Raise a Child Who Loves Life

Let him work at his own pace

Stop the Clock

In our on-the-go culture, we often try to keep our kids busy 24/7. "But one of the beauties of childhood is being free to explore and discover your passions," says Alice D. Domar, Ph.D., coauthor of Be Happy Without Being Perfect and a Parents advisor. It also lays the groundwork for happiness as an adult. "In countless studies, people who know how to lose themselves in a creative 'zone' report feeling peace and contentment throughout their lives," says Dr. Domar. That's why it's important to give your kids unstructured time and space.

If your toddler has gym class at 10 a.m., music at 2 p.m., and a playdate at 4 p.m., he's hyper-scheduled. Young children don't need as many structured activities as we think they do. But also resist the temptation to be your child's constant playmate; it's crucial to learn early in life to enjoy your own company.

"My daughter, Dani, has always been an 'observer' -- the kind of kid who's happy to just sit still and stare into space," says Laurel Marx, of Great Barrington, Massachusetts. "It used to make me a little crazy because I felt she should follow a schedule or be more social, but I learned to let her go at her own pace and do what she wanted. Now that she's 8, Dani is a natural artist who loves to draw and who includes the minutest details in her masterpieces. If I hadn't respected her need to study the world around her, I might have held her back."

Originally published in the November 2008 issue of Parents magazine.

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