How to Promote your Child’s Success While Avoiding Burnout
Many parents believe that in order for their child to eventually become a successful adult, their child should be involved in EVERYTHING: sports, music, dance, student council, tutoring, etc.
Unfortunately, colleges and universities have played into this misconception through how competitive it has become to get into college, and what they are looking for on applications.
The truth is, everyone (kids, adults, and anyone in between) needs downtime. There are important things that happen when we allow ourselves time to be alone, unscheduled, with an opportunity to recharge.
I think every adult can attest to how necessary that is; how we all feel excited to get back to a project when we’ve taken a weekend to just enjoy and relax, right? Why would we think our children are any different?
If we want our kids to be successful at something, we must make sure that they work hard at it, but also allow for downtime to avoid burning out.
How many stories have you heard of a very successful young athlete throwing in the towel because they simply burned out? They’d been playing the sport, training, working hard, from such a young age that eventually they lost the love of the game.
Of course, to be successful at anything, one must work hard. This post is not attempting to advocate for letting your kids coast through their childhood without working hard.
It’s the opposite, really.
If we want our kids to be successful at something, we have to make sure that they work hard at it, but also allow for downtime to avoid burning out. On the flip side, we have to monitor downtime, and make sure that our kids aren’t getting too much unstructured time. It's a delicate, but important, balance.
When our children are young, we need to create opportunities for them to experience a variety of things.
There are two things that make us successful with a given task:
- We have inherent gifts that lend us to success (e.g., if I’m naturally tall, I'm likely to be inherently better at basketball because I’m closer to the hoop).
- The task provides reinforcers willing us to spend more time doing it, and therefore improving with repetition.
Kids will most likely be drawn to activities that their parents enjoy, spend time watching/doing, and involve their child in.
Parents provide some of the earliest and most powerful reinforcers to their children. So, things you do in front of your kids, and things that you do with your kids will probably be some of the things that your kids are drawn to do.
- If you are not a golfer, you don’t watch golf, and you don’t talk about golf, then you wouldn't expect that your child is going to grow up with a strong desire to play golf.
- If you are a music fanatic – have music on all of the time in the house, pull your guitar off of the wall to play music throughout the day – then you wouldn't be surprised if your child asks for a guitar of their own.
If you want your child involved in activities, then you have a role to play in that. Introduce your child to the activity by modeling it (or watching it with your child), create opportunities for your child to engage in the activity, and provide reinforcers for the activity.
And remember, it’s okay for your kids to have time to play video games, browse YouTube, or watch television. It’s not beneficial, however, to allow them unlimited time doing that.
There are positive parenting strategies for addressing misbehavior (Read: How to Improve Your Child's Behavior With a Points System). This is a great way to not only limit the amount of time that your children are spending with downtime, but it also explains how downtime (or video game time, television time, Youtube time) can be used as a reinforcer for a variety of other behaviors that might need some improvement.