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A Recital Disaster and Avoiding Overscheduling

Dr. Catherine Pearlman on

Dear Family Coach: At a recent piano recital, my daughter bombed. For weeks leading up to it the teacher asked my daughter to stop and practice this one section more because she wasn't getting it. I also kept calling my daughter out when she practiced, to stop and try it again. My daughter would get mad, but I was just doing what the teacher kept asking her to do. Considering the less than stellar performance, what do we say to her about it? -- Disappointed

Dear Disappointed: Before I answer, I have one question for you to ponder: Do you want to be honest or kind? Because you likely can't be both.

OK, your daughter bombed her recital. Unless she is a virtuoso (all evidence points to the contrary), you should not be alarmed. She either knows she didn't shine and feels the pain of that or is pleased just to have performed. There is no need to drive home the point that if she had practiced more, this failure might not have happened. She either gets that or she doesn't care. Either way, no one likes a told-you-so.

Parents often feel they need to give honest feedback to their children after a performance, whether on the field, in the classroom or in the concert hall. Sometimes that feedback is hollow praise for any effort. Other times it's hypercritical with intense specificity of what the child should have done or should do next time. But not every effort requires feedback. In fact, most kids prefer a smile, a high-five and an ice cream.

Back to my original question: Do you want to be kind or honest? Your relationship with your daughter will be better served with kindness in this scenario. Take your daughter's lead. If she is upset or disappointed in her performance, then help her problem-solve to avoid it next time. However, if she was pleased with herself, leave the critiquing to the teacher.

Dear Family Coach: I worry a lot about overscheduling my kids. I want them to have all the opportunities they want, but I don't want every minute of their lives to be regimented so there's no time for just "boredom" and imagination. How do I find the balance there? -- Scheduler

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Dear Scheduler: The mere fact that you are concerned with overscheduling will help you avoid the common pitfalls. Somehow parents received the message that organized activity is more desirable than free play. Of course there is value in piano lessons, basketball teams and tutoring. But there are diminishing returns when kids are scheduled within an inch of their lives.

Furthermore, as you so rightly point out, there is value in downtime. Boredom often produces the creative activities, games and projects. Kids even find time to read for pleasure during the quiet, unscheduled times. And friendships deepen in ways that are impossible during a tae kwon do class.

So how do you find the balance? Fight the urge to sign up for classes with laser focus. When all the kids around you are signing up and asking your kids to join, decline. Every year, pick one or two activities for your children. Make sure there are free days with no activities, and try to keep weekends open for family time as long as possible. Keep in mind the purpose of all of those activities. Don't continue activities solely because it will be good for college or to live out your own dreams of achievement. Focus on fun, what's good for the kids and what's best for the family as a whole and you should be able to muddle through.


Dr. Catherine Pearlman is the author of "Ignore It! How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfaction." To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Copyright 2018 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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