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Kids need time off


Dr Susie O'Brien is the author of The Secret of Half-arsed Parenting and Herald Sun journalist and columnist. Susie has a PhD in Education and has spent the last two decades writing about parenting and family issues and regularly features Play Australia research and experts.

This new parenting advice book looks at how over 'scheduled' our kids are.

Not only do parents need to spend more time out of the car, but kids need organised activities balanced by time off. They need to get dirty, get bored, hang out with friends in the local park, walk to the shops with mates and explore the neighbourhood on their bikes.

Here's what else Susie as to say about her new book....

Parents worry about lots of things.
Will my kids turn into nice people?
Will they ever get off Minecraft and come to dinner?
And where the hell is Saturday afternoon’s soccer game?

Hands up if you’ve ever been hurtling down the freeway late for weekend sport while trying to remember the team’s grade and division so your ten-year-old can download the app telling you where the hell you should be going.

It’s not fun; it’s exhausting. But it’s what parents these days think they should do in order to do a good job.  My new book, The Secret of Half-arsed Parenting, is out to change this.

Too many of us give up our own weekends for our kids’ activities and drop everything to meet their needs. We’d never forget Saturday ballet practice or football training, but we’ve forgotten to have a life of our own.

Guilty parents think the answer to their frustration is doing do more for their kids and with their kids, and this often involves enrolling them in a punishing round of enriching activities.

Mums in particular sacrifice their own social lives to make more time for their kids. Many also end up doing less paid work. Doing less parenting doesn’t seem to occur to anyone – and nor does doing fewer activities
Data from the 2018 Longitudinal Study of Australian Children shows between 80 and 90 per cent of kids aged 6 to 11 do some form of extracurricular activity. Nearly one-third do two or more activities. It’s not confined to affluent families; even those on lower incomes save to pay for classes costing more than $30 an hour.

These days, three-month-old babies attend Pilates and pre-schoolers have more play dates than their parents. Making mud pies or playing with Barbies have given way to violin lessons, soccer practice, toddler gymnastics and accelerated learning classes.

This approach – which was unheard of in the 70s and 80s – has been building over the last 20 years. Back in 2001, renowned American psychiatrist Alvin Rosenfeld wrote The Over-Scheduled Child. He called parenting the ‘most competitive adult sport’.

‘Today’s children are so tightly scheduled that many have never invented a backyard game or had time to hang out with friends,’ he said at the time.

No one listened back then, and no one is listening now. Smaller backyards, lack of green space in cities and boring school playgrounds further reduce kids’ chance to freely move and play.

A few years ago, I did a story for the Herald Sun newspaper about a nine-year-old who did ballet, played three musical instruments, took swimming classes and was a competition-standard gymnast. Her appointment diary began filling up at six months, when she began music lessons and baby gymnastics. Three nights a week, her mother drove her 45 minutes from home and then spent three hours in the car waiting for her to complete a three-hour class. It’s insanity.

I can hear you thinking, so what? Harry loves his taekwondo and Scarlett adores her ballet. Fair enough. These classes are good to a point, and kids often enjoy them. But they require a parent to make them happen and are no substitute for real play.

As the 2018 International Lego Play Well report notes, such ‘organised fun’ is not experienced as play by children. This is an important message to keep in mind when parents get up the courage say no to yet another basket- ball team or gymnastics class.

Not only do parents need to spend more time out of the car, but kids need organised activities balanced by time off. They need to get dirty, get bored, hang out with friends in the local park, walk to the shops with mates and explore the neighbourhood on their bikes.

They won’t get medals or participation certificates and no one will tell them what to do. It could be the best thing for them ever.

The Secret of Half-arsed Parenting by Murdoch Books is out now in bookshops and online.
https://www.booktopia.com.au/the-secret-of-half-arsed-parenting-susie-o-...

 

Follow Susie at Facebook.com/susie.obrien.121
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The Secret of Half-arsed Parenting - Dr Susie O'Brien