5 Minutes for Books — Under Pressure

I have long advocated the “one activity at a time” policy for my children, or at least I thought I did. The “one activity” policy has morphed into a much broader “one activity not including church and school stuff.” A typical week last year in Amanda’s fourth grade year included soccer practice (in the spring and the fall), a Saturday soccer game, church on Wednesday nights, Bible study with me on Monday nights, school newspaper before school one day a week, and Girl Scouts right after school every other week. That doesn’t even take into account the playdates, birthday parties, and other family activities that insert themselves into our schedule each month–and that’s just one child!

My son Kyle is over five years younger than she is, so he doesn’t have much to do–yet. For that reason, I’ve allowed Amanda to do a bit more since it doesn’t negatively impact our family as a whole.

So, here I am thinking that I am limiting our family’s involvement (and compared to some of her friends who can’t even squeeze in a playdate, I have), and yet, there are weeks that I feel like my whole family is Under Pressure.

Carl Honore wrote Under Pressure (a follow up to In Praise of Slowness), as a means of trying to deal with the desire that kept assaulting him — to “encourage” his young son’s artistic talent and interest to a level of genius. He was stopped dead in his tracks when his son said, “I don’t want to go to a class and have a teacher tell me under-pressure.jpgwhat to do–I just want to draw. Why do grownups have to take over everything?” (page 3).

That led Carl Honore to explore the changing role of parenting.  The introduction explores the involvement that parents have had in their children’s lives over the years.  His examples are drawn from many nations of the world who pressure their children in different ways.  If you enjoy sociological data and situations (as I do), you will find these examples fascinating:

  • An affluent town in New Jersey that has taken the bull by the horns by proclaiming certain days to be set aside, in a “Ready, Set, Relax!” campaign
  • A play-based preschool in Hong Kong that is bucking the norm of having two-year-olds involved in rigorous academic instruction
  • An Australian family who had been so “high-tech” that the mom sent emails to the family members upstairs to call them down for dinner who put their family on a diet from all the high-technology
  • A return to discipline (as opposed to child-centered homes) in families from Ohio to Edinburgh

I am such a fan of subtitles in non-fiction books. This one has two blurbs on the front cover: “Rescuing our children from the culture of hyper-parenting” and “The new movement inspiring us to slow down, trust our instincts, and enjoy our kids.”  Do you feel the pressure of those in your circle to get your child involved in so many extra-curricular activities that they end up crying, “I don’t want to go to ballet.  I want to go home and play,” as one child profiled in the book told her family (page 165)?  Perhaps in spite of what you know is best for your child and your family, you find yourself succombing to that desire to see your child wear the labels, “Champion.  Gifted.  The best.”  Maybe you’ve always held firm to the belief that “children should be children,” but like some families in the book, find yourself giving in to the child’s desire for a more structured childhood.

If any of these are true, you might enjoy taking a closer look at our children who are Under Pressure.

If you’d like to win one of three copies of Under Pressure, leave a comment here. We’ll post the winners in next week’s column.

Last week in my review of Kate Jacobs’ new novel Comfort Food, I asked you what your favorite comfort was. I loved reading your responses. The winners (with their favorite comforts) are

#178 Shar (a cup of tea and a good book)
#85 Sean (a hot cup of tea and a good novel)
#62 Tonya Keener (spending time with my daughter)
#98 Sharon Jones (potato chips, orange soda, and the Red Sox)
#155 Denise (mashed potatoes and gravy, just like grandma used to make)

You should have an email from me. If not, check your spam filter.


  1. says

    I have three small children, and only the oldest has any activities. She goes to gymnastics once a week, but I’ve found that *I* don’t like being on a schedule. I would like her in Girl Scouts and music lessons, but it all adds up to too much stuff!!
    I’d love to read this book!!

  2. says

    Wow this sounds great. We are in the midst of simplifying our home. this would help simplify our schedules as well!! Trust me we need it! And we don’t even have kid activities yet.

  3. Jill H. says

    I’d love the chance to read this…so many folks around here are doing the “superbaby thing”…Foreign language preschools, ballet, art, music…all for kids under 5…it’s crazy…..my kid just wants to play…and I don’t think that’s so wrong!

  4. says

    Well, well, well….. very interesting post today! My 9yo son is currently playing 3 sports, two of which competetively, and has weekly church choir practice. Not to mention my other son’s activities as well! I can’t even recall our last family dinner together as we are constantly on the go. I am officially a taxi service. Thanks for this book recommendation! Have you read Game On? I haven’t but it’s another book detailing the pressure we parents have and put on our kids to excel in sports. I’m dying to read that one, too.

  5. says

    There’s definately a requirement for this type of book – I’ll look it up. Reading is so important for kids to develop their mind and character. Our daughter is an avid reader and we post her book reviews regularly.

  6. says

    Sounds like an interesting read. We’re doing ok so far because our church has limited opportunities for young children (outside of Sunday morning) and they’re little enough that it’s not too difficult to keep the “extracurricular” stuff under control. I can see though that this area is definitely kind of pre-disposed to that kind of lifestyle–probably especially the school my 5 year old will begin in the fall. It might be helpful to be armed with some good information (for the kids as well as other parents and such) to support the balanced, low-key approach we’ll try to take. Thanks for pointing this one out.

  7. says

    This looks very interesting …
    I’ve learned some of these lessons on my own, after parenting two sons and then having a gap of 13 years until our youngest…. watching the big boys grow up has made me savor every single moment and choose to enjoy my little boy as he becomes a young man.

  8. says

    We try to keep our schedule simple, a lot of activities trickle over and affect things like getting dinner on the table at a decent hour, the basic upkeep of the house, bedtimes at a decent hour and not trying to squeeze things to do until 10:00 pm and have kids that have a hard time getting up in the morning.

    This sounds like a great book!

  9. says

    Sounds like a great book. I tried to limit my children’s activities…but it really is easy to slip into all the activities and pretty soon your running all the time. Now my sis is fighting that battle. If I win a book, Ill pass it along to her

  10. Catherine copeland says

    this book sounds like one I really need to bring home. thanks for brining it to my attention

  11. Anne says

    I’m really interested in reading this book! I believe we, as a society, do need to slow down and take better care of our children. Bigger, faster, shinier isn’t always better!

  12. says

    Would love to win this book. I agree with the one activity rule and hate being too busy. My oldest is 5 years and I’m just starting on the journey with 2 more behind him.

  13. says

    I own and thoroughly enjoyed reading his book “In Praise of Slowness” — especially the chapter on children/parenting — so this book would be awesome with a capital A!!


  14. Melissa Reeder says

    This looks like a great book to take to the beach with me this summer. Thanks for the fun giveaway!

  15. Kathy Scott says

    I am very lucky that both of my boys love to read. Especially since we have a 67 mile drive (each way) to go shopping.

  16. Carolyn says

    I would love this book. I have long been an advocate of lazy summer days, lounging with books or at the pool.

  17. victoria lynch says

    This book would be wonderful to have. We try to keep things simple in our house but it is hard sometimes. thanks for the contest

  18. Susan says

    This book sounds really good. My children are young (2 and 4) and already I feel pressure to have them participate in many activities. I don’t do it, but it would be nice to feel like that choice is a good one instead of feeling like I’m not doing “enough” for them.

  19. says

    Oh my, oh my! We need this book! I was just having a conversation with a friend about feeling so much pressure to have our children be the best at everything, go to the “best” schools, etc. This contest is coming at a great time. Hyperparenting, be GONE!

  20. Pauline M says

    Sounds like a good book, with three kids, I know it can get very hectic and I need to be creative with them to make sure they all get the opportunities to try out new things. I know this would be handy on getting some new ideas.

  21. Cindi says

    What a wonderful book! I really enjoy non-fiction books like this one. It sounds like a book many parents should read. I believe in letting a child be a child! Human beings grow up too quickly and face the real world! It would be fun to glean some ideas from this kind of book. Thanks for the wonderful review. Please enter me in your drawing. Many thanks, Cindi

  22. L McLendon says

    I can never have enough books to read. Thanks for the chance to add one more to the pile and my home library!

  23. Alecia Gibson says

    Two fish were in a tank. One fish says, “How do you drive this thing?”

    Thanks for the giveaway!! I’m definitely interested in reading it.

  24. kathleen Yohanna says

    We all feel the pressure to perform and it is sooo hard to relax. I hope this book has some answers to the problem.

  25. Jennifer Schroeder says

    I’d love to win this book! My oldest son starts kindergarten next month and I’d love to be prepared for it. Thank you for the great contest!

  26. kerri says

    would love this i always feel the pressure of other parents and i cant stand the competivness sometimes you feel like youre back in highschool with some parents i would love to read it


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