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article imageOverbooked kids a challenge for families, less creative children

By Joan Firstenberg     Aug 13, 2011 in World
New York - Can it really be happening? Yes, parents these days are showing their willingness to cut back on getting what they want and need and are instead paying through the nose for their children's after-school activities.
The New York Times reports that parents are shelling out for music lessons, gymnastics, horseback riding, ice skating, judo, tutoring, summer-long residential camps, sports teams and more. And even parents who don't have the money to afford these extras are borrowing from family, turning to their home equity accounts or running up their credit card bills.
William Doherty, a professor of family studies and the director of the marriage and family therapy program at the University of Minnesota says it's a trend that may be going too far
“The experiences we thought kids had to have before high school has moved down to junior high and now elementary. Soon, we’ll be talking about leadership opportunities for toddlers.”
Many parents might ask, 'What's wrong with doing this?' The thinking behind this would be that extra-curricular activities are important for a child's future success. Wendy Mogel, a clinical psychologist and author of the book, "The Blessing of a B Minus" says,
"Somehow, not offering our children every possible opportunity feels like bad parenting,”
But parents often pay the price for all these classes, not just financially, but also in their own emotional energy. Bryan Caplan, an economics professor at George Mason University says,
“A lot of parents are exhausted by their own over-parenting. 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. It’s easy to take a look at the more successful kids and assume that all the activities are why they are more successful,”
Professor Caplan says the research doesn’t bear that out.
In fact a recent report from Fox Newsreveals that a 2010 study of 300,000 creativity tests going back to the 1970s found a decrease in creativity among American children in recent years. Kyung Hee Kim a researcher at the College of William and Mary says that since 1990 children are less able to produce unique and unusual ideas. They are also less humorous, less imaginative and less able to elaborate on ideas.
There are several factors at play here. First, the current focus on testing in schools, gives kids the idea that there is only one right answer to a question. Second, the act that Congress passed in 2001, No Child Left Behind, requiring schools to administer annual standardized tests may also be to blame. A third factor is that overbooked schedules may rob children of the time they need for pretend play, a crucial component to enhance a child's insight, fantasy and emotional expression.
Economics profession Steven D. Levitt at the University of Chicago recently appeared on an NPR radio program and said that he and another economist could find no evidence that overbooking a child's after-school activities could be correlated at all with academic success.
“And my guess is that when it comes to the happiness of kids, that kind of cramming has got to be negatively correlated. Being rushed from one event to the other is just not the way most kids want to live their lives, at least not my kid."
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