they mature and have a solid, spiritually grounded foundation, they probably can handle- and may need to lean to handle- balancing a schedule and managing a little more busyness. But no matter how old they are, they- and we!- need to make time for that margin. Make times of peace to hear God’s voice and seek His will.

When we keep our kids so busy that no one has time to think, we’re not sending a very good message. Instead we can model the need for peace and times of rest by not overscheduling them now while they’re kids. I’m convicted by this and am seeking to control our schedule and dial back some of the activity. What about you?

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