“When do you allow your child to quit a sport or activity?”
I’m sure this is an issue every parent has or will deal with. Kids are notorious for begging to do something, and then deciding that it isn’t quite as fun as they thought it would be. “Do I haaaaaaaaave to??” becomes the response to practicing or playing. No parent wants to raise a quitter, but what if a kid really hates the activity?? Here are some things to consider on the front side of this issue-
Anticipate- I think a question more parents should ask themselves is-“why am I putting my child in this activity?” Because they want to might be an easy answer, but it’s not a thoughtful one. Parents are bombarded with choices and options, and it’s easy to get caught up in doing something simply because it’s available. It’s justified by the idea of raising a “well-rounded child” but soon our well-rounded child becomes child who doesn’t eat dinner with the family and child who tears a muscle from playing fourteen sports at once. I know it’s difficult to say no to soccer when all their friends play on the team, but there needs to be more thought put into these types of commitments. Parents, ask yourselves- am I more excited about this activity than they are? The answer might be yes- and that might be okay. Our kids don’t always know that something is going to be good for them, but if you’ve got a shy child who cries when people look at her, and you sign her up for drama because you loved it in high school, you may be setting yourself for conflict and discouraging your child. It’s okay to stretch our kids and ask them to step out of their comfort zone, but it’s also important to honor and encourage the gifts that He has given them, even if they don’t line up with what you would like them to be.
Remember that your family is a team- it’s not realistic to expect that all siblings or parents will be able to attend all events for each person in the family but for us, we do ask that they kids support their siblings as much as they can. So, in scheduling activities, I try to remember that I am not just committing one person, but somewhat committing five people. We are a team, and what happens to one person affects everyone. You may have a child that is a crazy talented athlete, but you have to think about what having that child involved in three or four sports at once does. Does your child have time to interact with their siblings in a meaningful way? Will these activities focus on one child so much that the other child may feel left out? Will this activity require so much time that it takes away from the husband and wife relationship? Does this activity tax the family financially? Thinking of activities through the family team lens will not only help reduce the options, but it is a great opportunity to teach your children sacrificial love and community.
Think about the big picture- if we are called to be the hands and feet of Christ to the world, then it makes no sense to sequester yourself away from the world. I think it’s a good thing to ask yourself- am I intentionally interacting with my neighbors? Am I teaching my kids how to interact with people who might be very different from them? While we need to be wise about what we expose our kids to, if your child only ever plays with kids that are raised just like they are, you are missing a huge opportunity to reach out to parents and for your child to practice sharing their faith.
So you’ve thoughtfully considered, chosen an activity, signed up and bought the equipment needed, and a month later, your child is whining and crying, saying that they don’t like it and want to quit. Now what??
If your child is involved with a team, I believe that the benefits of learning commitment, teamwork, and keeping your word outweighs a child’s dislike of the sport. However, I think we can be sensitive to the child’s reasons for wanting to quit and address those. Look at your child’s coach- is there something about their approach that is difficult for your child? Can you use that as an opportunity to shepherd your child through how to respectfully disagree with someone? Is there a particular child that your child has conflict with? You have a chance to practice those conflict resolution skills! Addressing your child’s heart and motivation is much more important than figuring out the logistics of quitting versus not quitting. If there is no outside reason apart from a child just decides they want to stop, I think it’s better to finish the season. Quite frankly, even if your child is miserable, it’s good practice in counting the cost before committing to something.
If your child is involved in an individual activity, I think there’s more flexibility. However, even in individual lessons, you need to take the teacher’s schedule into account. Compromise might be in order, with telling your child they can stop after a certain number of lessons. Consider a change in teacher- especially in individualized activities, chemistry with the teacher is even more important. I know that for me, part of why piano was easy to quit in college was because of a really painful experience with my piano instructor. Consider a break- taking six months off an activity may actually give your child time to mature and renew a passion. Consider letting your child teach themselves. If your child really wants to learn to play the guitar but hates lessons, let them try to teach themselves. You may find that with removed pressure to learn, they may get to a point where they want to learn more than they can teach.
The big question I hear (and ask) is do our kids NEED to be in activities? (and therefore, is it a bad thing for them to quit being in those activities). Y’all, this is a first world problem. None of our kids need to play soccer or need to learn piano or need gymnastics. It’s not a need. It’s a nice luxury. We can get so easily caught up in anxiety over our kids “falling behind”, and if we are honest, with keeping up with those around us, that we miss the bigger picture. For us, our kids need-
To spend time learning about Jesus
To spend time serving Him by loving others
To cultivate good relationships with the family
To take care of their physical self
To begin to cultivate a way to be creative
I believe that most skills and lessons fall under these categories. Soccer, piano, art, etc…those are vessels, not goals. If an activity helps you in these areas, then I would push a bit more to not quit…but I wouldn’t hurt my relationship with my child over it. I won’t let it become a power struggle. If I believe my child should continue and they absolutely refuse, then I can choose to assert my authority or I can choose to let it be a lesson in grace and in allowing my child to choose something they might regret later.
I’m 35. I regret not continuing piano. I regret not learning more about sports. That’s kind of a lie. But I do regret the piano part. I regret not continuing in dance and I regret not leaning the guitar before this year. But my regrets have taught me as much as I could have learned in continuing these things. And I am pretty sure I am going to be an amazing guitarist in heaven so I’m not going to spend too much time worrying about what I didn’t learn here on earth.
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