Three Things: How Parents Teach Kids "Less Is More"


Do you struggle with knowing how many activities to allow your children to participate in?

Here’s a story from Belinda Jolley that focuses on how parents teach their kids that less is more:

My husband, Steve, and I had a rule that we called “Three Things.”   When our sons were very young, we could easily limit how many “things” to which they were actively committed. However, even as young children they could be involved in three major things—Church, school, and one other thing. As they entered the teen years the three things were more difficult because they had to choose that third thing. Granted we were not talking about a one day activity—we were talking about things that required an investment of time over several weeks or months.

In addition, if you started something—you had to finish it. For example, if you wanted to go out for the baseball team you were expected to stick with it throughout the season because the team was counting on you. We also knew they would learn valuable lessons by doing things they did not excel in or which they did not enjoy.

I did not realize how significant the three things rule was until Steve and I served on a panel discussion for young adult parents long after our children had established their own families. The young adults wanted to ask people who had been married at least 30 years some questions. Several questions related to finances. One was from a young father of three children who confessed he had trouble affording all “the stuff his kids had to do.” Steve and I looked at one another and smiled, so it was no surprise he asked us to answer that question. We held up three fingers and said, “we had a rule of three things.” We both then simultaneously said, “Church, school and one other thing.” The young man immediately looked so discouraged. He said he just could not do that. Many in the room had the same problem. Most had never thought about limiting the number of activities. In all honesty, I’m not so sure the children were the ones pushing all the activities either.  Many agreed their lives were so hectic that the kids did not seem to love anything. They were being shuffled from one thing to another. Obviously the parents were not enjoying this rat race either. Some parents said they would try the three things rule. Some just didn’t think they could do it. Reflecting on the day, Steve and I wondered when these children ever got to just play or read a book with their parents. When could they just take a walk together? It is no wonder many young families say they seldom sit down to dinner together.

I recognize the culture has changed. Our children are in their thirties now. However, we still believe in the rule of three things. Parents must learn that the amount or frequency of activities they provide for their children does not reflect how much they love their kids. Nor does it guarantee their success and certainly not their happiness. Many times in life, less is more—even if you can afford the many things.

Scripture often speaks about the choices we make: Choose whom you will follow (Joshua 24:15); Seek God first (Matt. 6:33); the account of busy Martha in Luke 10 when Mary makes the right choice. There are more but you get the idea.

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