Play Versus Work – What’s the Right Balance?

When it comes to parenting and loving our families in the right way, striking a balance is usually necessary: grace and discipline, play and work – extremes in either category are usually not productive. Who's to know what's right? While every parent, child and family are different, there are a few general guidelines that will help you in deciding what's the right balance for your family.

Play Versus Work – What's the Right Balance?

What Age are You Dealing With?

The first thing you need to realize when you're considering what's appropriate for your circumstance is that what's appropriate now won't be three years from now. As children grow and develop, they naturally are able to take on more responsibility. Sometimes responsibility is thrust on to them a little earlier than feels right, so that's when you need to use your judgement.

With that being said – how old is your child, and what “work” are they dealing with? Homework is one you've likely faced, or will face very soon: teachers send it home and kids fight it. Nowadays, it starts as early as kindergarten; it piles on year after year, and by the time the child is in fifth grade, he's come to dread the after school hours because it simply means more school.

Some things to bear in mind: studies show that homework doesn't increase any chance of post-secondary schooling success when it's completed up through fifth grade. If we're being honest, the most important thing for kids in the elementary years is reading and playing outside. Sure, if homework is implemented, it's important from a character building standpoint to have it done correctly. Consistent assignments for young ones, though? Too much work, not enough play. Your child will walk away from the experience with an extreme distaste for responsibility, and that's not what you want.

Do You Practice What You Preach?

The kids are going to naturally follow your example, so you need to set a healthy one. Do you complain about work? Do they even see you working? Do you work too much? All of these things should be considered. A workaholic may find that their child puts too much pressure on themselves; a lazy man may find that their child complains about work. Look in the mirror and understand that your child's habits are often a reflection on you. If you want to see your child work hard  without complaining and play hard without a care, you need to do those things as well.

Always Err on the Side of Grace

At the end of the day, no one is perfect. There are going to be times where you simply don't know what to do: your third grader's teacher has sent home one hundred math problems for the third night in a row, and you can see it in his eyes that he's about to dig his heels in and shut down to the whole concept of homework. What's worse? You agree with him, not the teacher: it's just too much for a child. Know that when you feel this way, it's okay to go with your gut and would actually be a great lesson learned for both your child and his teacher. Advocating for him and showing him grace is something that he needs to see early on, more than he needs to do that third homework sheet. It'll prove that you're on his side, and it will validate his feelings more than simply making him do the work. It'll also give you the opportunity to show him the correct way to address a problem, as you bring it up to his teacher. If there's ever a question – show grace.

As we stated before, there's no hard and fast rule about finding the perfect balance. It's mostly just about making an assessment based on age and situation, practicing what you preach, and then going with your gut.

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