Teaching Kids to Go Slow
February 2, 2010
Hyperparenting has dropped off the media radar for the most part. You don’t read much about overscheduling, at least not like you used to. My guess is it has more to do with our acceptance of today’s norm of overscheduling than to the actual disappearance thereof. We are all overscheduled. And that makes us ‘normal’.
Sometimes I observe people’s reaction when they ask me if I have time.
“Yes. I do.”
They typically blink twice, dumbfounded that anyone would admit they have any time at all. Isn’t that just so 1800’s when leisure was a part of the upper class and not really something anyone who toiled for a living could admit to having enjoyed?
So we book ourselves, and our kids, to the max. Then we wonder why we are time-starved and stressed.
We can avoid the whole overscheduling debate by leaving blank days available. Some people might laugh at the impossibility of it. Really? I’m not sure when we gave over our power to the almightly clock (actually, yes, I do. It had to do with Frederick Taylor’s study of factory worker productivity, tying the knot between the clock and capitalism once and for all). As far as I know, we all have the same hours on it as everyone else.
If our scheduling minds require it, schedule ‘down time’. Mondays and Wednesdays are notoriously blank days in our family. The kids have no athletic activities, music lessons or afternoon instruction. They frolick (after homework), allowing their minds to roam. They read books, play games, or romp in the snow. It works because they are used to the down time necessary to free up their mind for the next day’s assignments.
Some may call me a slacker mom for leaving so much ‘dead air time’ in my kids’ lives. They play in organized teams, have music lessons and even tutoring sessions. But those days off are as precious as the air they breathe.
How can we invite more slow into our kids’ lives?
1. Leave several days of unstructured time available for kids to play with their friends or do whatever comes to mind.
2. Ask them to suggest a weekend activity. Give them a choice as to whether they ‘do’ anything at all.
3. Allow for spontaneity by leaving space between things. Instead of planning back-to-back events, plan only one, then see what else unfolds.
4. Have your child organize his or her own birthday party, offering assistance only where needed.
5. Spend a day together frolicking without a stated purpose.
Slow family living is about connection, joy and love. It is life’s greatest reward.
**This post originally appeared on Psychology Today. Reprint with permission.