Programming vs. Over-programming Children – From the Daddy’s Perspective

extracurricular activities
extracurricular activities (Photo credit: o5com)

How often have you had this discussion with your partner or friends?  Is this generation of parents over-programming our children?

I’m not sure there is a clear-cut answer here.  As parents we want to expose our children to as much as possible to see what they like and what they are good at – as well, let’s be honest – we force some activities on our children for their own good – like sports on the artistic children, or karate so they can defend themselves.  But when the kids are at school during the day and have programs each evening and on the weekends, when does it stop being good for the child and become too much.

If the kids are taking piano, swimming, karate, math enrichment, soccer, hockey, baseball, trampoline, drama… Then how do they learn to amuse themselves when there is downtime.  When do kids brains get to rest, or do they even need it?  At what point are we “helping” our children experience life or really putting them in programs which we wanted to take growing up, but our generation had 2 working parents so we came home from school and hung around entertaining ourselves with books and TV and playing with neighbours until our parents came home.

Funny how things have changed.

I’ll be honest here.  For me, all of the above apply.  I want my kids to experience life and I want them to do things that I never had the opportunity to do.  I also want to be able to take them to all their activities and share that experience with them.  I work full-time and don’t want to be the Dad who couldn’t make the one event the kids have, or the one school activity.  Being at these events even if it means coaching the sports teams, or being a beaver leader is a priority for me because I want to spend time with my kids.  Call me crazy.  Wouldn’t be the first time.

But all these activities are killing me too…

After a long week, there is no downtime.  I’m finding now with 3 children and between activities, birthday parties, household maintenance and participating at home instead of being a guest leaves me with very little time.  Thank goodness my wife who also works, takes care of everything!  It’s crazy… Well, you know what it’s like.  When the kids are in a lot of programs that means you are in a lot of programs and that means your schedule tightens up too.  Meals have to work around the programming as do additional activities and we’re not the fast food type of family so it means weekly meal planning and lots of fruit and vegetables.

It also means I need to be on top of my day job – or have an arrangement with my employer so that I do not have to stay late in the office or take the scenic route home because that might be the difference between getting the kids to a program on time or getting them there late.  It also means once the wife and kids are in bed, I guarantee you that at least 6 nights of the week I am catching up on some work assignments or teaching myself something new that I did not have time to complete in the office during the day for many reasons.

In our home, our kids attend; Karate, swimming, piano and this year Beavers.  In the early summer, baseball, t-ball and soccer (Linus, Stewie and Berry).  There were after-school activities for the boys, chess and wood-working – and then a school enrichment program for Linus and voila.  No free time.

After moving programs around to different dates and or times, there is no time breathe and now I understand why on the weekends we just hang out at home!  We’re too tired to do anything but let the kids play at home, catch up on rest and work at keeping the house clean, the laundry from taking over and the kids from going crazy doing too much.  We also have to balance this with playdates, summer visits to the AGO, ROM, CN Tower and various neighbourhoods in the city.

So how to you view extracurricular activities for your kids and for others?  Do you judge them?  Of course you do… We do.  🙂

How do you juggle?  I would love to hear from those of you with more than 3 children… How do you do it?  What gives?  Is it the meal, the activities, the job…


4 thoughts on “Programming vs. Over-programming Children – From the Daddy’s Perspective

  1. Alisha August 18, 2012 / 8:09 pm

    As I understand it, the younger generations of kids (Millennial and Z) are being over-programmed because colleges have become more selective. Is this true? I went to a Top 25 state school and being in the top 10% of my class, and doing 1 athletic activity, 1 music activity, and 1 extracurricular (newspaper) was enough. I got a generous scholarship. Of course, back then, tuition was 6K a year too, and fewer members of my generation went to college at all. Most of my graduating class (late 90s) just went straight to the workforce.

    I am also out of touch because I live in the midwest where people don’t have the money to over-program their kids. Of course, it may be more prevalent in the suburbs, but I live in the inner city, and we see the opposite here – kids are neglected after school, and are latchkeys, just like me, my husband, and our peers were, growing up in the 80s and coming of age in the 90s. My dad (Baby Boomer, in his 60s) lives in a well-off suburb, and says that kids don’t play outside anymore. I can’t wrap my head around this. When we were kids, we played outside until the sun set. My mom and grandma ORDERED it!


    • Urban Daddy August 29, 2012 / 1:27 pm

      Hi Alisha,

      From the sounds of it I’m just a little older than you and I too grew up outside. I had a tennis ball, hockey stick and baseball glove. Our one big TV was used by my parents or older sister so it was wait patiently or play outside. This is nothing like today. It’s too “dangerous” to play outside for kids so we let them play on computers or schedule activities for them because they don’t know their neighbours.


  2. EduDad August 16, 2012 / 2:11 pm

    I have not yet entered this crazy world because our kids are too young. In theory, we plan to have one weekend activity and one activity that runs one or two weeknights. Summer is another story because we’re both teachers.


  3. danbohmer August 15, 2012 / 8:52 pm

    it isn’t easy to find the right balance that works for the whole family


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