Kids have a million opportunities these days. So, how do you decide what’s best for your kid to do?
I’m grateful we live in a time and place where my kids can explore talents and curiosities early in their life. That’s a gift. But we need some wisdom to know which ones are worth it.
Every parent knows a lot of clubs, classes, camps, and competitions turn out to be a complete waste of time, money, or both! And worse yet, our kids are maxed out, spending every hour of most days obligated or scheduled into some kind of activity or sport that is supposed to be “good for them.”
I’ve discovered a way to help you see ahead to the potential impact of any commitment. Before you make a call on the next season of activities, use the tool below.
The message from every sports team, scout troop, student council, art class, or music lesson is that it’s good for their health, well-being, or future happiness. I learned ages ago that’s not always true.
Four games into the first season of kid-pitch baseball (just think how few strikes and hits we saw!), watching my kid lay in the grass in the outfield, I started saying no. Then I went a little far with the no’s and missed some good opportunities because I hated the memories of sitting somewhere furious with myself for what turned out to be a TOTAL waste of time. (For me, too many no’s are still better than too many yes’s!)
Deciding on kids’ activity participation is certainly, in part, a live-and-learn kind of thing. It’s some imperfect mixture of:
- Knowing your kid
- Asking the right questions
- Paying attention to what season your family is in
- And texting your friends with older kids before you say yes
But I recently created a little tool that might help start some of the right conversations with your family and kids as you make tough calls about your yes’s and no’s. It’s a little nerdy, I admit. But it is guaranteed to at least start an open exchange.
I created it when, a few months ago, I told my son “no” to an activity he wanted to do. I knew I was right. Sometimes moms just know in their “knower.” And I knew.
But this particular child is very analytical. He’s old enough to have thought things through and expect a real response. If I want to keep connecting with him, I knew it had to go beyond “because we said so.” I want to maintain a respectful relationship with my kids, so I decided to try to quantify my gut instinct. And that’s where this little tool was born.
The idea came to me when I was praying about saying “no” to him. (Yep, sometimes prayer is where those light bulbs go on!) I was a little nervous he was going to take my answer badly, and I was asking God for the wisdom to communicate well with him, to try to help him understand my reasoning. I said, “help me speak his language.” This kid’s language is numbers, reason, logic, analytics. Suddenly I got an idea. Like a true nerd, I got out my spreadsheet and built this little calculation to try to help him understand the swirl of things underneath our “no.”
As you look at this, the five things listed are our values when we make decisions about activities for our kids. No, we aren’t perfect at applying these, but it helps to write them down. Steal mine or use your own set. These five things were the hard-to-explain discernment I realized was underneath my “no.”
My husband, my son, and I all did this separately about the same activity and then compared our answers and discussed. It was so helpful for understanding one another! It was so good for him to see that his Dad and I don’t think exactly the same even when we agree on the final call. He felt respected. I understood where he was coming from, and we agreed on some things for the future. We went way further than “because I said so,” and it preserved a lot of relationship. Even though in the end, the answer was no.
Here it is. I hope it helps you too. (And it’s more fun on a spreadsheet that will calculate for you!)
1: For each activity, choose a number between -5 and +5 for the 5 categories listed, using the following scale
- -5 = No: Not good for them; potential harm
- 0 = No impact: N/A or Neutral/balanced
- +5 = YES: Very helpful; Big benefit
2: Multiply your raw score by a number from 1-5 that represents the amount of time or investment necessary to participate.
- 1 = Low investment (Half hour once a week or less, at home)
- 5 = High investment (Multiple hours nearly every day, requires driving)
3: Compare your ‘overall impact’ scores. Discuss.
- There’s a great role model or Christ-like leader
- The kids/community are a good influence; encouraging Jesus-like values & integrity
- My kid loves to do it! Level of his/her personal enjoyment
- My kids shows potential here: Gift/talent development can occur
- Supports a stated goal or our best understanding of God’s direction in your life
Raw Score =
X by Time Multiplier
TOTAL SCORE =
A (made up) Example: Piano lessons
Role model: 2
Kids influence: 0
Raw score = 1 (all the above added together)
X Time multiplier 2 (45 min for weekly lesson)
Total Impact Score = 2
What I see here: Looks like the piano lessons aren’t going to have a big impact on your life so it’s a relatively low overall investment. With this low impact score, given the kid hates it, I’d drop this from the calendar even though they show promise and wait to see if they ask to do it in the future. Might be a “try again another time” kinda thing.
A (made up) example; Basketball training
Role model: -1
Kids influence: 0
Raw score = 7 (all the above added together)
X Time multiplier 4 (3 times a week for one hour, 30 min away)
Total Impact Score = 28
What I see here: The kid loves it and shows some real potential. Looks like the coach is a little negative so that’s something to keep a sharp eye on - maybe agree to find a new coach for next session if you move forward. Given the time involved it’ll have a huge impact on both the kid and the calendar. Big win for his/her joy but big hit to mom/dad’s drive time. I’d probably lean towards a yes if we could pull it off in the family schedule or try to recruit a friend to share driving.