My daughter had her last hockey game of the season on Sunday. While we're both glad for a little break before spring hockey starts, it was bittersweet. She's been playing with the same group of kids and coaches for two years. This spring, most of them move up a level, and the options on where to play are greater. Her little band of hockey friends is going in different directions. We had to make a tough decision. Some of my daughter's best friends on the team are going to play travel hockey in the spring and the fall. Travel hockey is a huge commitment of both time and money. For our family, it would mean splitting up almost every weekend because our older daughter plays club soccer year-round. It would also mean our family would never go on vacation or do any of the fun, little events and trips we do now because that money would be allotted for hockey.
After considering the situation, we decided not to let our daughter try out for the travel teams. We simply decided our family was more important than her playing travel hockey. Our daughter was not happy with our decision, but there are times when we have to make decisions that protect our families rather than give our kids everything they want. There are times when we have to make wise decisions that take into account the entire family and not just one person.
That's a tough place to be as a parent. When your kids wants and dreams conflict with what's best for your family as a whole, how do you decide what to do? Sometimes it means we have to make the tough decision. Sometimes it means everyone has to compromise. Sometimes it means we come up with a different plan.
Too often, kids' desires become the focus of the family. We get so caught up in chasing our kids that we lose sight of the goal, which is to raise kids who are rooted in God's love and who can change the world for Him. We get caught up in the idols of this world -- success, pride and keeping up with everyone else.
Nearly every decision we make, though, should be made with one thing in mind: Is it best for our family? What works for other families may not work for yours. And keeping up with the "norm" may cost your family more than you're willing to pay.
When you're faced with a decision to add something else to your kids' schedules or even to add an opportunity to your own schedule, ask yourself these questions:
Is it pleasing to God? If the answer to this question is no, then it's not something we need to do. If the answer to this question is yes, then we need to ask some more questions.
Who does it affect? If what you're considering is going to affect every member of your family, it's a bigger decision than if it only affects one member of the family. Take into account how the decision will affect each member of your family. You may find it affects people in ways you hadn't thought of. Our decision on travel hockey was made partly on how it would affect our older daughter and our marriage.
What are the costs? Don't just measure your decision in money. Figure out what it will cost you in time and energy. All three of those things are finite resources. What you give to one activity, you have to take away from another.
What are the benefits? Some things are more beneficial in others. If the activity will build character and improve your family's relationships, then it's more beneficial than something that won't.
What do the other people in your family think? Ask your kids and your spouse how they feel about the decision. You will probably gain differing opinions, but others may think of things that you haven't when it comes to how the decision will affect your family.
What does God say about it? Don't make any decision without asking God what He wants you to do. A decision may look like a good one, but God may have something else in mind. Be sure to get God's "yes" before going ahead with any decision. Ask a friend to pray about the decision with you. Ask them to pray Colossians 1:9 for you, "We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives."
Sometimes being a parent means we protect our families at the cost of making our kids happy. When we make those decisions, it's important to help our kids understand why we are making them. Our kids might not be happy about the decision, but they'll learn that relationships and family are more important than winning a medal or doing an activity just because their friends are doing it. And they'll remember how you made those decisions when it comes time to start making decisions for themselves.