Tiger Parenting? Extra curricular activities: How do you know when they are getting too much?

Mozart in the womb, Baby Einstein DVD’s for newborns and i-pad learning apps for toddlers.

From the moment the umbilical cord is cut, today’s parents feel trapped in a never-ending race to ensure their child is the brightest and the best.
Now a provocative new book, Taming the Tiger Parent gives parents the confidence to step away from the frenzy and shows them how to protect their children’s well-being in today’s hothouse atmosphere.

In an exclusive extract of my book on tiger parenting, here are tips to help parents decide which extracurricular activities should stay and which should go:

children kids playing accordeon argentina

‘Once, when children came home, the main job of the day was done. They’d have a snack and go out to play. Homework was so minimal and the pressures so much less, most parents didn’t worry what they got up to after school.

For today’s children, the noise of the bell at the end of the day is just the start of second- shift. New classes arrive on the market every day, starting younger and younger.

Once parents were content to leave swimming, gym and sport to schools. Now flick through the back pages of any parenting magazine you will find that if there’s a talent that will look good on a CV, there’s a mini-me version of it.

As with the educational toy companies, businesses have been very quick to cash on parents’ fears that they can never do enough for their children, convincing them that some of the things that kids would do naturally – if they were given the time and the space – should be taught by professionals.

Being seen as willing to go the extra mile and pay for more activities has become the badge of our commitment. There are few of us who haven’t signed up to something because we’ve heard another parent has – and because we experience FOMO – fear of missing out.

fomo fear of missing out

There are of course benefits. Getting kids involved in sport has been associated with higher levels of self-confidence and lower likelihood of drug-taking and risky sexual behaviour.

But if activity attendance is allowed to become scattergun, there is a price to pay. Our own stress levels rise as we become social secretaries, jugging complex schedules worthy of a CEO and paying ever-higher fees – and all this before they’’ve even started their homework.

But wouldn’t they learn more about life and if they were trained to do a few chores around the house. Do they really need cooking lessons when it would be far less time-consuming,not to mention more bonding and cheaper, to let them learn alongside you at home?

The irony of all this is that our kids are more likely to know how to fence than to unload the dishwasher. Yet so often, we don’t value what comes free or we don’t trust ourselves to teach it.

We also tend to keep children in activities far too long. Children may like a class at first.

But as soon as they show even the slightest sign of being good at something, we flog it to death, killing off any inner motivation they had to do it in the first place.

Take a trip twenty years into the future and ask yourself how your child looks back on their childhood. Will they be thankful for the dizzying array of activities they were signed up for? Or will they remember sitting in the back of the car as they were carted from one activity to the next?

Of course, you may well have helped them discover a special talent. But if they are still enjoying that talent in twenty years’ time, it will be because they poured their heart into it, not you.

What to do:

Find their spark: In my new book, I talk about how you how to find your child’s spark. This is the skill, talent or interest which your child is naturally good at, and which genuinely excites them with no adults in sight. Once you spot the signs I describe, use it to prune down a child’s schedule. It’s always better for a child to be involved a small number of activities based on their spark than be forced to do a whole of loads of things they would never do unless they were made to do them.

Don’t fret over giving up: Even if children give up instruments or other skills after years of lessons and practice, they have not wasted their time because they will still have learnt a great deal. Remember, too, that children learn from quitting. They learn to admit when they have too much on their plates.

Hold your nerve: Leaving our children to their own devices in this day and age has come to be seen as neglectful. But some children are just happier playing at home. See not signing up as a conscious decision to let them find out more about themselves through play.

author-tanith-carey book

TAMING THE TIGER PARENT  – How to put your child’s well-being first in a competitive world, by Tanith Carey is out now and available on Amazon and good book shops, price 8.99.

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