Five-year-old Julian loves baseball. He always wants me to play baseball in the backyard with him. By his own rules, of course. He can’t strike out; only I can. Any pitch he misses is automatically a bad pitch. And why does he still cry when he doesn’t win?! But I decided it was more important to have fun with him than to play by the rules, so I relaxed a little and just enjoyed our game.
“Would you like to play baseball at the Y?” I asked him.
“I don’t want to!” he said.
“Why not? You love baseball!”
“Because I don’t understand the real rules.”
“Playing with a team will help you understand the rules.”
I wonder: Should I make him play? He’s quite coordinated and pretty fast, considering how short his little legs are. Usually with my kids, anything you suggest, they say they don’t want to do, but then they end up having a good time with it. Like Roman with tae-kwon-do last summer. He went through a phase when he wanted to quit. He was frustrated with his difficult pattern but refused to practice it. He always seemed to have a good time in class, but he never wanted to stop what he was doing to go. Especially if he was watching TV or playing video games. So we had him take a break for the summer. In the fall, when he went back to tae-kwon-do, he loved it. He looked forward to class and enjoyed play-sparring at home. He needed a break, then a little push. Maybe Julian will love baseball like that if I make him play.
I believe you should find something your kids are good at, and spend a lot of time there. That gives them self-esteem and something to do that they like and are good at when they get older. Of course, you should work on their weaknesses too, if it’s important. That’s why I gave my lifeblood to help Roman improve his social skills when he was in preschool. But generally, why put forth much time and effort at something you have no talent in and don’t enjoy? If math and science are your thing, why spend too much time on art and music? That’s why Roman is doing summer science workshops at the Discovery Center and we put him in Mad Science in February (he loved it). Like me, he isn’t crazy about sports, so I don’t push it too much, as long as he can do the basics and stays in shape. Julian is a good reader. He taught himself to read when he was four and now that he’s in Kindergarten, he’s reading chapter books several levels above where he’s “supposed to be.” So we read a lot.
Then there’s the issue of over-scheduling your kids. They need time to just BE. Being the type who becomes overwhelmed and overstimulated easily, I know better than to give the boys more than they can handle. During the school year they do one activity other than school or church. In the summer we do more, including swimming lessons, because that’s a safety issue.
It’s time for your opinions – How do you handle your kids’ activities? How do you know when to push them and when to let them be?