Stop Over-Scheduling Your Kids!

When I was a new mom with a toddler, I remember talking with an older, experienced mom whose youngest child was the age of my first. We helped in a church program together on Wednesday nights. One night she came rushing in at the start of the program. She was tired and winded. She told me about her day, and I could understand why.

Her kids went to traditional school, and she was a teacher. After school was over, she headed out with the kids to all of their extra activities. Each one had something different, and she had spent the time between school and the evening church program running them around. Then they were at the church for a program that wouldn’t end until eight. At that point, I assume they would head home for homework, go to bed, and get up to do it all over again the next day. Whew!
Young, idealized mother that I was, I vowed we would never live a life that was so busy.

Why you shouldn't over-schedule your kids
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Fast forward a few years and a few more kids, and I have to admit that there are times I’ve found myself running kids around like a crazy person myself. But anytime that we slip into that mode, I see negative consequences.

The kids get sick more often.

It’s inevitable. This is one of the first physical signs that we’re doing too much. Some of our sicknesses come from the fact that we’re out and about more, but I think that it’s also a result of too much stress and not enough good rest. Throw in the fact that when we’re rushed we’re probably not taking the time to eat healthy, and being over-scheduled is a recipe for physical disaster.

One of the first times I realized this was the fateful year that all six of us got the flu. My older two kids had just entered the world of kid sports- two different kid sports at two different practice times and two different game times. My husband was coaching, and I was juggling two preschoolers as well as running the older kids around. We were eating fast food suppers and staying out later than normal at night. One by one we began to experience symptoms of the flu.

When we finally made it through- this, thankfully, happened at the end of the sport season- I realized that we were going to have to be more careful about letting our schedules get so full that we were affected physically.

Siblings bicker more.

This seems to be contradictory, but I have noticed that when we are in seasons of busyness, and the kids don’t have time to play together as often, they bicker more. I’m not sure why it’s true, but I’ve talked to other moms with multiple kids, and it seems to be true for others as well. The fact is that when my kids are running from activity to activity, they seem to enjoy each other less when we are at home together.

This probably happens for several reasons. I know we all tend to be more tired and irritable when we’re too busy, and this can cause kids to be snappy with each other. But I also think that kids who are “forced” to just play with each other because they don’t constantly have other things to do, other people to be around, fall into a rhythm of sorts and enjoy their time together more.

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Moms are more tired and frustrated.

Let’s face it. None of us are at our best when we are tired and running on empty. When we go through busy, over-scheduled periods, I’m not a very good mom. On those days when we’re on our third activity for the day and I’ve just snapped at a child…again, I wonder why on earth I let myself get to that point.

If you’re finding yourself feeling stressed and constantly aggravated with your children, take a look at your schedule. Chances are you’re trying to do so many things that you’re leaving yourself tired and worn down. And tired, stressed moms aren’t usually happy moms. If that’s the case, it’s time to cut something out of the schedule.

The kids lose the opportunity to make their own special moments.

Now that my kids are getting older (11-17), they sit around, on occasion, and talk about fun things they did when they were younger. Guess what things they remember the most? They remember times when they played together- just the four of them- in some kind of creative play. They rarely remember sports teams or summer camps as being “the best” things- not that they didn’t like those things, but they don’t rank up there in “the best.”

Instead they remember things like the day they all went out in the driveway and sat in chairs while I recorded them having a “British argument.” (Don’t ask me why that called it that. Beats me.) They sat there just being incredibly silly and making things up as they went along. They remember putting a cheap slip-n-slide in the backyard and sliding and sliding on it after Daddy covered it in dish detergent to make it super slippery.

Even if you have an only child, I’ll bet the times she remembers the most fondly are the ones that weren’t planned out, the times when she did something special with you on the spur of the moment, like the time when you spontaneously made cookies with her or when you sat out on the swing together and talked forever.

When kids are constantly over-scheduled, they don’t have time to make these moments. And they might remember special times that happened during the sport they played or the dance class they were in, but they won’t have those unplanned, out-of-the-blue moments to look back on.

Kids don’t have time for creativity.

One of the worst things about constantly over-scheduled kids is that they lose out on the opportunity for creative play. When kids are always given one activity after another that’s already planned and structured for them, they begin to lack the ability to play creatively, to come up with their own games and activities.

Have you ever just stood back and watched a child or a group of children in creative play? It might look like “just play” to you, but there are so many things going on there. Kids are learning how the world works. They’re learning to think critically to figure out things. They are coming up with ideas and inventions. Open, unstructured playtime is important.

But when we constantly over-schedule our kids we don’t leave them time for this kind of creative play. When we are rushing from one activity to another, only home for schooling, eating, and sleeping, kids don’t have the opportunity to play in an unhurried, unstructured way.

Compelling reasons to stop over-scheduling your kids

Some moms seem to wear busyness like a badge of honor. I’ll admit that I’ve fallen into the trap of “let me tell you all about how busy we are” too. But over-scheduling our kids isn’t a good thing. And when we recognize the negative signs of over-scheduled kids, we need to take some time to prune our schedules and reconsider some of the things we’re doing.

How do you fight the tendency to over-schedule your kids?

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