Typical parent’s frustration: aimless, lazy child. Doesn’t want to go to school or do homework, avoids or procrastinates with chores, whiles away hours aimlessly on video games or social media. “The idle mind is the devil’s playground.”
As with everything, too much of a good thing is problematic as well. The other end of the spectrum: the intense, hyper-focused child who has to take every AP and ace EVERY test, play every sport(often simultaneously) and ALWAYS finish first, works long hours in after school jobs to buy a new car that an adult professional might envy. We know that type as well.
As parents and (for me) the pediatrician, we must be on guard for that troubled lifestyle as well. It is essential to teach children as they grow into adolescents and young adulthood the value of ambition and the pitfalls of perfectionism. The latter causes internalized stress and disruption of normal life functions like rest, relaxation, unstructured recreation, fulfilling family and peer relationships. Their aspirations(and at times there isn’t even anything specific identified) can become totemic goals that may or may not be attainable but ultimately are largely besides the point. One need not have all the highest grades to get into a good college and achieve career success. Athletic scholarships are nice but uncommon, and the vast majority will pay at best a modest portion of college costs. Over the years I’ve seen many more overuse injuries from hyper-training end young athletic careers than scholarships attainted.
And let’s not forget another fraught psychological component: we as the adults cannot and must not seek to redo our own missed opportunities, disappointments, or failures(or successes!) through them. We’ve had our youth–its a fool’s errand to try and live their’s.
So what to do? A few simple suggestions:
- Failure is fine. Always try your best, but people fail. It happens, it’s a good teacher and a great way to learn fortitude as well as strategies for success next time.
- Perspective–have self awareness. As an example: there are few D1 NCAA basketball players at 5’7″ and NOBODY in the NBA like that now. So your slick ball handler should try hard but remember those realities. I say: play D3, start a business, make millions and BUY the NBA franchise. Therefore:
- Varied interests–play different sports, pursue different interests( music, volunteer). A well balanced life. I hate to admit this, but lighthearted, unfocused entertainment–video games with friends–is OK (moderation!)
- Rest–adolescents need > 8 hours sleep nightly. If her day is so crammed that she isn’t sleeping that much MOST NIGHTS she is over-scheduled. Time to step in and:
- Be Parents!! Teach them specifically the above. Enforce rules that promote those principles as you would to prevent laziness or disrespectfulness. Engage with them and be involved–and NOT only with that (perhaps over) focused sport.
- Watch out for warning signs: sleeplessness, fatigue, social withdrawal or isolation, prolonged bouts of irritability, negativity, or hopelessness, panic attacks, weight loss (especially girls).
I tell my very ambitious teens: don’t go looking too hard for adult responsibilities–they will find you soon enough anyway. Be a kid: when you are older you’ll want to be one again.
If you have concerns about these tendencies in your children please give me a call. Thanks for following