Extra-Curricular Activities Aren’t Always Worth The Stress

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We all want to provide our children with the very best. Even if we can’t give them everything, most parents have a hard time saying no to educational opportunities. Extra-curriculars feed on this need to give our child every chance to follow their dreams and become an Olympic athlete or sign a record deal before they leave high school.

Alright, so maybe we don’t think that our children will all become superstars. But they might. They might be the most amazing swimmer since Michael Phelps or the next Martha Argerich on the piano. What if, by denying them the opportunity to start classes at a young age and develop their passion, we’re holding them back from reaching their destiny?

That’s a whole lot of pressure! But economists and psychologists alike say that parents need to stop putting so much weight on extra-curricular activities. The New York Times took a look at children’s activities and their adverse effect on their families. Bryan Caplan, an economics professor at George Mason University says, “A lot of parents are exhausted by their own overparenting. They make so many sacrifices and are so stressed out by driving around so much that they explode at kids for changing the radio station.”

Let’s face it, all those lessons and travel teams are expensive. In fact, they add up to be thousands of dollars a year. And economists like Steven D. Levitt from University of Chicago say that there’s no evidence that these expenses correlate to high academic performance. Realistically, we all know that our children might not become world-class in any given area. Those golf lessons might not make the next Tiger and a soccer team might not produce Mia Hamm. Now, we’ve learned that they won’t help academically. But we still want to create well-rounded individuals.

However, a balanced and connected family creates the happiest children. If all those activities leave little time for family meals and parents stressed about money and time, your kids really aren’t gaining anything. Extra-curriculars can be great for children. I took dance lessons my entire life and I just started my daughter in her first class. There’s a possibility that she’ll hate it, of course, and then we might move on to something else. But I think the lesson here is that these activities should not be your main priority. They shouldn’t come at the expense of your financial and mental stability.