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Man warns wife, 'You're overscheduling our kids and it's DAMAGING,' wife insists, 'This is CORRECT parenting.' AITA? UPDATED 3X

Man warns wife, 'You're overscheduling our kids and it's DAMAGING,' wife insists, 'This is CORRECT parenting.' AITA? UPDATED 3X


When this man is displeased with his wife's parenting style, he asks the internet:

"My wife is overscheduling our kids and it's damaging. I need her to stop. AITA?"

My kids are 9 and 7. Recently we've been having a lot of trouble with them being generally disrespectful to us. Spitting, hitting, mimicking, and disrespect in general is common in our house.

After thinking about our situation, I realized that it may be due to the amount of activities they do because they don't get a break, and we don't have any time to enforce discipline. We also don't pitch into chores together as a family, nor do we have regular "family time".

Me and my wife both understand the value of extracurricular activities. I was especially eager to sign them up, since I didn't have any activities as a kid. However, I think we may have gone overboard.

My 9 year old does 8, while my 7 year old does 6. On school nights, when they come home from school, they have no time to do anything except pack any equipment they need for their activities, and then go to their activities. They even have to eat their dinner in the car on most nights.

We usually don't get home from their activities until 8 PM. Of course, when we get home, they're tired and want a break; they haven't had one all day.

However, they have homework to do, but they're too tired to do it, so they act up and disrespect us. We usually are up until 10:30 PM or later trying to get homework done, so then they're tired in the morning. I think that the solution to fix this chaos would be to cancel at least half of their activities so that we aren't so overscheduled.

When I brought this up to my wife, however, she wouldn't hear of any of it because she says that extracurriculars are so important.

She says that it's important for kids to be exposed to many different things and to receive the structure and socialization extracurriculars provide. While I do agree with that, I feel like she's gone overboard, and when I refuted her point, it devolved into a big fight. What should I do to fix it? Is she right and AITA?

Before we give you OP's updates, let's look at the top comments:

crime5 writes:

NTA. I don't understand how they can possibly do that many after school activities? I have 3 kids, 4, 9 and 11, and i couldnt imagine them doing 3 activities each at the same time.

fenteennn writes:

NTA. I know this word sounds judgmental and perhaps my vocabulary is not as expansive as it should be, but I really cannot think of another word other than crazy.... that a 7 and 9 year old are signed up for that many activities and also starting homework after 8pm, regularly eating dinner in the car and going to bed after 10:30pm.

Yes activities can be an enriching experience but there is such a thing as going overboard. Young children need rest too (everyone needs rest). Your wife needs to ease up and let your kids have some free, unstructured play time. That also has value in allowing kids to use their own creativity to amuse themselves.

There is value in having free time to be a little “bored” and for a child to use their own imagination to entertain themselves, whether it’s with a book, arts and crafts, playing with a favorite toy etc. Your kids sound overworked and exhausted. Let them be kids.

One or two activities each that the kids enjoy is more than enough. Being able to sit down as a family for dinner, or teaching your kids to do chores all together as a family that loves each other and takes care of the home and each other is also valuable.

Think about the messages you teach to your children. Right now it sounds like you are teaching that achievements and being busy matter more than anything else, including time for rest and self-care.

This schedule is teaching that rest and developmental needs for growing brains be damned.... what’s more important is working to the point of exhaustion and emotional/mental stress. Please cancel some of these activities and make time for rest for your exhausted children.

pajamway writes:

NTA. That’s way too many activities, and it’s not good for your kids or your family. Your wife obviously loves your children very much and desperately wants what’s best for them, so perhaps that’s your way to get through to her.

There are multiple articles out there about the negatives of over scheduling, and the benefits of unstructured time. I’d do some research and present that to your wife. When it comes down to it, childhood is a really important time for developing creativity, confidence, and discovering passions. Those things happen when kids are bored and need to figure things out themselves.

When I was a kid I was in a couple activities, but I had a lot of down time and wasn’t allowed to watch tv on weekdays. As a direct result of the sheer boredom, I became an avid reader and played piano multiple times a day. Those things are still a big part of my life, decades after I quit softball and taekwondo.

Now I teach music lessons to children. Parents don’t seem to understand that kids can’t do everything. No one can. All of these activities require time and practice if you actually want to make any sort of progress. It’s depressingly common for a 7 or 8 year old to tell me they don’t have time to practice.

I used to think it was an excuse, but now I have them walk me through their week, and they don’t! Like your kids, they have activities everyday until late at night. I try to explain to parents that their kids will hit a wall, stop improving, and want to quit if they don’t practice their instrument.

I usually suggest they drop some other activities or drop music. Too many parents decide they’ll get their kid to practice in the one free hour where they’re also doing homework and eating dinner. Of course they don’t, and the kid doesn’t practice, they don’t get better, they think they’re “bad at it”, and they grow to hate making music. Drives me crazy.

lenvor writes:

NTA!! Everybody else covered how you are correct that your kids are overscheduled and that this is catastrophic for them.

I'll address how to talk to your wife. It sounds like this is a realization you recently came to, and that up to now you were totally on the overscheduling train, and that you've had one (1) conversation with your wife about this, trying to convince her to cancel half the activities.

If that is accurate, then I can understand why she wouldn't have been receptive. I have no sympathy for her position, but given it IS her position and it's been your shared position for a decade, I think it's pretty unreasonable to expect her to turn around on a dime.

I don't know what led you to change your own mind, but it must have been a process that took some time. She also needs that time. You brought up the subject, you made it clear it was important to you, she made her own points, you had a fight about your disagreement - that's all great.

It's the beginning of the conversation, not the end. Now see whether time, and a chance to reflect upon the question, leads her to revisit her position. Gather evidence for your own position; look at all the studies talking about the importance of sleep and free play.

Revisit the topic at appropriate times, both when it's immediately relevant and in isolation when you're both calm and able to have Important Conversations. Maybe bring it up with the family doctor, hopefully get them to support this as medically necessary.

This is important enough that it's worth going to pretty far lengths to get your way IMO, but it's really up to you to see what you're willing to put on the line. It might get to the point of looking at therapy, family counselling, relationship counselling, or whatnot, depending on her reactions.

lampa writes:

Everyone in this thread seems to gasp at your situation and give their own advice on the "ideal" number of activitives for children. No one seems to have answered the question you asked - how can i fix this problem when my wife is convinced otherwise?

Try the following: Have a discussion with your wife on the pros/cons of a number of things.

Currently, your kids are doing 7 activities per kid per week on average. What does your wife think the ideal number should be? 14 per kid, 7 per kid, 3 per kid, etc. Go through her reasoning with patience and understanding even if she thinks you should do more activities.

Discuss what are the pros/cons of cutting this number down to, say 2 per week per kid?

Discuss what her views are on pros/cons of unstructured play time, not having family dinners in the house?

Discuss the pros/cons of her kids living a schedule like Tim Cook even though they are a bit younger that that guy.

From your post, it looks like you both are responsible for the current situation but you wish for a change at the moment. I applaud your desire for change here (which i think should happen) but your wife may not yet have seen the benefits of the change.

Draw her out into discussion. Try to avoid getting angry and let egos get in the way. Do this when you both have downtime and the kids are not around.

It sounds like you both are awesome parents trying to do the "right" thing. Concede that the "right" thing might take some trial and error to get it just right and you both need to change for that.

Admit to her that you are also a core reason for the current situation and you think a change is needed. I think you both will arrive at the right solution. Good luck!

mortak4 writes:

NTA. Cancel HALF or the extracurriculars? I'd cancel 75-90% of them. i.e. have both kids have 1 or 2 things, not 8.

Read through your own message and make the calculation. Your children leave for school at X am, they are done with their day at 22.30 pm. How many hours of 'work' is that? I'm guessing that number will be at least 14 hours if they leave for school at 8:30. How would you feel if you had to work that much 5 days a week AND then some on the weekend?

Structure is important, yes, but remember that carries into the home too. How is the structure there? Rest is also an important part of structure, and that seems to be non-existent for any of you right now.

Socialization is also important, yes, but really, at what point do diminishing returns kick in? At the 5th activity? The 4th? And socialization applies to the home situation too: they are obviously too tired and fed up by 10.30 pm to behave properly around their parents (socialization!)

What I also missed entirely in your post is if the children even WANT to do all that stuff. So my advice is to ask them and listen to them. You've exposed them to different things; that job is done.

Now it is time for your children to have some agency and bow out of things they do not want to do, or 7 or 8 things they don't want to do, as the case may be.

Yes, I am saying that if your 9 year old wants to do absolutely nothing for 6 months, you let them. See if that improves the family situation and then maybe see if they want to pick something up again. But being able to eat together, have downtime together and be respectful to each other is also very important.

Update 1 (with details on the extracurriculars):

Oh, it's possible if you want to live in our current situation.

My 9 year old is signed up for violin, piano, swimming, tennis, karate, Scouts, math tutoring, and Spanish school, while my 7 year old is signed up in violin, ballet, gymnastics, swimming, math tutoring, and Spanish school. I am worried for their mental health. I'd like to reduce this to 1 physical activity and 1 instrument.

And it's not like my wife is doing this for childcare -- she sits in on any activity where it is allowed.

As for the food, it's not like they're picking something up from McDonald's -- my wife cooks their dinner while they're at school, puts it in the fridge, and gives it to them to eat on the way to their first activity, but I wouldn't like eating cold dinners in the car every single day.

Update 2 (has more details about wife):

Their toys go untouched for days at a time because they just don't have time to play. Also, where other families have living rooms filled with toys, our family room is devoid of toys. Instead, it has little desks for the kids to do their homework and any other worksheets my wife deems important for them.

She works a part time receptionist job in the mornings, but stays home in the afternoons and evenings. She sits in on any activity where she is allowed, and if she's not allowed to watch, she sits outside the door.

And now, OP's 3rd major update:

First of all, I would like to thank everyone who responded on my first post. You gave me a lot of good advice and insights.

What I did is first, I emailed my kids' leaders for all their activities, and told the leaders that we wouldn't be coming. Then, I talked to my wife about this again, only this time, I was armed with evidence and advice against our lifestyle.

I showed her some articles about how much sleep kids that age should be getting, the importance of unstructured play, and the dangers of overscheduling. I also compared our kids' lifestyle to that of a working adult, and how she would feel if she was forced to work all day every day and get insufficient sleep.

At first she was pretty upset and wouldn't listen to me. After a while, however, she admitted that what she was doing was wrong, and she agreed to family therapy as well as cancelling all of the activities for a few months so that we could have a break. Although this all happened only a few days ago, things have changed for the better.

First of all, when we told our kids that we wouldn't be going to activities for a while, they were quite excited. Our lifestyle has really become much more restful in these few days. We've been having daily family dinners and unstructured down time, and we have all become happier. Thank you for all the advice you gave. Our life has definitely improved!

Readers continued to weigh in on OP's updates:

Im in a similar situation... Problem is it's my ex so not much cooperation... And worst thing that ever happened to my daughter was getting diagnosed as gifted... Ex claims gifted children need constant stimulation to reach their peak.

Violin (twice a week),piano, scouts, badminton, chinese (once a week in person, twice online), sowmtimes swimming.. mandarin and music practice every day....and boy is just starting scouting since he's just going into kindergarten, who knows what else. Daughter will also be entering the gifted program at school.

No weeknights free. Made same suggestion. One physical, one intellectual... Won't agree. daughter seeing a pediatric doctor because she's not just huge for her age, but mentally a teenager at 9.

Hoping they can back me up in it being too much and as a single dad I can't even handle it. I can see the pressure on her shoulders and her childhood has been taken from her because her mom lives through her accomplishments.

I know she used to love violin but resentment is growing.. some days she really doesn't want to practice I let it go when she's with me.. her Chinese she nerve really wanted, but it's cultural thing with her heritage etc... She has rich family and just hangs around house all day or with her boyfriend.

It's actually on the docket for next mediation session. I think med/arb kinds sees my point and if she doesn't agree may have to do full blown arbitration day to sort it out.. but dunno how enforceable other than refusing to take on my time with them

Sources: Reddit
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