Kids and Extracurriculars - When Do You Let Them Quit?

Filed under: Opinions, Activities: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Activities: Big Kids, Activities: Tweens

When kids are ready to quit, do you let them?. Photo: sxc.hu

Extracurricular activities are a child's way of trying out new things and figuring out what fits. Dance, at our house, is one activity that never changes -- the kids look forward to it every week. But we've tried soccer, t-ball, karate and art classes, all with varying degrees of success.

Lisa Belkin over at Motherlode has asked readers when do you let a child quit an activity? Like Belkin, we have a few rules in our house about this, and we've had to enforce the "if you commit to it, you see it through" rule once or twice. But that was for short term activities -- six weeks or less -- that only met once a week. Had the activity in question been a more involved commitment, I think I would have been more flexible. After all, I don't force myself to continue a hobby I don't enjoy, so I don't think it's fair to make my kids do it either.

But at the same time, it is a parent's responsibility to teach and to guide. And jumping in to solve the problem every time a child gets bored or feels discomfort is the hallmark of helicopter parenting. Exactly where is the balance?

"Motherlode" commenter cz shares her own experience, "As a child my parents often made me stick with camps and sports I hated. If anything, this just served to weaken my then already weak self-confidence....If you think he'll learn some other valuable lesson by making him stick with (it), it might be worth it. But, if the lesson is just that he should stick with something he really doesn't like, when it's not necessary for him to do so...I don't know, it seems like a recipe for unhappiness as an adult."

Commenter Julie Armstrong, on the other hand, thinks quitting isn't the answer. "I have struggled with this issue with my kids now aged 12 and 15," she writes. "Generally, if they are safe but just unhappy I generally make them stick it out. Quitting should be the rare exception rather than the rule."

I think there are good reasons for pulling kids out of an activity: It's not a good fit, they're being bullied, they're being hurt, it's affecting their grades at school. And it's only fair, I think, for kids to have a say in what and how many activities they're involved in. But there's also a good lesson in making them stick it out: When you start something, you finish it.

What do you think? Do you let your children quit an activity they don't like? Or do you make them stick it out because of the lessons they'll learn from it?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.