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Tips for parents who want to scale back

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While extracurricular activities outside school provide children with more opportunities to learn and grow, too much at one time causes some youngsters to burn out.

Experts say many families are over-scheduled.

Want to scale back? Most experts say the key to a healthy life is balance — juggling between providing stimulating experiences for children while giving them plenty of time to "be kids."

Here are some tips from various experts on how to achieve balance in your family's life:

Ask yourself, "What is my most important goal for my child developmentally?"

"Probably one of the most important goals for their child is (developing) solid interpersonal relationships," said Cheryl Wright, a University of Utah professor in family and consumer studies and director of the campus preschool. Instead of running children around all hours of the day, Wright recommends spending time at home, getting to know your children and their friends.

"My advice would be to think of creative ways for things you can do with children in the home environment like going to the park, camping — all those experiences," she said. "What children are going to remember are the times they had with their family, not that class they took."

Choose more non-competitive extracurricular activities.

"The competitive nature of some things can add to the stress of a young person," said Verne Larsen, a prevention specialist for the State Office of Education.

Larsen suggests activities like hobbies, music, arts, community service and less-competitive sports such as tennis or bowling.

Remind yourself, "Whose activity is it, anyway?"

Experts agree that when parents live vicariously through their children, they often turn a positive experience negative.

"I think it's important to know the child. Let them take the lead," said Dorann C. Mitchell, the manager of the outpatient psychiatry clinic at Primary Children's Medical Center.

Some are natural over-achievers, other children prefer a slower-paced life. Parents should accommodate, not push, Mitchell said.

Remember: You're the parent. You're in charge, and you can say "no."

Bill Doherty, a professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis/St. Paul, said parents need to expect respect from their children.

"I'm talking about parents seeing themselves as the recreation directors of the family cruise ship, seeing themselves as fulfilling the needs and desires of their children, the customers, rather than children as citizens of the family community."

E-MAIL: lhancock@desnews.com