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Should You Allow Your Kids to Quit Activities?

Updated on April 12, 2017

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.

Do you allow your child to quit activities when they ask?

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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.

According to Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill

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    • Ardot profile image

      Ardot 4 years ago from Canada

      Good hub, I say that as long as your kid is enjoying at least one activity, it's fine. My daughter is doing very well in school, and loves all of her classes. She is doing so well in fact that I feel any intense extracurricular activity(like soccer) would push her over the edge and she'd become overwhelmed. I kind of like the approach that lets my daughter "sample" many activities. I think she'd have more of a chance a finding one that she loves.

    • JoanCA profile image
      Author

      JoanCA 4 years ago

      Sampling is definitely very important. If a child is doing something they really love, continuing to do it once it's lost some of it's thrill won't be so hard. If they're being forced to do something they never wanted to do, they will likely be far more resentful.

    • FF Commish profile image

      FF Commish 4 years ago from Milwaukee, WI

      Thanks for the Hub, JoanCA. I would suggest something that seems subtle but is very important: use the word "quit" much differently. If a child signs up for an activity that is new (say, an art class) and tries it, attends, does the lessons, etc., but does not enjoy it, it's not quitting. [If you listen to a song and do not enjoy it, are you "quitting" if you change to another song?] That is experimenting -- which is good! Of course, if a child, for instance, joins a sports teams, makes promises to the coaches and players and then, with two games to go, just says, "Yeah, I don't want to," then that would be quitting. Coming up with new language for leaving an activity in a healthy way will help to eliminate the baggage of quitting since, oftentimes, it is not quitting!

    • JoanCA profile image
      Author

      JoanCA 4 years ago

      FF Commish,

      You're definitely right. Using a word like trial for a new activity is a good idea. That way it isn't really quitting when they give up. It simply didn't work out.

    • psychicdog.net profile image

      psychicdog.net 4 years ago

      Reading about the difference in your parents attitude to you and your sister was fascinating - I was wondering why so different JoanCA? I think the question if it can be answered, cannot without a view to whether we are making our kids fitter or not for the life ahead. Help them discover the rewards of persistence. Having said that, high achievers are usually people who loved what they were doing when young and later get through the hard discipline because of those early times of enjoyment - they need the trial periods I think to find out what really motivates but a certain level of persistence is needed to get to what is possible - if it seems too hard to learn a musical instrument for example we will never get to the true pleasure associated with playing proficiency

    • JoanCA profile image
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      JoanCA 4 years ago

      Psychicdog,

      I came from a large family, so I think my parents were worn out by the time they were dealing with me. That is true about high achievers. For me, I do want to teach persistence and working through those lazy feelings, since most of adulthood is spent doing things you really don't want to do.

    • profile image

      Rhonda 4 years ago

      I wonder if high achievers are born with the motivation to become the best or is that motivation something that is created by teaching perseverance. I have a friend who allowed her daughter to quit dance after 4 years. Once her daughter realised that quitting was an option, she started quitting everything after a month or two. My friend spent so much money on registration fees, instruments, required clothing for all the things her child ended up starting and quitting. It may be a bad precedent to set.

      I talked recently to a dad who said he allowed his daughter to quit piano after 5 years. Sadly, that girl was probably only about a year away from having expertise on her instrument. It takes years to actually become really good at something. Most kids will never build up expertise in anything because the give up too soon. Parents should require their child to at least stick with one thing.

    • JoanCA profile image
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      JoanCA 4 years ago

      Rhonda,

      I've wondered the same thing about high achievers. Definitely some kids really have a passion for something. But I think persistence is also something that can be taught. I agree with you about piano. A child would be largely independent on the piano after 6 to 7 years worth of lessons. It's unfortunate that she gave up when she was so close to that.

    • psychicdog.net profile image

      psychicdog.net 4 years ago

      Interesting comments here for parents I think - children cannot be expected to understand what happens if you DON'T quit unless parents push them through the 'I want to quit' phase - it's a little like a path you can set yourself on to get somewhere - if you don't hang in you never get to the new experience - if you always give up on the path you never get the lesson (the wow factor) of what happens if you keep going!

    • JoanCA profile image
      Author

      JoanCA 4 years ago

      Exactly Psychicdog, Most kids are terrible at thinking ahead. They live more in the here and now. They don't understand either how long it takes to really become good at something. So, it is up to parents to help kids understand the importance of sticking with something.

    • psychicdog.net profile image

      psychicdog.net 4 years ago

      thanks JoanCA - the other side of this is HOW you teach this without being harsh or putting your kids off or down

    • psychicdog.net profile image

      psychicdog.net 4 years ago

      Maybe start when they are young and help them to discover the rewards of sticking at things

    • JoanCA profile image
      Author

      JoanCA 4 years ago

      I don't think pressuring kids is really the answer. I think the HOW is very important. It's really about finding ways of helping them get through that I want to quit period, so they can experience those rewards later on. Too much pressure could turn them off even more.

    • psychicdog.net profile image

      psychicdog.net 4 years ago

      agreed! voted up and useful

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      This is a hot topic in our household and we are standing firm with our daughter on it. We've let her quit other things but realized that with this activity, we were going to stick with it. What amazes us is that through all of her complaints, when she gets home she tells us how much fun she had. That reaffirms our decision.

    • JoanCA profile image
      Author

      JoanCA 4 years ago

      Glimmer Twin Fan,

      It's the same with my daughter. She sends me very mixed messages. She loves something one day and hates it the next.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      The need for balance and sensitivity is very crucial indeed in parenting. I believe too that sometimes kids need a push and not allow them to give up easily. But it's entirely another thing when they totally 'hate' it .... hahaha so one has to observe closely.

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination. This way please to read and vote http://pattyinglishms.hubpages.com/hub/HubNuggets-...

    • JoanCA profile image
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      JoanCA 4 years ago

      Thanks ripplemaker. I didn't know about the nomination. I agree it's a problem if a child is really miserable doing something. That's why I think parents should have kids try different activities to find out what they really like before they commit to something. That way, they are far less likely to end up doing something they'll absolutely hate later on.

    • Davorunner profile image

      Davorunner 4 years ago from Australia

      I think that it depends upon their age and growth so to speak. If they have a habit of quitting, then they shouldn't quit. If they never quit even when it gets tough for them, and they come to you and say they don't want to do it (and are serious) then they should be allowed to. Even later in life we all have times when the things we enjoy don't take our fancy as much, but we usually never quit, just stop doing it for a while. As long as they fully understand this kind of thing, that's the main thing.

    • JoanCA profile image
      Author

      JoanCA 4 years ago

      Davorunner,

      I wonder if a child like that would be more likely to regret quitting later on though. I recently talked to a dad whose daughter restarted dance classes. She quit after four years to play sports instead. He said she really wanted to quit to try something new but now deeply regrets it because she realises she could be so much farther ahead in dance than she is now. You're right that parents should really make an effort to make kids fully understand what quitting will mean.

    • Single With Kids profile image

      Chrissie Lewandowski 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK

      I think balance is the essence here. Some parents I know overload their children with every activity going so there's little time left over. I really do believe it's important for children to have a little 'me' time so they get a chance to use and develop their own imaginations rather than having activities handed to them on a plate.

      That said, it's also good to encourage children to wade through the thick with the thin if they're involved in an activity they enjoy, and not give up at the first hurdle. Whatever the interest there are bound to be days that aren't as enjoyable as the others and it's a shame if the kids simply throw the towel in at the first bad moment, they need to learn that sometimes life does serve the odd curved ball but these are obstacles to overcome rather than closed doors .

    • Davorunner profile image

      Davorunner 4 years ago from Australia

      @ JoanCA That's interesting, although I wouldn't think that the years she "missed" not dancing were at all wasted. She tried something else, and as a result became sure of what she wanted to do. Now in the future she'll have no doubts about whether she could've wanted to do something else. Now she'll fully realise that the dancing is 100% her decision and what she wants to do. Sometimes that is the key, I believe.

    • JoanCA profile image
      Author

      JoanCA 4 years ago

      Single With Kids,

      I definitely think kids are more likely to stick with activities if they aren't doing too many. If they're overwhelmed it's more likely that they'll want to give up.

      Davorunner,

      While that's true, she was a few years behind where she could have been. And she regretted that. She wasn't able to do the advanced classes she could have been doing if she had stuck with it. The problem is when kids give up something, it's not always easy to come back. My kids do gymnastics. They don't do it competitively. But for kids who do, quitting and coming back often isn't an option. It's often a permanent decision.

    • Davorunner profile image

      Davorunner 4 years ago from Australia

      I see, I see, that kind of sucks. But people can do things they like no matter their age, it's a bit of a shame when that happens.

      Interesting thoughts on the matter, thanks for your replies

    • JoanCA profile image
      Author

      JoanCA 4 years ago

      Davorunner,

      It definitely is possible to come back to something when you're older. I quit guitar as a child and now I'm learning it with my 7 year old. But I don't have as much time to put into it as an adult as I did as a child. I wish I'd stuck with it.

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 4 years ago from Southern California, USA

      I wish people could be allowed more creativity to take up activities on their own rather than have these be in a group setting. For instance, a kid can be fit and active by going hiking with their family, like I did. I was never in sports and could not play these well, but I could walk up and down vertical hillsides. I was fearless when it came to hiking as a child, and that was because we did it all the time. Also, I learned to draw on my own, but I did not care much for playing the flute. I wish in the US more emphasis was put on allowing introverted kids to study and learn a language in their free time, and be fit in their own way by walking or planting a garden. Not all kids want to be on a soccer team, etc.

    • JoanCA profile image
      Author

      JoanCA 4 years ago

      SweetPie,

      I think it is really important that kids be involved in choosing the activities they want to pursue rather than being forced to do something their parents want.

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 4 years ago from Southern California, USA

      I am glad you feel that way JoanCA. I think there is nothing wrong with kids being involved in sports or music lessons, but I suppose I just remember as a kid being teased by fellow classmates because I was not good at PE games like soccer, and they all bragged about how they "allowed" me to play the good positions in PE, but how I was not "worthy" because our team lost every time, and they always blamed it on me. However, I did go to a public school in an affluent area parents put their kids in a myriad of activities to show off what they had, and I think it was more about that then actually learning a skill or an instrument. A lot of families cannot afford to put their kids in activities, or they work full time and are not able to take the kids to such things. I just think that there can be a lot of haves and have not discussions at school when it comes to who is in certain activities, so I just wanted to share this side of this. I had kids telling me I must be so deprived because I was not in some sport, but I think this is what pushed me towards academics, and being top of the class in subjects like history. Really, I was just reflecting on my own experiences, and I am sorry because I realize your hub is not really about that.

    • Man of Strength profile image

      Man of Strength 4 years ago from Orlando, Fl

      Great hub. I wish my parents would've not let me quit lots of activities. As a kid I took tae kwon do and quit. I took guitar and alto saxaphone lessons and quit. I often wonder how good I would've been some 20 plus years later. Who knows, smeone could've been writing a hub about me. I wouldn't let my kids quit easily, especially if they had true potential.

    • JoanCA profile image
      Author

      JoanCA 4 years ago

      Man of Strength,

      That's so true. If you had become really good at something as a child, who knows where it could have taken you as an adult.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 3 years ago from Northern California, USA

      Growing up, if my siblings and I were involved in a team sport, my parents would make us stick with the activity for a whole season. My parents were big on not letting the team down. At the same time, if we were involved in an individual activity, like piano lessons, then we had to devote no less than one year in the activity. My parents were also big on thinking things through and committing to an activity. We didn't have to enjoy the activity, but once we started an activity, we had to give it full attention. It worked out well for me - no resentments and it did allow me to really get to know the activity. When I had my own children, I became like my parents. They are adults in their 30's now and they have told me how much they appreciated being forced to commit. They have applied the same principles in their home and work life.

    • JoanCA profile image
      Author

      JoanCA 3 years ago

      MarleneB ,

      I think being forced to commit to things as a child is beneficial because it gives us the discipline we need to do the things that are required of us as adults. And it can give us skills that we'll enjoy using later on.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      I absolutely agree with you. My parents drilled into me that we finish what we start. Typically, most activities have a "re-upping" period at the end of every season or year so you can make your decision then, and they impressed upon my siblings and I that it needed to be a well-reasoned decision rather than one based on emotion or reaction to one small event.

    • JoanCA profile image
      Author

      JoanCA 2 years ago

      FlourishAnyway,

      And kids will want to quit often for very minor reasons. So, having them think it through and really understand the consequences of quitting is important. They have to understand they may not be able to go back whenever they want to, something kids may not think about.

    • JoanCA profile image
      Author

      JoanCA 2 years ago

      FlourishAnyway,

      And kids will want to quit often for very minor reasons. So, having them think it through and really understand the consequences of quitting is important. They have to understand they may not be able to go back whenever they want to, something kids may not think about.

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