You spent three years driving your greatly promising son to hockey at 5am three times a week, and now he wants to quit playing hockey. Your daughter is an amazing tennis player, has been chosen to play pro, but would rather stay home and update her TikTok. You know that if your children applied themselves in what they are good at, they would go far, but how do you convince them of that?
The truth is, often your own children are the ones who ‘know what’s best’ and the best thing to do is listen to your kids. But don’t despair because there may be justified reasons for their decision.
To find out if quitting is the best option, ask yourself these five questions.
1. Have they grown out of the activity?
Often, you choose an activity for your child when they are too little to know what inspires them. They may have mentioned to you that they liked playing the violin when they were three but now at age nine, it is normal for your child to feel differently about playing the violin.
Ultimately, if your child chooses never to play an instrument again, the time you invested won’t be lost. It was a great opportunity for them to learn something new, and learning how to play an instrument challenged their brain. It helped build their self-esteem and better understand what inspires them. In addition, the knowledge through playing an instrument can be applied to a new situation. Research shows the more variety children are exposed to while learning, the more they increase their capacity to learn.
2. Is their teacher to blame?
Don’t jump to conclusions. More often than not, the teacher has nothing to do with your child’s disinterest. If your child tells you they no longer like their lessons, it wouldn’t hurt to sit in on the class and watch the dynamics between your child and their teacher. Ask your child what they like or dislike about the lessons. Your child needs someone who believes in them and understands their interests and learning style. Extracurricular activities are different from school where your child is expected to ‘fit the model.’ Think back to when you were a student and what a difference a good teacher made in your life. Sometimes trying a different teacher or coach might reignite your child’s passion for the activity.
3. Is the timing right?
Your child might love playing hockey, but 10 hours of practice a week on top of a full class schedule might leave them too exhausted to realize it. Sometimes there is no flexibility with an activity, especially if your child is at an advanced level. Trying an earlier class, or on a Monday instead of on a Friday, may help your child regain their love for the game. Make sure their extracurricular activities are scheduled at times when your child is not tired, hungry, or when they need a break from school. Activities right after school are tricky because there’s no time for your child to come home and relax; often, a little downtime and a good healthy snack after school are needed. Friday nights might be when your child and their friends get together, and going somewhere after school becomes a chore. If your child wants to quit an activity, discuss it with your child to find out whether it is the activity that has lost its appeal or whether it is bad timing.
Be aware of your children’s needs. In the past, my children wanted to quit an activity they loved and when they did, me and the kids realized that all that was needed was one or two low-key semesters where they got the chance to do other things at home or take some time to rest. After a good break, they were the ones who asked me if they could go back to their activities. Kids are not always aware of their needs, and might confuse the need for a break to disliking an activity. And don’t let instructors tell you that your children will ‘fall behind’ if they stop coming to an activity - most of us aren’t training a potential Olympic athlete. Enjoy the journey together!
4. Is it their passion or yours?
Your father played soccer. Your father’s father played soccer. His father’s father and grandfather played soccer. You had dreams of becoming the next soccer star, and now your kid is the greatest soccer player on their team. There’s just one problem: your child wants to quit playing soccer. You know they have great talent, but how do you make them understand that? Well, you don’t. Your child has to decide what sport they want to play. They might not be into sports, and as much as that might break your heart and go against all of your family traditions, you must respect your child and seek to understand what things they like to do. Once you know, do your best to support your child and encourage them to pursue their interests. You never know, maybe all they needed was to try something new for a while - or maybe it wasn’t their ‘thing.’ In any case, supporting your child’s decision is the best thing you can do. (In my opinion, no great soccer player achieves success without passion.)
5. Are they too busy?
Children today lead far busier lives than any of us did in our youth. In the name of being great parents, we provide our children with many great opportunities that often, it doesn’t leave them with enough time to just play or relax. If your child wants to quit an activity (or all of them), listen carefully to what they are saying. Take a break for a while. Before starting again, make sure that you include your child when deciding on their schedule. Decide together on one or two activities they really like, then leave enough free time during the week and on weekends. If your life after 3pm revolves around co-curriculars, it is a clear sign that you’ve overdone it, no matter how talented your child is.
Chances are, your child’s decision to quit an extracurricular activity will revolve around one of these five points. Once you have had the chance to make the necessary changes, you may find their interest will reignite. In any case, the best thing to do is to openly talk with your child. No matter how young they are, involve them in the decision-making process. Don’t worry about how many times your child wants to change and try something new. As long as they are inspired and physically active, how they achieve that goal should always be their decision. In this case, ‘sticking with it’ is definitely not the best approach.
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