The Extra-Curricular Tight-Rope

One of the things that I have a hard time with as a parent is walking the super-fine line between positive and negative “pushing”. I’ll be honest, I feel pressured to enrol them in extra-curricular activities and it makes me a little crazy.

My kids aren’t in gymnastics, soccer, hockey or dance. They don’t take piano lessons or art classes. Not because we didn’t offer these things but because they have no interest. At least, not enough to make them want to go to a cold rink on a Saturday morning or be forced to hold their little hands “the right way” at the piano. I’ve worried about it a lot over the last few years as I watched their friends get involved in competitive sports – are my kids going to be left behind? Are they going to be physically unhealthy? Will they have enough friends? We give them a little bit of our own instruction at home. My son can play a number of songs on the piano, he’s a great writer, both kids are little artists and my 5-year-old can run faster than me (seriously). But is that enough?

I found some peace in this article from Today’s Parent. It reassured me that my kids are still young and they don’t need to be involved in structured activities if they’re not ready. The article talks about the author’s love of music and how he wanted music to have a positive impact on his children too. In our house we love music, art, writing and (speaking for my husband) soccer. We would love to see our children in a recital, a junior art exhibit or a soccer game. We tried for years to convince the kids to try new things (in other words, we forced them to try new things) but it always ended in tears.

So, I’m taking this author’s advice – it makes sense after all. I’ll relax and let them experience things in their own time. There is so much that they are required to do (go to school, finish their homework, clean their room, etc.) that I don’t want to force them into extra-curricular activities too. Our musical instruments will always be accessible to them. Paper, pen, crayons and markers are everywhere. I will play soccer with them in our backyard and encourage them, as they get higher on the climbing wall, skate without falling or swim all the way across the pool. We will be role models and make sure that our children see how our own interests affect us. If they come to us a week from now or 5 years from now and ask to join a club, tryout for a team or take music lessons we will support them. In the meantime, we’ll take it easy, nurture their various interests at home and appreciate the money saved on sports equipment and registration fees!!

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