The Over-Committed Kid

All parents want their children to be successful and have opportunities to explore wide-ranging extra-curricular activities. After all, students with broad interests in sports, music, and student organizations look great on college acceptance applications.

But the current obsessive over-stretching of young people takes a toll on their bodies and psyches.

And it appears every time they come in for voice lessons.

These over-committed students exhibit all of the same characteristics: fatigued, lack of focus, lack of drive, and an inability to really make any genuine vocal progress. They become quickly frustrated when their singing doesn’t improve, and parents become outraged at their lack of genuine development. This is a vicious cycle that occurs more frequently than I’d care to admit.

There is a time in every young person’s life when a choice should be made about what activities should receive the lion’s share of attention, time, and finance. Children cannot and should not be expected to ‘do it all,’ anymore than the average functioning adult can ‘do it all.’ It’s not possible, and it’s too expensive for the parents. Additionally, these children grow up with broad experience, but never really having excelled at a high level in any one particular activity. They can “hack” their way through a lot of activities but never achieve real mastery in anything.

I will be the last to say that children shouldn’t have extra-curricular activities, they most decidedly should. I had them and they were wonderful. But I chose music early on. My mom drove me to my voice and piano lessons every Thursday. But that was it.

If your child is coming to me after just having had a piano lesson, a violin lesson, a kazoo lesson, and an underwater basket weaving lesson, how REALLY focused  are they on singing? I am getting them at their most exhausted, their most ‘checked-out,’ and I’m sure the last thing that they want to do is work on the fact that they have a non-functioning voice. This is not rewarding for the student or for me.

There comes a time for every parent when these questions should be asked, “What activity are you most excited and passionate about?””What would make you really sad if you couldn’t do it anymore?””How would you feel about NOT going out for track/sports/flugelhorn?”

Learning to SING IS A PHYSICAL DISCIPLINE that takes time and energy and yes, money.

I can’t help but think that a student that isn’t “in the game,” is just ticking off the voice lesson as another in a long list of checkboxes for the week, and is losing valuable time and money.  These resources could be spent in the pursuit of something more worthwhile: like getting a better backswing, a higher jump or better algebra grades.

Parents: Your students can’t do it all. Before you put them in five different types of lessons, ask yourself what do THEY want to do? Then like accessories, take off one before you leave the house.

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