Measuring Success in Your Child’s Activities

Ballet. Baseball. Swim team. Running club. Scouts. Piano.

These are just a few of the options on the table before our kids for extracurricular activities. And they’re 7, 4, and 1.

I know these decisions are going to get harder as time goes on, both for them and for us. On the one hand, you want your children to be well rounded and have a variety of experiences. You want them to find “their thing,” but at the same time have appropriate priorities and boundaries in their lives and in the life of your family.

Not only that, but in all these activities, how do you measure success? Is it simply that they are participating? Is it that they are the best? Neither of those seem right. So Jana and I are continuing to wade through these waters of helping our kids to be proud but not arrogant, accomplished and not apathetic. For now, we are emphasizing to our kids that there are only 3 rules for dance, swimming, piano, reading, and most other activities they’re involved in:

1. Try hard. Don’t just show up; show up and do your best. It doesn’t matter if your best isn’t the same as someone else’s best. The important thing is that you do the best you can with God has given you. So try as hard as you can at what you are doing.

2. Pay attention. Whoever the coach or teacher is at the moment, that person is the authority. As such, they should be respected and obeyed. They should be answered with “Yes ma’am” or “No sir.” God has put that person in charge of the swim team or the piano lesson or the dance class, so when you honor them, you are honoring the Lord.

3. Have fun. It matters that you are having fun. Kids don’t have to be a part of any of these things; they’ll grow up fine (I hope) without them. None are imperative to life. Having fun at these activities helps to separate the important from the essential. Though these things may be important, they can go away, and our family will continue to move on. I remember the freeing look on my son’s face when it was time to sign up for another baseball season and I asked him if he wanted to play. He looked surprised at the question, and then we decided it was time to move on and try something else.

What about you? Would you add anything to this list?

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  • Doc B says:

    Based on my experiences of being a youth baseball and basketball coach for about 15 years, and being the parent of four kids, I’d say the list of rules concerning kids’ activities needs to be directed at the parents, not the kids.

    Kids will by nature have fun, until their parents get in the way. (I’ve done it.)

    Kids will usually pay attention to something/someone in which they are interested, until the parent starts coaching from the stands. (I’ve done it, a lot unfortunately.) I and other coaches fight this one constantly.

    Kids will usually give good effort until they become afraid of making a mistake, which is usually the fault of their parents who are overly critical because little Johnny can’t field the ball as well as that Jeter-dude on TV. (I’ve done this one, too.) My wife and I thought about calling CPS on a parent this year…because he was so hard on his 10-year-old boy in baseball games. It was borderline abuse.

    Then there’s the opposite approach, which is just as harmful. It’s the parent who thinks their kid never makes a mistake. It’s always the umpire’s fault, or the coach’s fault, or the other kids’ fault, etc. These kids slowly become uncoachable in sports and very difficult to manage in life.

    If we parents could learn the simple lesson that our children’s lives (and ours) will not be lessened by them striking out, all your suggestions would be much easier for the kids to accomplish.

  • MK says:

    Thanks, Doc. Point well made. We have an amazing ability to project onto our kids.

  • Becky Dietz says:

    Because we had so many choices (and so many children), we limited our kids to 1 sport per semester. That way, they were able to try different things and yet focus on one. And we still had family time. And it’s so much harder for the young families today—so many choices!!

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