This week’s Dr. Mom Mondays question comes from an anonymous reader. Since summer is fast approaching and many of us are scrambling to fill our kid’s days with activities, I thought the timing was perfect!
You can send your Dr. Mom Monday’s parenting/relationship questions to morgan(at)thelittlehenhouse(dot)com.
Question: My husband and I have an on-going argument about whether or not our 7-year-old daughter is over-scheduled. He says I am a “tiger mother.” What is the rule of thumb regarding this issue?
Dr. Mom Says: This has been a hot topic for years now (decades, actually), and it has been made even more so with the publication of the controversial book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. Try calling someone a “Tiger Mother” these days and see the fur fly! Anyway, many couples disagree with how “busy” to keep their children, so you are in good, or at least plentiful, company.
First, a warning: parents tend to “project” their own needs onto their children, which means a parent who needs lots or very little “down time” (or activity on the other end of the scale) might naturally believe that a child needs that same.
So the first step in figuring out what your child needs is to be clear about your own needs in this area – clarifying your own “bias,” so to speak. A helpful exercise is for you and your husband to separately assess the energy temperament of each family member. Use a scale of one to ten, with one meaning very low energy and ten meaning endless amounts of energy. Compare your assessments to see how your perceptions line up. This might spark a helpful discussion regarding how you view this topic in general.
Next, with your own bias in mind, take a good and honest look at your child. Assess the mix that seems to keep her at her best, considering pure alone time, time with just the family, time with one friend, time in a group, and so forth.
Observe such things as: Does your daughter need time to wind down between activities, or does she respond poorly to those transitions, getting bored and cranky until the next activity revs up? Does she seem to get “strung out” after busy days, having trouble getting to sleep because she is over-tired by so much? Or does she go full throttle until she falls into bed, getting to sleep quickly after a happy recounting of all the things she did that day? When she asks what’s on the agenda for the day, does she more often request time at home or time with friends?
The gist of this is – we each have a rhythm to the rest and activity cycle that helps us stay at our best. Honoring differences between people, we should structure our child’s activities based on the “dance” that suits her best. It is also common for one child in a family to need lots of activity and social engagement while another needs more alone, quiet time. If we try to stay true to a child’s energy level and social needs, we can make a good plan regarding how to schedule that child’s time, giving the child a chance to operate at her best most of the time. This is nothing short of what we should be doing for ourselves as well.
Mary Quinn has a Ph.D. in Therapeutic Psychology and is Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in San Diego. She is also a wife of 31 years, a mother of three, a step-mother of two, a grandmother of seven, a passionate gardener, and a writer. She survived a childhood as the only girl with five brothers, and always wears red toenail polish.
Thanks Dr. Mom!
How do you schedule your children’s activities?