Let Kids Be Kids: Hyper parenting Can Stress Out the Kids
Parents often ask me, as a former piano teacher, when they should begin their child in piano lessons. When I recommend no earlier than second grade, they are amazed.
Part of my answer comes from my experience teaching young children and finding that second grade is the earliest most children have the ability to sit still to practice.
The other reason I suggest second grade comes from what I’ve learned as a parent and the tendency we have to want to get our child involved in organized activities much earlier than they need to be.
In Primary Psychiatry magazine, Alvin Rosenfeld and Nicole Wise, the authors of an article titled “Let Kids Be Kids: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap,” coined the phrase “hyper-parenting” to describe a trend they are seeing in parenting. It seems today’s parents want to provide their child with every enrichment opportunity possible: sports, music, academics, etc.
At the same time, the medical and psychiatric industry is seeing an increase in children’s stress factors because activities have so filled their calendars that they are overwhelmed and even sleep-deprived.
Why do we do this as parents? Because we want to give our children the best. However, sometimes we’re missing what really is best.
Kids need to be kids. Searching for four-leaf clovers, playing in the sandbox, flying kites and playing a game of tag in the back yard — these are the activities kids need to do in the preschool and early elementary years.
How can we steer clear of the hyper-parenting trap? Here are some principles for keeping a balance:
- Assess age-appropriateness. Just because they offer classes for toddlers doesn’t mean your toddler need to take a class.
- Limit activities. Some families make firm rules (i.e. one sport per child per season) while others make decisions on a case-by-case basis.
- Prioritize family. Relationships matter … a lot. Our families need to know how to play together, not just ride in the car together from one activity to the next.
- Create margin. Unscheduled time encourages children to create and imagine.
Let’s let kids be kids in the early years of their lives. It will set a foundation of balance that will serve them well into adulthood.
By the way, American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein didn’t sit down at a piano before his 10th birthday. See, second grade isn’t too late.