Should You Allow Your Kids to Quit Activities?
When I was growing up, my parents let me quit every activity I started. Whenever an activity lost it's thrill, I wanted to move onto something else. My older sister had a different experience. She was forced to stick with sports and reached fairly high levels in competitions.
My sister is resentful of the fact that she was forced to stick with activities even though she became really good. I resent the fact that my parents let me quit everything and that I never became good at anything. I tried music, dance and sports. My sister has far more persistence and motivation than I have and I think that may be due to differences in how our parents reacted to us when we didn't want to do something.
If you're a parent, what should you do when your child wants to quit an activity they've been doing for a while, such as a year or more? Unfortunately, there is probably no right answer.
No adult ever says to me, "My parents let me quit piano and I'm so happy they did." They say, "I begged to quit when I was 12 and I wish they hadn't let me, because now I can barely read the music."
-- 5 Ways to Keep Your Child Playing Piano
To Quit or Not to Quit
Now, that I'm a parent I ignore the requests to quit. Because of my own regrets, I assume that my children will regret quitting activities later on. My older child has been playing piano for three years. Over those years, she has from time to time told me that she doesn't want to take lessons anymore. Yet, for all her requests to quit, she has actually started writing her own piano music and has also started teaching herself to play guitar. She is enjoying the benefits of learning even though she doesn't want to put in the effort.
My sister has not surprisingly reacted differently to her kid's requests to quit. She has allowed them to quit everything they have started. They're now at a point that they don't do any activities at all.
What Should You Do?
It's understandable that many kids will want to quit an activity. Going to the same place week after week and practicing similar things over and over again will get boring after a while. I think insisting that a child continue an activity teaches them persistence. Other people worry that forcing a child to do something kills their love for it and may actually turn them off. It's hard to know if this is always the case. It probably depends on how resistant the child is. But once someone becomes really good at something, they will often enjoy doing it simply because it comes easier to them.
The problem for parents is that your children might be unhappy with any decision you make. If you force them, they might resent it. If you let them quit, they might resent it.
If you don't want your child to quit activities, these are a few things to consider. Don't force your child to do an activity because you want them to. Just because you love soccer, you shouldn't insist that your child play it even if they have no interest. If they would prefer dance, then support them in that. Have them try different things. If they like something, then let them do that.
Once the almost inevitable, I want to quit kicks in, insist that they continue but you may want to give them a break from time to time. If they are learning a musical instrument, try to break practice up into a few shorter sessions throughout the day rather than one long session. If they play a sport it won't hurt if they miss a practice session here and there. Also, avoid over-scheduling your child. Make sure they aren't doing more activities than they can handle.
And show understanding. Explain to your child that you understand that the activity may seem boring from time to time but let them know how good they are. If your child understands why you're making them do something, they may be more accepting of your decisions.
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