My youngest daughter is playing a 3-on-3 hockey tournament this weekend. I got an email from the tournament director today that essentially said his goal for the tournament was for the kids to have plenty of time to play and have fun. The emphasis for him would not be on winning but on making sure every child has an enjoyable tournament experience. Now, my daughter is pretty focused on her team doing well in the tournament. She doesn't play anything without wanting to win. She hated playing kindergarten soccer because they didn't keep score, and "why play if you can't win?"
Too much of our kids' world is focused on competing and winning (this from a mom with two very competitive kids). Our kids are expected to excel in everything -- from state assessments at school to the sports field to the school choir. We have toddlers entering beauty pageants and 12-year-olds being touted as the next Michael Jordan.
Somewhere we've lost the attitude that our kids should have plenty of time to play and have fun. We've lost sight of the fact that some of the greatest memories are made and the most worthy lessons taught not in competition but in cooperation and sharing. We're so busy pushing our kids to succeed that we forget to let them just have fun.
We live in a world where parents put their names on waiting lists before their kids are born to be sure they get into the "right" preschool. Our schools have become focused almost solely on state test scores, leaving little room for the creative experiences that help our kids learn to solve problems and work together.
Solomon was the wisest man on earth. He had succeeded in everything, yet when he neared the end of his life, here is what he had to say, "'Meaningless! Meaningless!' says the Teacher. 'Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.' What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?" (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2)
Despite the fact that he had spent his whole life achieving things, Solomon felt his work was meaningless. He looked back and found nothing of worth in all he had accomplished. We want our kids to find meaning in their lives, which can only be found in Jesus.
Our kids need time to enjoy life. They need time to learn about God. They can't do that if the only focus in their lives is to compete and achieve. Make time to play and have fun with your kids. Use the teachable moments that come during those times to point your kids toward God.
- Don't structure everything in your child's life. Leave room for creative play and spontaneity.
- Remember your child does not have to be the best at everything they do. If they enjoy a sport or an activity, let them enjoy it without pushing them to be the next world champion.
- Be willing to encourage your child's passions but set limits on the number of activities you're willing to let them be involved in at the same time.
- Look for teachable moments with your kids. Be aware that those moments often come when they are least expected and not always when they're convenient.
When we leave plenty of time for our kids to play and have fun, we leave time for teachable moments. And we leave time for God to work.