Q: Is three hours of one sport once a week too much for a 7-year-old? This sport meets from 6 to 9 p.m. It is nearly 10 p.m. before the child is in bed (as opposed to his usual 8:30 bedtime). My husband thinks it’s OK. He points out that our son’s homework is not suffering, and he’s not sleep deprived (although he’s often grumpy the next morning). This activity takes place on Tuesdays, which has the potential to lead to three nights of later-than-hoped-for bedtimes because of church on Wednesday evening and another activity on Thursdays. I would appreciate your thoughts.
A: Your husband could argue that you’ve asked the wrong guy. First, I am against adult appropriation and micromanagement of activities that children once organized and managed themselves. Second, although I sometimes enjoy watching a good college or professional sports match-up, I care not who wins. I liberated myself from sports long ago and have no regrets. I save my emotional and mental energy for far better purposes.
I realize that the adults who run children’s sports programs are well intentioned, but the children are not deriving the full benefit of learning decision-making, problem-resolution and leadership skills. I maintain that they aren’t even learning teamwork. All that went out the window when “involvement” became a parenting buzzword. Adults have turned what was once fun into performance events.
The alternative is for a minimum number of adults to supervise children’s sports events, but for the kids to pick captains who pick teams (thus, team makeup is always different) and for the children themselves to decide who plays what position and resolve disagreements. Take it from a guy who played lots of sandlot sports when he was a youngster: The learning that takes place in that context is invaluable, short-term and long-term. I even think that bullying would become less of a problem under those circumstances.
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I also maintain that organized after-school pursuits should not regularly preclude relaxed family meals, family activities and obligations, children’s ability to do their homework without feeling rushed, chores, or an adequate amount of sleep.
Then there’s the matter of your child’s thoughts on the subject. What does he think about all of this? Is he invested in this sport, or is he simply doing what his dad wants him to do? If given the opportunity to quit (which, believe me, does not doom a child to being a lifelong quitter), would he take it?
Having said all that, my best answer is that when mom and dad disagree about a parenting issue and can’t find a compromise, the default position should always be “no.” That understanding, entered into by both parents willingly, saves lots of emotional energy. It means that one person wins sometimes, the other person at other times. Very civilized, if you ask me (which you did).
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his website, Rosemond.com.
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