I have often told many people that if it wasn’t for sports, I would have gotten into so much more trouble in middle school and high school. I played everything and loved being busy because it was an easy escape from my present reality. As a parent now, I am trying to navigate extracurricular activities with my own kids and I’m asking myself several questions.
How much is too much? What if my kid wants to quit mid-season? Should I push them or let them select the activities they want to do?
Like anything in life, when I have questions, I go to people who have gone before me to find answers. Below are the top five tips I’ve received from others when it comes to our kids and extracurricular activities.
1. One at a time.
This was mentioned over and over by many families that I spoke with. We only allow for one activity at a time. One sport each season or one instrument lesson. When we set up boundaries like this, it communicates that are focusing our attention to one thing in order to get the most out of that experience.
2. What is the WHY?
Several parents mentioned that it was important to keep the motivation in mind. Why are we playing sports? It is NOT to go pro. Instead, it’s about learning lessons, working as a team, pushing yourself, etc. Make sure that you keep this at the center of all activities you allow your children to do. Make sure the WHY is not connected to living vicariously through your child as well. Just because you won the state championship in basketball does not mean your kids will love to play basketball.
3. Relationships matter.
If you can, do your best to connect the activities with established relationships. Get a group of girls together from school and try and play softball together. Making it relational will make practices more fun and bonds will grow stronger. It’s also more fun for parents to get together and cheer in the stands or concert halls together. Relationships matter.
4. Your words matter.
I had an old friend mention to me that after every game he makes it a point to tell his kids, “I just love to watch you play.” He doesn’t talk about the homerun or game winning shot or the missed note on the Tuba. He simply affirms who they are, not what they do. This is key for our kids because we are speaking into their identity not behavior. It’s going to be hard for your kids to NOT identify themselves with the activities they do, so parents need to be extra intentional in choosing words correctly.
5. Teach your kids how to WIN and LOSE.
I love to win and get super excited when I see my kids win. The big picture is that winning and losing in little league isn’t on their resume for college. However, learning how to win and lose in little league will set them up as adults. We all have seen those adults who throw a fit when they fail. Don’t let this be your kids. Spend extra time with them and help them navigate success and failure so that they can be productive adults.