One day I realized that as my kids got older home life was getting tougher than ever to balance. More activities. More schedules. More carpools. And more financial strains. So I finally decided to set a new house rule: only one extra activity per semester, whether it's band, soccer, art, chess, or dance. So every semester I hold individual appointments with each of my children. They choose the one activity they really want to do and pledge to stick with it (and practice) for the coming months. I even make the older ones sign a contract. Some activities are nonnegotiable (such as the youth church group or tutoring if needed).
The change in my family was profound: there was more time and less stress for both my kids and myself. It also taught my kids how to prioritize. They had to really think hard as to what they wanted to do the most. I never realized how reducing just one activity a month—whether it is the kids' or mine-can make a major difference in family life.
—Joan Saunders, a mom of four from Palm Springs, California
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