Overscheduled Children: How Big a Problem?

By October 31, 2013Exploring Education

By Shants N. Hart, Director of the Middle School and Director of Admissions

As we move into a new season, I am reminded of how often that also means a transition into another sports season. At Park Tudor School, we value the well-roundedness of a child, and we openly encourage our students to participate in and try new things. Many of our students have already found a passion – soccer, the violin, basketball, gymnastics, hockey, acting, etc. Consequently, with all of the homework and academic responsibilities, our students become somewhat overscheduled. Very few weekends at the Hart household are not spent on the soccer fields, and I’m sure many of you have your own respective ‘field’ on which you spend many of your days.

Recently, author Bruce Feiler wrote an article addressing this issue, that appeared in The New York Times. “Overscheduled Children: How Big a Problem?” takes a look at whether what we’ve all bought into – that extracurricular activities truly benefit our children – is fact or fiction. Feiler admits struggling, along with his wife, to manage the “balancing act” for his daughters, so he sought answers from some of the leaders in the field of child psychology. He notes that a small collection of books – all with the theme that our children are under tremendous pressure from schedules created by parents – have emerged. His most helpful findings come from Michael Thompson, a clinical psychologist and leader in the field, who actually visited our campus a few years ago. Feiler quotes Dr. Thompson,

“As a general principle, there is a line between a highly enriched, interesting, growth-promoting childhood and an overscheduled childhood…”

Dr. Thompson goes on to say that the real problem “lies with parents, especially highly successful ones who have a high degree of control over their own lives and who try to take similar control over their children’s lives. This leads them to make choices about after-school activities out of anxiety instead of interest in their child’s well-being.” The article is full of resourceful nuggets from other professionals in the field. One of the psychologists reminded us that us that we should never encourage the “I am as I can perform” attitude and mentality. In the article, Dr. Luthar says that “The only place where I say to stop is where the child starts to say his or her performance determines his or her self-worth.” I encourage you to read the full article.