International Parenting: Extracurricular Activities

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There are many hot button issues when it comes to parenting. It doesn’t matter what the issue is but you know you will have one opinion and someone else will have a differing. SEEK has interviewed moms from around the world because we are curious about their cultural and personal views on certain issues.

 

By Becky Horace

Have you given thought yet to what activities you will want or you think your child might like to participate in when they get a little older? Or do you have children who are starting to show an interest in extracurricular activities such as sports, drama, music, and so on? With a little one myself, I have started to consider activities I would like to see my son get into but at the same time I wonder if I should force/guide him into an option I think he would enjoy or would it be better to let him decide on his own?

One thing I do know is that extracurricular activities when done in balance with academic life can really make for a well-rounded childhood. I learned so many life skills from playing an instrument, participating in sports, and taking leadership roles in student government as I grew up. It prepared me to take on even bigger rolls once I entered university and the working world. I learned what my limits were with my leadership abilities and how to balance work and play.

There have been several studies that have been written about how participating in extracurricular activities have improved a child’s school performance. Children who participate in extracurricular activities seem to have a higher attendance rate, better grade averages, better social engagement, and improved college opportunities. You can read more on this by clicking here. I personally would agree with those findings because I remember in school if you wanted to go to the game you couldn’t miss a certain amount of class, if you wanted to play the sport you had to make the grade, the more activities on the college application showed you were well-rounded and working with other children in a team sport really taught you how to develop your “people skills.”

One of the negatives I found in my research was that studies found children might have a hard time with time management, become overwhelmed, and their grades might suffer. This is entirely possible and this would probably be the best time for an involved parent to come to the rescue to ensure that grades always come first. You can read more on these findings by clicking here.

We asked our international moms what they thought about extracurricular activities. We wanted to know what was going on in their culture, did they feel extra activities were necessary for their child, and as their child grew older how would they handle the situation when the child wants to quit the activity after they have started and a lot of money and time had already been invested.

 

India

  • Personal & Cultural: “I personally feel extracurricular activities is equally if not more important than indiaformal education. Opinions vary in India and there is no definite cultural conclusion to if Indians think it is needed or not. If my daughter’s want to quit an activity, I would try and use rewards or treats and also try and talk to them on the importance of not quitting but if they just don’t want to continue doing an activity and show no interest in practicing it, I really wouldn’t have much of a choice other than letting them stop.”

Hong Kong

  • Personal: “As a Chinese American who has lived in Asia the past decade while raising a child the past five and half years, I think I have reconnected and embraced more Asian values than I thought I would and frankly speaking, I am quite comfortable with it and would admit that I am less “American” as time goes by…. I mainly identify with my heritage origins, Hong Kong, I have (to my many American friends) transformed into quite a “tiger” mom but I don’t place a negative connotation to that term. I ABSOLUTELY feel that extracurricular activities are necessary. I started my 6 1/2 month old in a group Kindermusik class which for me was a no brainer. Enrolling her in a 3 days a week mommy and me Montessori class when she was 1 year old was deemed the logical next step. Followed by a daily 4 hour a day Montessori playgroup, Lego building classes by herself along with mommy and me courses in Mandarin, art classes and soccer classes by age 2 were never second guessed.”hong_kong_flag
  • Cultural: “In every single Hong Kong mother’s mind, we feel children are like sponges and it’s a matter of exposing them to a variety of activities those first few years to develop further their cognitive, social and motor skills. Simply put, enhancing neuron building. As a culture, I am not shy to admit that we Chinese are super competitive and feel that we must best prepared ourselves for whatever skills and knowledge the next era might need but of course, most of us are not super zenith about it without flexibility. If our children really are suffering emotionally or physically from continuous involvement with a particular extracurricular, most of us (sane ones with responsible parenting) would allow them to quit. However, there must be some compelling reasons. As children, my generation was raised by parents and grandparents who stressed daily the values of discipline, commitment and perseverance. Quitting simply because of the spur of the moment “we no longer like it” better come with some compelling earth shattering reasons. Otherwise, as my mom and Grandmom used to say…”carry on till the end (end term is the activity) because your team needs you and because it is the respectful thing to do to not waste your instructor’s time.” I am proud of the way I was raised, though there were many moments of whining and crying wanting to give up and now I am equally proud and happy to pass on these very same traits to my child.”

Bangladesh

  • Cultural: “Recently the importance of extracurricular activities is seen as important in my culture and that also in city living but it is bangladeshnot enforced as such nor seen as very important. There is also a lack of good and suitable extracurricular options available. However if a good option is available and a child gets a chance to be involved in it and already invested a lot of time and money into it, parents will usually try to convince the child to continue or complete the course.”
  • Personal: “I consider extracurricular activities to be quite important and helpful for child’s development too. Therefore, I would like for my child to be involved in it. Also, not to quit if a lot of money and time has been invested in it unless there is a very valid reason like health concerns or if it is affecting his studies etc.”

France

  • Personal: “It’s needed but just a bit so far because he is busy at school until 2pm, then back francehome he will nap. However he doesn’t need to nap every day so we started some other activities. If my child wanted to quit an activity, I would discuss it with him, try to understand the reasons behind it, also simply ask him to finish this on a short period, and go for a new one later….”
  • Cultural: “In France, kids will start extra activities much later.”

United Kingdom

  • Personal: “Yes extracurricular activities are needed to foster their passions but not to out-do your mum circle. We never did ukanything growing up and I don’t think it did us harm. My brothers and sister and I all have very different interests, probably because we could choose. As my child grows older and they wanted to quit an activity, I would say there would need to be a time frame. I would say next month or term or make sure they know they have signed up for a year or whatever. This teaches teens (especially) resilience and grit.”

Sweden

  • Cultural: “After school activity is common and Sweden is very proud to provide free/very cheap music schools, sports clubs etc. In magazines, you can often read that kids get over stressed by too many activities and also need rest time. It’s more important to learn swedenby having fun than to become the best. I think it’s generally ok to let your kid leave if they lose interest in an activity unless it is a sport like tennis, golf, ice-hockey or perhaps football. Perhaps my prejudices, but parents from upper-class tend aim more for success and less likely to let their child off.”
  • Personal: “My 4-year-old has tried dancing and went to activities with different sports all the time. He loved it. When they changed instructors it became quite bad and he didn’t want to go anymore so we let him off. Now he is playing football and I will try to have him in after school activities but not every day. I think it’s important for him to also choose his own activities, play and be creative on his own. In the future, if it’s an expensive sport, I think I would let him complete the term but try another activity if he asks to quit. The activity he participates in is for his benefit and not mine, but it’s good if he learn to appreciate that activities cost money and to not give up so quickly. I will listen to him and trust his judgement, by doing so he also will learn to trust his own judgement.”

USA

  • Cultural: “I believe my culture would say yes. I think there is a lot of pressure on kids, even through college, that you need those USextracurricular activities to make your resume look good. I think culturally, if a child would like to stop an activity after a lot of time and money has been invested the culture as a whole would look down on quitting once you’ve started for financial reasons (wasting money) and not necessarily the lack of responsibility.”
  • Personal: “We will (and do currently) enroll our daughter in extracurricular activities. We think it will give her exposure to different activities to see what she likes. Plus, there is the social benefit. My husband and I were both brought up that once you start something, you finish it. I think that we will try to parent by this same rule. Our daughter can quit an activity once she has finished with a season.  Until then, she has made a commitment and should stick with it.”

Venezuela

  • Cultural: “Parents in Venezuela tend to over schedule their kids with extra activities and if venthey want to quit an activity it depends on how expensive it was for the parent to decide if the child will finish or continue, at least until the payment due date, usually end of the month.”
  • Personal: “I think kids need free time to do or play or explore whatever they want and up to 3 days per week of activities is more than enough to learn new skills outside school or develop a talent, unless your child ask for more activities. Those kids who are over schedule are the ones who tend to quit sooner because they are tired.”

A big thank you to the moms who were able to help us with this interview.

Check back next week when we discuss the issue of discipline! 

2 Responses to International Parenting: Extracurricular Activities

  1. Karthik says:

    Nowadays, children themselves are proactive to take part in extra-curricular activities and building personal skills along with academics. I think both parents and teachers should recognize and encourage this. I know that Greenwood High International School in Bangalore, India promotes a number of sports and extra-curricular activities to ensure all-round development of their students.

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