Our family always seems to be on the go—juggling church, work, football practices, tutoring, and piano lessons. How can we slow down this crazy pace of life?
Dennis: Society today is marked by pressure—"life in the fast lane," as some would say. Too often parents feel pulled by demands from home, church, work, and activities. You need to look at the type of lifestyle that you are modeling and compare it to the type of lifestyle that you want to model.
We've got to remember that today's children will carry the image of our Savior to the next generation. I have some doubts about the kind of training we are giving them in our hurried, exhausted culture. There is certainly nothing wrong with an active life, as long as the right perspective is maintained. Idleness is just as bad as being too busy. But the opposite problem—frenzy—creates a disturbance in our mind and soul that makes it hard for us to "Cease striving and know that I am God ..." (Psalm 46:10).
Barbara: Busyness is a trap that not only snares adults, but also children. Whether parents have toddlers or teens, they must prayerfully examine every activity and determine if it is worth the cost. When we are proactive parents, rather than reactive, we are empowered to be parents with a purpose.
Dennis and I feel that it is imperative for parents to actually write goals for their children and to determine what is going to be distinctive about their families. How are you going to create a sense of family identity? What kind of mission can your family follow? Once you decide this, decide which activities contribute to this mission.
One of the best things Dennis and I did to control busyness when our kids were still at home was go on a weekly date night. We went out for dinner and discussed our family's schedule as it related to our convictions. No other single thing helped us more than scheduling a regular time to make certain that our calendar reflected our family's real values.
Dennis: In our family, one value ranked above nearly all others: "Family has priority." This value did more than any other to control busyness in our home. Starting when our children were small, they heard us say over and over, "We are always going to discriminate in favor of our family rather than against our family." This value did not remove conflict, and it sometimes created significant pain when we had to say no to a child. But it is a chunk of granite to stand on when the winds of schedule insanity start to blow.
Barbara: Parents need to examine every activity that takes family members away from one another and determine if it is worth the cost. Parents need to question their motives. Why do they want their children working part-time or tutoring other kids? Why do they want their kids involved in sports, cheerleading, or music? They even should ask these questions about church activities. We need to be involved in our church and reach out to others in the community, but not at the continual expense of our families.
Dennis: To illustrate, Barbara and I discovered the hard way that we needed to carefully monitor part-time jobs. When one of our children started working 15-20 hours a week while going to school, we found that he just couldn't handle it. He got stressed out. And when you add to that the hormonal changes that were taking place in his adolescent body, he began to lose perspective. Barbara and I had to step in at that point and draw some hard lines and boundaries around his life.
Barbara: The bottom line was that we wanted a relationship with this son, and we knew that a strong relationship requires time. We wanted our lives and values, not our child's employer's values, to be a major influence in his life. We need each child to be an integral part of our family.
Dennis: As parents, set the course for your child while you still have control of the schedule, knowing that there is a time around the corner when the activity monster will barge through your front door and eat your time and resources. Barbara and I encourage you to formulate an activities mission statement that will set boundaries for the well-being of everyone in your family. And find at least one activity that you and your child enjoy doing together.
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