When your child wants to quit an activity or a project, should you let them? A discussion around this question recently came up in the Care.com office and it started me thinking – when I was growing up, how often did my parents let me quit and do I wish they hadn’t? How will I tackle this situation when my son inevitably asks me if he can quit? My Care.com colleagues weigh in below. We’d love to hear your thoughts as well.
No Quitting Allowed
To this day, I still remember my seven year-old self, pacing in my bedroom, stressing over how to tell my mother the truth: I didn’t want to do ballet anymore.
I had stuck it out for three years, but it had stopped being fun. The instructor was incredibly strict and used tactics that were painful and mean. But my Mom had made it clear that she didn’t like quitters.
Ultimately, I mustered up the courage to talk to my Mom. She listened patiently and was compassionate. However, she insisted I finish the year.
Now that I’m a parent of two boys, 12 and 9, I am a strong believer in not quitting. My policy: “Once you commit, there is no quit.” In other words, if you decide to sign up for a season of soccer, ballet, or piano lessons, you have to see it all the way through. In my book, follow-through is extremely important for kid because I think that quitting is like a muscle—the more you use it, the easier it is to use. As they grow up, my kids will find themselves in various situations that will require them to stay focused and engaged—from test-taking to a trying day at work. If they’re used to quitting, they’ll be more likely to give up and not finish the task at hand. As a result, they’ll miss out on the invaluable growth and feeling of pride that comes when you hang in, believe you can do it, and see a goal all the way through to completion.
For example, when my oldest was in second grade (about 7 years old), he wanted to try tackle football. Practices were grueling (started in August and met 4x week) and games lasted through November. I told him that games take place rain or shine, unlike some other sports. When he insisted that he still wanted to do it, I said, “If you end up hating it, you don’t have to do it again next year, but you do have to finish the season.” I expressed that this was mandatory, saying that commitment is a virtue we value in our family — and will serve him well for the rest of his life. (And yes, his 7-year old face stared at me like ‘Huh?’!) And then he signed up for football.
As the football season ensued, there were several practices on raw, rainy days when I knew my son wanted to whine or bail. But bless him—he kept to his promise, put on his pads, and hit the field.
At the end of the season, I congratulated him for toughing it out. He nodded with pride, then leaned in and whispered, “Once and done, Mom!”
Our kids are at the ages when they are learning valuable life skills. Whether they are taught to quit — or not quit, they will learn this lesson for a lifetime.
Sure, Let them Quit – With these Rules
I started taking the violin in 3rd grade. And at times I was miserable and disenchanted and wanted to quit. I begged my parents and my mother said, sure — as long as I told my teacher myself.
Now, I’m a mom of a 6-year old girl. And yes, I feel that if something is making her miserable, she should be allowed to give it up. Quitting is okay as long as the following rules are in place:
- They have given it a good try. They need to attend at least 3-4 times/sessions.
- There is no pattern. If they seem to always be wanting to drop out/end something quickly after just one or two times, then there’s a problem, and no more “commitments” can be made for a while.
- They quit themselves. I really liked this method because it puts the decision making and control with the child, but not in a scary way.
Listen, sometimes the child is really struggling with the activity and realizes it’s nothing like they thought it would be. Or worse, the teacher is giving them a bad experience. We don’t need to make them suffer. As parents, we need to provide a way out. But as people shaping the personalities of these young students, we can use the experience as a teaching method. Figure out what you consider a “solid try,” and have them explain why they want out (not just “I don’t wanna go.”) If it’s a reasonable reason, further build their communication skills by having them tell the teacher themselves. This can also let them know that you support their feelings, when within reason.