As parents of 3 kids it is incredibly easy to see how your family schedule can quickly become overwhelming. There is no shortage of good activities for your family to say ‘yes’ to. Church stuff, sports stuff, music stuff, friend stuff, school stuff, other family stuff, and on and on. Then multiply that times 2 or 3 and you’re on the struggle bus!
So how can parents balance the desire to provide opportunities for your kids to find areas of passion or fun with the need to have good family rhythms? How can you learn to say ‘no’ to good things and priorities great things?
Learning to Prioritize
There’s an old illustration that gives a great visual picture of prioritizing. You take big rocks, medium sized rocks, small rocks, sand and water and try to fit them into a smaller container. The first attempt inevitably fails when you put the sand and small rocks in first and then try to put the bigger rocks in last. There’s never enough room…and that’s the point.
The second attempt requires putting the big rocks in first. Then the medium sized rocks followed by the small rocks, sand and water. Amazingly it all fits this time because you went in the right order. The lesson is when you prioritize things properly you find more room than you thought you had.
Each family is unique and thus your passions and rhythms will vary. However, we can look to the Bible to provide some ‘Big Rocks’ that everyone needs to have. Deuteronomy chapter 6 is a great verse that tells us we need to prioritize God’s Word and teachings. The parent’s main role is to pass those things to their children.
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
The failure of the following generations of Israel rests largely with the parent’s failure to prioritize these words. They made time for lots of other activities, but neglected this huge responsibility. Parents in our time often trust the local school or church to fulfill these commands, but there is no substitute for a Mom and Dad teaching and demonstrated following God’s ways.
Where Do We Start?
We must first remember that it starts with ourselves and then our marriage. Are you prioritizing personal time with Jesus? If this is not a priority for you it won’t be a priority for your family. Then look at your marriage. Do you spend time in some form of prayer and spiritual devotion with your spouse? Also look at your schedule and see if lots of activity has invaded your marriage margins.
After considering those factors then you can focus on the family. For our family, we made a list of things we know we want to focus on. These things include family meals together 3-4 times a week at least. We prioritize reading the Bible together, often done at night as the kids are going to bed. We want exposure to new activities to see what our kids will gravitate towards, but only one thing at a time. I’m sure as time passes there will be give-and-take, but in general we want to give space and margin in our family’s schedule.
So a practical next step is for Mom and Dad to sit down and determine where the spiritual growth opportunities are for the kids. That should be the highest priority. If there is no room in the schedule then some ‘good things’ need to get cut to make room for ‘great things’. This requires walking by faith. This requires trusting God’s plan and priority rather than the world’s offerings.
Feel the freedom as a family that you DON’T have to fill every spare moment with activities for your kids. Great moments happen in the margins. You have the power and freedom to say ‘no.’ As a new school year is about to begin guard against the prevailing thought that activity = success. It’s an important lesson we need to remember and we need to teach our kids.