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Help children find sustainable pace to build balance, reader suggests
I'm always looking for opportunities to teach my children about working hard and finding the right balance in life. I wrote a few weeks ago about the challenge of teaching such lessons, and several readers responded with great advice. - photo by Greg Kratz
One of my parental duties is to serve as my family's official Skyward watcher.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Skyward, it's an online portal used by school districts that lets students and parents keep an eye on everything from grades and lunch account balances to activity announcements and missing assignments.

We didn't have anything like this when I was a kid, of course, but I'm glad it's available now. The missing assignments tab is one I pay especially close attention to as it gives me a chance to help my children get back on track if they're falling behind, and to talk to them about organization and time management.

As I checked Skyward a few nights ago, I saw that my youngest daughter had a missing math assignment. I asked her to take a break from the video game she was playing so we could talk about it, focusing on my oft-repeated message that it's important to finish our work before we play.

That reminded me, once again, how important it is to take advantage of every opportunity to teach our children about working hard and finding the right balance in life.

I wrote a few weeks ago about the challenge of teaching such lessons, and I asked readers for their advice. So, after talking to my daughter about that missing assignment, I looked at readers' suggestions to see what else I might do.

One reader, Lindsay, wrote that she knows many parents struggle with teaching their children about balance.

"I am far from an experienced parent (my oldest will be 5 next month), but I feel like having twins has forced me to up my parenting game in a hurry," Lindsay wrote. "I have learned in my own life that balance is not what I thought it was. I used to believe it was about finding the sweet spot and staying there, resisting temptations and maintaining a sense of peace as chaos swirls around you. Now I realize that balance is not stagnant; it is about being able to gently guide yourself back when you've gone too far one way or the other."

Lindsay wrote that she wants to teach her children this lesson, and her desire to do so has shaped her parenting style.

"I am not afraid to make exceptions and veer from the path when life happens or intuition calls, and I make it a point to talk it out with my kids about why things have changed and what we're going to do about it," she wrote. "Because life is not calm and my former ideal of balance is not possible; but being flexible and forgiving are not only possible, they're essential for success, for happiness. I just hope I can persevere and practice what I preach as my parenting years progress."

I hope so too, Lindsay. It sounds like you're on the right track.

Another reader, Barbara, wrote in an email that five of her six children are in the process of moving into the adult world. As she reflected on raising them, she thought of the lessons she learned from her father, a "farmer at heart" who spent hours every day in his garden.

"One thing he taught me was that, in order to be happy, I needed to find a pace of life that was sustainable for me ," Barbara wrote. "My father never worked very fast (he never raced to the end of the row he was weeding), but he accomplished a great deal because he worked at a pace he was comfortable with and he could sustain until the work was done.

"Talk to any college student and the late nights, skipping meals, cramming for tests, pulling all-nighters is pretty common. What they find is this type of life is not sustainable without crashing at some point and sleeping till noon, usually on the weekend."

My two daughters who are in high school are already learning this lesson, especially the senior. And I think Barbara is correct that helping children build sustainable schedules is important as they consider the opportunities that come their way.

"I'm sure your daughter will be just fine for she already is experiencing the choices she has made and the effort she has had to put forth to be successful in making those decisions," Barbara wrote about my oldest daughter. "She will be able to look back and evaluate the pace of life she would like to maintain as she moves on into college and make decisions based upon that."

I certainly hope that's the case.

Finally, a reader named Mike wrote me an email to say that he chuckled at some of my comments, which took him back to the "good old days."

"I am now 65 years old, have a great wife and three kids (two girls and a boy and all married and have their own homes, cars and kids)," Mike wrote. "There are three important points of advice I can give you and they are: buy an old clunker (big and safe one) for your kids to drive and you will sleep a lot better; always keep the channels of communication open to all your kids; and (remember) all kids are different, and as such you cant use the same approach on them all. Do one-on-one experiences with each one: hikes, bike rides, movies, dinner out, etc. This will bond (you) with each of your kids.

"Just remember, enjoy the experience, because sooner than you think they will all be on their own and you will have the whole house and cars to you and your sweetheart. The best is to come, however grandkids and they are so much fun."

I'm not ready for grandkids yet, Mike, but I do appreciate the kind, wise words of advice from you and all the readers who responded to my column.

If any others want to throw in their 2 cents, I'd love to hear what you have to say, too. Parents today may have new tools to help them teach their children about building balanced lives, but a little advice from those with experience is always welcome.