Children: A Commentary
By Carleton Kendrick
wish that it was make-believe, like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.
But parents are over-scheduling their kids' lives and stealing their
childhood.and it's all too real. Today's parents fill up their children's
lives with one "enrichment activity" after another, starting
in the early pre-school years, all in an effort to help them "get
a leg up" so that they will eventually gain admittance to a
top-ranked college. It's never too early to begin assembling your
children's success portfolio. Enroll your three-year-old in an academically
challenging, preparatory pre-school that emphasizes reading readiness.
Sign up your eight-year-old for an intensive six weeks of basketball
summer camp, where you're guaranteed that it's basketball and basketball
only from dawn to far beyond dusk. Make them smart. Train them to
be the best in one sport. You have to start early. That college
application clock is ticking.
isn't much time for our kids to have "free time", unstructured
time, time to dream, to discover and yes, to even become a little
bored once in a while. Parents have convinced themselves that the
only productive way for their kids to play is in a structured, adult-supervised
program. Kids whose lives are so tightly structured and scheduled
are not learning how to feel comfortable on
their own, alone with their imagination, free to pursue their natural
curiosities and sense of wonder. ..encouraged to become resourceful,
self-reliant and resilient. Parents are adding more and more activities
to their children's lives, behaving like business managers trying
to get more productivity out of their work force. But your family
is not your corporation and your children are not your employees.
happened to play for its own sake? Why have serious, goal-oriented,
skill-building adult-managed activities and programs replaced the
freedom and carefree laughter of backyards, parks, fields and swimming
holes? Because many parents believe that the presence of free, unstructured,
unsupervised time for their children is the equivalent of wasted
time, missed meaningful opportunities and a reflection of poor parenting.
They believe this in spite of recent scientific research that supports
the theory that self-initiated, unstructured creative play is the
single most important activity that young children can engage in
to develop at all developmental levels, including neurological and
I have seen more and more young children experiencing stress-related
psychosomatic symptoms - headaches, stomachaches, insomnia, anxiety
attacks - caused by their being pressured and over-scheduled by
you believe the parents of these children, their kids love juggling
all these activities and wouldn't know what to do without them.
I've heard a different tale. Their children have confided in me
that they wish their parents would just let them "hang out"
some of the time, so that they wouldn't always have to be busy,
rushing from one extra-curricular activity to another, all the time
that if they don't that they'll disappoint their parents and worse.that
they won't "make it" in life. Rushed, hurried, anxious
parents are turning their children into mini-versions of themselves.
childhood should be every child's
birthright. Let's stop stealing it.
Kendrick, Ed.M.,LCSW received his undergraduate and graduate degrees
from Harvard University and is a licensed psychotherapist. He offers
individualized personal coaching for parents of adolescents at connectwithyourteen.com.
Kendrick has been named by Family
PC magazine as the best Internet expert on parenting teens.