We are nearing the end of this wonderful book by Kim John Payne. You can reach out for it through our lending library. This fifth chapter is all about schedule and how to simplify it!
It starts with a story of a family who more or less had something going every day between 2 children from football, trumpet playing, tae kwon do and horses competition. The parents felt that since the children enjoyed them and were driven, it was good to have so much stuff going on. Here we are moved into how life from 1980s to now changed with children having less free time – because it was being taken by scheduled activities. We are told that too many scheduled activities may limit a child’s ability to motivate and direct themselves.
Kim John Payne here makes an analogy between children and crop rotation. Because we need balance and control to help children grow. Like crops, traditionally there was a rotation of crops and a time when the field left fallow. Now, farmers with pressure all around them give it fertilizer to sustain further growth which still though depletes the soil further! Children can be very similar…. they need the ‘fallow’ moments to understand and grow and simply be. How true is this for you? Sometimes I feel so sad for children (and parents) who tell you they needed to mix and match schedules to make sure everything got covered with little time for down time. There is no time for a breath of air except possibly Sunday! Children need time to stand still, to do something without being directed how to do it. Without this time not only they do not have the possibility to process what is happening to them and around them but they learn from a young age that being idle, self-care is not acceptable!
Boredom he tells us is a gift. I tend to agree…if only I don’t get the grumbling with it !
when a child is constantly busy, bouncing from one thing to another, it is hard for them to know what they “want to do”. First of all, nobody’s asking. …..”nothing to do” state – is like a hush in the crowd. Silence…..instead of always being scheduled or entertained, children get creative. They begin building a world of their own making.
Going back to balance the author tells a story of a how a mother understood that all her child needed was pockets of quiet when there was a lot of activity around her. So, so true! My children thrive in pockets of quiet. They need it right after school and before home work starts. They need it if our weekend schedule is packed. they need it after a sleep over at their grandparents. Sometimes we forget and get angry but ultimately we need to give them that space to get back to their quietness in order to be able to move forward.
We are then confronted with the Sabbath – the day of rest. Who rests on Sunday nowadays? Most shops are open, and we end up doing a lot of shopping and other errands on Sunday. Yet, yet when we think of a day of rest we flinch, we look away. We need it desperately but we can’t find it anywhere it seems. Moments of Sabbaths are distraction-free zones. It might not be a whole day of quietness, but we can for sure carve some time. Here we are given some short stories of how this worked out for some families which is heartening as it need not be a lot of time- even 30 minutes every evening or some evenings will do the trick. It is teaching children not just efficiency but also quietness, relaxation!
We move on through this chapter with the title of anticipation. We grew up anticipating events, outings, meetings etc. It was quite exciting waiting for the weekend to meet your cousins, to be going to that football game, to be going to that park……Many children are on the instant gratification trip and have no idea how to wait or what anticipation is. The world is whirling us so fast it leaves us breathless! Anticipating gratification, rather than expecting or demanding it strenghten’s a child’s will. Impulsivity, wanting everything now, leaves the will weak, flacid. Many times we forget the importance of waiting, when all around us society is always on-demand!
We are also brought up face to face with a new concept maybe; that being all the time on the go makes our children look at outer stimulation and that this can become an addiction. Where people will look for outer stimulation to avoid inaction, boredom, pain…. Also it ends up with the children being all the time on a “high” thus making desire, reflection and imagination impossible to achieve and anticipation will have no room. Now this simple page gives us a lot to reflect about really. Are we really wanting our children to rely on everything but themselves in the future? Are we really wanting our children to grow up unable to stay still and quiet with their own thoughts? To think deeply and grow internally? It can seem like a bucket full of ice thrown at you and making you realise that everything is not really everything. Extra curriculum classes can wait no matter how fun they look. The time for them to grow and absorb life, to think and play, to dream and imagine is a moment in time that passes quickly unless it is nurtured. This then brings us into ordinary days! As the author says: ..if we hold on to the exceptional and if our children adopt that as their measure of success- most will fail, and almost all of them will feel like failures. The ordinary he says brings freedom and possibilities for the exceptional! Whether we truly embrace it or not, our lives are mostly made up of ordinary days. If we try and make them wonderful, exceptional days – every day – for our children, the pressure to deliver these days will simply keep on growing and it is exhausting! Not just for us but also for these children we hold so dear.
The last few pages of this chapter are dedicated to sports. The most impressionable thing I read here was not that children are ending up ‘specialised’ in a sport from very young ages. Neither that sports are being professionalised even for children. The most significant information is that you get 13 year olds in hospital and doctors are seeing wear and tear in the body that you never used to get before. Children truly want to play BUT play for fun! The problem isn’t really organised sports as the author says but the too much, too young bit of it. Children under 10 should get a wide variety of sports to try and definitely not more than once-twice a week.
He now shows us the difference between free play an structured sports. Which in essence children are learning through playing with others how to negotiate, build on, change rules and start new games. Whilst in sports, you have the equipment, rules etc all determined for you! You do not learn to problem solve or making sure everyone is happy in sports BUT you do in free play because success is determined through it being fun for all. This chapter ends with the story of a family who was so overscheduled by sports but finally found the balance it needed which helped fuel more passion for the sports the children really loved and created more connection in the family.
What are your thoughts on all this?