What would you do in the following situation?
Your daughter says her tummy hurts. It could be the flu – several kids in her class have been sick. Or it could be nerves. She’s been worrying about the spelling bee today. Would you send her to school or keep her home?
How about this one?
She forgot her flute and today is the day she practices her solo with the accompanist. Contest is this weekend. Would you take her flute to school – or let her deal with the consequences of not being prepared?
Parenting can feel like a never-ending cycle of decisions. And it’s not always the major problems that trip us up. Sometimes those minor, everyday situations can be tricky. After all, we want what’s best for our kids. We want to do the right thing.
Today I’m sharing my personal experience with just one of those tricky situations. It’s a question most parents will face sooner or later: When is it okay for my child to quit a sport or activity?
My husband and I dealt with this issue when our girls started piano lessons. As the weeks passed, our two older girls really enjoyed it. But our youngest? Not so much. It became a daily dispute.
“Madison, have you practiced piano today?”
(Exasperated sigh) “I don’t like piano. It’s boring. Please Mom, can’t I quit?”
I tried several methods of motivation. I encouraged her. I guilt-tripped her – after all, piano lessons weren’t cheap. I even told her what my parents told me when I wanted to quit piano. “I’ve heard so many adults say, ‘I sure wish my parents hadn’t let me quit piano.’ I don’t want you to someday regret it.”
But nothing helped.
My husband and I discussed the situation. Unfortunately my opinion flip-flopped from one extreme to the other, depending on my mood.
Sometimes I was strong and determined: “I don’t want her to be a quitter. What if she thinks she can quit every activity when it stops being easy or fun? Not everything comes easily in life. She needs to learn about commitment and responsibility.”
Other times I was understanding and flexible: “Just because she quits piano doesn’t mean she’s going to quit everything. I want our girls to try new things. Not everything will work out, and that’s okay. Our schedule is busy enough. Why waste time and money on an activity she hates?”
Should we – or should we not – let her quit? That was the question. But before I tell you our decision, here’s a few things to consider – just in case you find yourself in the same quandary.
Why does she want to quit?
Is she bored? Is she stressed or over scheduled? Watch her practices and pay attention to how the coach interacts with the kids – and how the kids interact with each other. Talk with your child and listen closely.
At one point, our oldest daughter became frustrated with piano and wanted to quit. We listened to her concerns, and decided to try a different teacher. This made a world of difference. She loves piano – and is still going strong!
Give it some time.
In the heat of a frustrating moment, you will probably hear, “I hate this!” or “I quit!” With piano, it happened whenever a new piece of music was particularly challenging. In volleyball, it happened when she couldn’t get her serve over the net. In softball, it happened when she struck out. Don’t overreact – and don’t make impulsive decisions. She might just be having a bad day.
However, there is a difference between “a bad day” and constant frustration. Is the activity a source of conflict every day? Is your child miserable? Is it creating stress or anxiety? If so, it’s probably not worth it.
Ask yourself, is this about my child – or is this about me?
It’s a tough question. Is the sport more important to you than it is to her? We can’t live out our sports dreams through our kids. Think about her interests, natural talents and abilities. Do they line up with her activities?
It can also be difficult to watch her quit if you’ve formed friendships with other parents through these sports and activities.
One thing I’ve learned: It’s really important to discuss expectations with your child before starting an activity. For example, if they are part of a team, they need to understand that teammates and coaches will be depending on them. If they dislike the sport, they can’t quit mid-season. But they don’t have to play next year.
Also, make sure both parents are on the same page. Talk privately and develop a plan you can both agree on.
Now, here’s the rest of the story about our young piano player. Madison continued to play for several more weeks. Eventually, she stopped complaining (as much), but the answer became clear. She wasn’t passionate about piano. Finally after her recital, we gave her the choice to continue or quit.
She chose to quit.
Now she spends her time on more active endeavors. Like flipping through the air. She’s a much happier girl.
And so am I!
What do you think? Should kids be encouraged to stick with an activity or is calling it quits not a big deal? I’d love to hear about your experiences!