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The Dancing Parent: How Will Your Kids Spend Their Summer Vacation?

Posted: 06/21/11 10:00 AM ET

In a time when we hear about Tiger Moms and their kids' steamroller summer schedules, many parents can feel as if they had better spike their own child's learning curve by cramming June, July and August with an array of challenging activities and academic courses.

Not-a-moment-to-lose seems to be the self-congratulatory message from these much-publicized parenting approaches -- a message that, on closer inspection, may often have more to do with a parent's own needs, and how they are perceived, than about raising a child.

Yet we find many moms and dads doubting their own parenting skills if they do not adhere to the view that unstructured time is wasted time, and that not being busy only leads to underachievement in school and failure in life.

So even against their own, better sense of what their own child's needs may be, moms and dads can find themselves keeping their kids perpetually "challenged."

Which prompts us to ask: since when did "perpetual motion" render obsolete a child's need to play and fantasize, to wander and dream, or to grow and development at their own pace? When did balancing times of school pressures with an equally important time of rest and reflection somehow demonstrate poor parenting?

So while there may be a wide range as to how much unstructured time a given child may need, and many worthy activities to fill the summer hours, all children need some room for rest and reflection to allow their own innate, subtle processes of growing up to do their wise, subtle work.

From a practical point, should his or her school require your child to read a book over summer, we suggest trying to accomplish that in June or early July -- as early as possible in the summer -- so that the remaining days of their vacation also can also have room for long, quiet afternoons, and enough unstructured hours with mom, dad, family and friends to satisfy their need for relationship, companionship and daydreaming.

Moms and dads who can allow summers to also be a time of retreat from the heated schedules of the school year may well do more for their child's future success and happiness in school and life than those who confuse constant motion with true progress.

In our work we have found that a parent will have far more influence in their child's life and behavior when they have spent as much "easy" time with them as possible, whenever possible, especially during the summer months when a parent is not compelled by their kid's schoolwork to constantly "be the parent."

Summer can then be an essential time of relational repair, bonding and trust-building between parent and child alike that may well determine a child's success come fall and beyond.

Which is why a little time "off" can all make the difference for a family that is always"on."

So may your family have as restful a summer as possible, and in the meantime, we'll be back shortly with more on all things parenting.

Until then, keep dancing!

You can also visit us at TheDancingParent.com, or at AllThingsParenting.com for more of our articles and parental resources.