Home » Are your kids too busy? Three questions to help you figure it out.

Are your kids too busy? Three questions to help you figure it out.

I often worry that my own kids are overscheduled—and as I posted about last week on my Greater Good blog, research has shown that more “enriching” activities for our kids does not necessarily lead to their greater success or happiness.  I repeat: more does not equal better.  Or happier.  Or more successful.

But some activities, of course, are worth doing.  My friend Katy put it this way:

My lucky kids have an avalanche of activities that they can pursue. Where should I draw the line between pushing my kids too much and providing them with too little encouragement to try out new things?”

When my own children’s schedule starts to feel hectic (for them or for me), I start asking myself these three groups of questions about each of their activities:

(1) Does my child really want to do the activity?  Or is the activity I’m considering more what I want (e.g. a kid who learns to be a great team-player through years of organized sports) than what my kid wants (she is BEGGING for piano lessons, but would rather die than try out for soccer)?

(2) Am I being seduced by the idea that more skills and more achievements will bring greater happiness?  Is there a chance this activity might actually lower well-being by cutting into too much free-play, sleep, or dinnertime? In other words, do my kids have some free-play time every single day?  Are they getting enough sleep?  Are we managing to eat dinner together 5 nights a week or more?

(3) Does this activity make ME more stressed, more anxious, or busy?  Does it cut into MY happiness?  Is there a way that I could make it happen without adding more to my plate?

I’m finding that very few activities meet those criteria, but when they do, they are worth it!

*One thing to do this week to make you happier: Evaluate each of your children’s activities: do they pass muster? Would you all be happier without one or more of them?

Take action: which activities meet all the criteria? Leave a comment below.

For more tips about how to be happier, and to raise happier kids, take my online class! (The irony of suggesting you do one more thing in this newsletter is not lost on me, by the way.)

Rest assured: my class is designed for BUSY parents who are looking for ways to bring more joy into their parenting. Do something for yourself that will have a happy effect on your whole family!


  1. Sunshine says:

    Great questions!  Will share.  When we get super excited when a practice gets canceled, that’s when we know maybe the activity needs to go…

  2. Mom2Two says:

    Sigh. This is a tough one. Our youngest son has developmental delays, and has recently joined a special-needs soccer team. Lots of the kids are fussy, and he fusses about the other fussy kids. But it’s not going to work to expose him to a team sport like soccer in a mainstream environment. We’re four practices+games into the season, and he’s miserable. Do we pull him out? Get through the season and then re-evaluate for next year? It would definitely make him (and the rest of us, too) happier if we hadn’t signed up, but I hate to give up before he’s given it a real try. 

    • I definitely understand wishing you’d not signed up! We’ve all been there.
      My opinion: when kids want to quit because they are at the bottom of the learning curve with an activity, or they haven’t reached a level of mastery yet where they are having more fun, finish out the season and reevaluate next year. We don’t want to raise kids who quit the minute the going gets tough, or because the practice necessary to succeed seems like “too much work.” When we ask them to stick with it through their discomfort, often they learn that practice and hard work leads to mastery, which brings great happiness and meaning. Those are the kids that will thank you later for not letting them quit.
      Other times, though, misery is caused by things that will never lead to mastery, flow, or growth. Genuinely not liking an activity, for example, or mean kids that ruin the fun. I was a very sensitive kid, and having a coach that yelled at me would so derail me emotionally that I couldn’t perform or even really practice. Ideally I would have learned the skills I needed to cope in that situation, but since no one was able to teach that to me, the next best thing was for me to switch teams and work with a different coach.
      Hope that helps!

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