Any parent knows trying to keep up with the proverbial Joneses is flat-out exhausting. 

Athletic coaches tell you your kids need to play on select travel teams. Voice coaches inform you your child won’t make all-state choir if they don’t keep up their lessons. And if your kids don’t take the standardized test class over the summer, they’ll fail at life! Kidding. Kind of. 

The pressure society places on our kids wears both kids and parents out. 

So how do we prioritize all the demands and pressures placed on our families? How can we make good decisions as parents in this area and teach our children to do the same?

Be wise

Our boys are now 17, 17, 14, and 12. We’ve learned a handful of lessons over the past 17 years on what to do and not to do when it comes to schedules. 

Many years ago we memorized Ephesians 5:15-17, where Paul writes, 

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” 

Paul reminds us to steward well the time we’ve been given with our kids. As best we’re able, we want to be like the wise— understanding and living out the Lord’s will for our lives.

1. Define the win

What’s the “win” for your family? 

Does winning mean that your kids are All-Stars or that your kids are growing spiritually? Is it impressing others with your family’s resume, or is it making memories your children will always treasure? Is the “win” earning an athletic scholarship for college or is it having fun playing sports? 

Sometimes you can do both, but usually we must choose one or the other. 

Maybe you’ve never seriously considered what your vision and goals are for your family. Clearly articulating what your family considers “winning” will make the decision-making process more clear. 

So what’s the win for your family? 

Check out our free eBook Crafting a Family Vision Statement for more on this!

2. Determine your non-negotiables

We prioritize date night to strengthen our marriage. We also prioritize godly community, so we intentionally make time for the other couples in our small group. These are a few of our non-negotiables.

Your time will be spent whether you plan what to do with it or not. So what things need to happen with your time? After you’ve scheduled the non-negotiables— including space to rest!— you can fill in the rest of your time with the “extra” stuff. 

When your schedule is packed with things like rehearsals, recitals, and games, you end up giving leftover time to the stuff that really matters. You’re left with limited time to disciple your kids, work on your marriage and build friendships with other believers. 

So put first things first. What are your non-negotiables?

Your time will be spent whether you plan what to do with it or not.

3. Count the cost

Every decision you make has a cost— financially, relationally, emotionally, and physically. 

When your child plays on the select baseball team, you’ll: 

  • Pay more money to be on a “better” team. 
  • Lose more nights around the dinner table as a family. 
  • Be more tired, and 
  • Lose time over the weekends as you travel for games. 

Yes, you’ll make some good memories. You’ll have the opportunity to make new friendships with other families. Your child might even earn a scholarship. But there’s always a cost and you must learn to count it.

Train your children to make schedule decisions

One of the main purposes of parenting is to raise your children to leave— like an arrow in Psalm 127:4.

Most of us will only have 18 years with our kids under our roofs. At times, that seems like an eternity, but pretty soon they’re going to start making a lot of decisions on their own. With twin 17-year-olds about to start their senior year of high school, I’m wondering where the time went! 

Progressively give your kids a voice in the family decision-making process. When they’re young, this can very simply look like having conversations in their hearing so that they learn what’s involved in the decision-making process. As they get older, ask for their input and weigh with them the pros and cons.

Helping your kids make decisions about schedules and priorities is part of the disciple-making process. Sometimes we need to let them fail so they learn from experience— it’s hard to do, but it might be what prepares them most for the next season.

How can you better train your children to define the win, determine their non-negotiables, and count the cost?

Works in progress

Even as a 48-year-old, I’m still very much in progress. 

Just over a year ago, I left a job I loved in part because I burned myself out. I said “yes” to too much. My schedule was packed, I wasn’t taking care of myself, and I was largely ruled by the opinion of others. 

This people-pleaser made the priorities of others more important than my relationship with the Lord, my family, and my health. I learned the hard way to make better decisions about my schedule and how to prioritize. 

The stakes are high with our kids and families. May God grant us all the grace to be “very careful, then, how [we] live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.”