Dangers of over-scheduling your child

What is a parent to do when leading theory oscillates between scheduling your children in extra-curricular events, but not "over-scheduling them"? Learn how this parent found the middle ground.

Many parents these days struggle with similar issues:

  • They are in a constant state of competition, using their children as evidence of their success

  • They are too involved in their children's lives, instead of teaching them to enjoy and appreciate "alone time"

  • They are overworked and are looking for opportunities to enjoy downtime

Due to these issues, many parents seek out all possible extra curricular activities to involve their children in and fill up their after-school schedules.

Recently, an argument emerged, suggesting that children these days are over-scheduled and overwhelmed by pressure put on them. We've found a perfect article that addresses both sides of the issue.


The author paints two pictures and asks you to identify where your child may lie:

The Over-scheduled Child

  • Control-seeking parents pressuring the child to compete in the activity

  • Parents competing with each other (who's child is better)

  • Decrease in child's overall quality of life - ability to enjoy themselves

  • Choosing activities out of anxiety - fear of too much down time

  • Child measures their self-esteem on the performance of the activity

The Enriched and Well-Balanced Child

  • Chooses activities out of the child's interests and to increase their well-being

  • Child enjoys participating and experiences an overall increase in quality of life

  • Balances down-time with active time

  • Child is able to enjoy themselves on their own and keep themselves occupied

The key is to make sure your child falls in the second category most of the time - read below for some of the author's suggestions:

First, know where the motivation is coming from, you or your child.“Are you hearing laughter?” Dr. Thompson said. “Is the child giggling when you drop them off or pick them up? Or are they solemn and dragging their feet?”

Second, watch what you say. Dr. Luthar said parents should be in touch with their own feelings to ensure they are not communicating that exemplary performance is the only goal that matters. She warned against statements like, “Oops, you’re not starting again?” or "Oh, dear, you’re not chosen for all-county?” “And if you’re having trouble identifying this tendency in yourself,” she said, “ask your spouse, your sibling or anybody you trust.”

Regardless of how many activities you schedule for your children, make sure you schedule time for yourself to be with them. Dr. Rosenfeld said, “Your kids need to feel there is enough time when the computer is off, the cellphone is off and all you want to do is be together.” It’s not just quality time, he said, it’s quantity, too.

Setting healthy goals for yourself and your children is necessary. However, pushing them beyond their limit and making them believe your love is dependant on their success could lead to dangerous results. Instead, try to allocate an hour per day to spend with your children and teach them family values. Make sure they understand what your life and financial goals are as a family, so they could assist you in achieving great results together.

Being a parent requires constant use of your leadership skills. To learn new strategies and techniques check out our Building Your Leadership Skills Checklist.

Read the full New York Times article here.