Science Says: Don’t Tell Your Kids What To Do!

To structure or not to structure…that is the ever-pressing question for parents prepping for those seemingly endless summer months. Do you let the kids roam wild and free or keep them busy with a schedule of swim lessons and summer school?

There are pros and cons to either side of the argument, for sure. Those in the pro-freedom school of thought tout more imaginative play and less pressure for the entire family, while pro-schedulers see a chance to keep kids out of trouble and opportunities for meeting goals outside of the classroom.

Well, a study done at the University of Colorado Boulder may sway the structure lovers to free up the calendar a bit this summer.

parenting kids schedules

Researchers gathered data from parents of children ages 6-7 regarding their daily, annual, and typical schedules, specifically their structured and less-structured activities. For an activity to be categorized as less-structured, the child had to be in charge of what to do and how to do it, as opposed to more structured undertakings like formal sports practice or music lessons.

What they found was that the children involved in more structured activities performed worse on a test that revealed how well they used their executive functioning, “the cognitive control processes that regulate thought and action in support of goal-directed behavior.” In other words, the children’s abilities to perform tasks that would lead them to accomplish a goal were hampered by the very activities that were pushing them towards one.

The study even went so far as to say that two children who performed the same tasks in a day, where one was directed and the other wasn’t, the latter would actually learn more having been given the opportunity to decide for themselves what to work for and actually choose to accomplish it.

Pretty impressive, right? The real question is, does the same theory work on husbands…

 

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