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I recently read an article called My kids are quitters…Wanna make something out of it? This article was floating around Facebook, with friends posting how they would never make their child stick with an activity they don’t enjoy.
Well, guess what? I don’t let my kids quit–and let me explain why. But first, I must point out that not letting my children quit things does not mean that I don’t listen to them or value their time, as the other article suggests. It simply means I have a different parenting style. I will say it here, and I will say it again at the end of the article: Parenting isn’t a competition, we’re all doing the best we can!
Sticking it out with groups and teams…
Let’s start with groups and teams. In our family, when you make a commitment to an activity such as chorus or orchestra at school, a soccer team or competition dance team, you finish that commitment for the season. If you choose not to participate in chorus next year, so be it–but you made a commitment to a group that is counting on you.
An example my daughter went through: She joined the school orchestra. After playing violin since she was 3, school orchestra of beginning strings players was very basic and boring for Brid. She wanted to quit about a month into the school year. I listened to her and discussed it with her. I told her I know she could play the music with her eyes closed in her sleep, but she made the commitment and would be letting the group and teacher down if she quit. I also pointed out that this was an opportunity for her to be a leader and that she most certainly did not have to join the following school year. We had conversation, talked about the pros and cons, and saw it through to the end result.
Think about it as an adult. You get asked to serve on a committee at work, you go and can’t stand the committee. But it’s a year long commitment that you agreed to, so you stick it out. Or, for example, I took a summer teaching position last year. Did I want to teach through the summer? No! I wanted to be home with my children. But my family needed the income, my resume could use the boost, and the program needed a strong leader. Did I quit when I got hired for a better teaching job that started at the end of August-no! I stuck it out because that was what was best for everyone else, even though I would’ve been happier at home.
By having your child stick out the season, you are teaching him or her that sometimes we do things for the betterment of the team…or, as we grow up and become adults, we stick things out and do things for the betterment of society. This does not mean I didn’t have a discussion with my children about how they feel about the activity and ways to get the most out of the remaining time in it, it means they are learning that their immediate desires aren’t always what comes first.
Sticking it out with individual activities…
Take a look at this picture of Christopher, age 2, before the tears of having to go into the pool for swimming lessons started:
Guess what? I made him go through all three weeks of swimming lessons. Every.single.day. Because swimming is an important skill that all children should be taught. Just because he wanted to quit, doesn’t mean he should quit! Check him out by week three, jumping in the diving pool:
Did you see that miserable face in the collage at the beginning of Christopher? Living in the cold north, there aren’t a lot of active things to do in the winter, and he is an active child. So when he was 2, I suggested trying ice skating lessons. In theory, he thought they sounded great. Then, he made this sad, sad face. Knowing that Christopher is an extremely active child and we need wintertime activities, I talked to him and said, “Just give it a try.” It doesn’t mean I didn’t value his feelings, but I also know what his needs are. The very day he made that miserable face, this was him skating alone on the ice:
Lastly, what about the fact that I made my daughter start violin at the age of 3 and my son will be starting an instrument in the next year or so. This is not an idea they come up with on their own and Brid was not happy with practicing or lessons at all when she first started. But, as a parent, I know that starting an instrument or learning a language before the age of 5 is great for brain development. Since I can’t teach my children either of those things, I choose to enroll them in private instrument lessons. Once Brid reached 7 years old, every year I gave her the choice of whether to play or not for that year. She continued to play until she was 12 years old and now is able to pick and play around with several instruments. This is from her winter recital at 11 years old–and she never would’ve had this ability if I hadn’t made that choice for her at the age of 3:
Does this mean I make my kids stick out every little thing? No–I suggest activities to my daughter all the time that she turns down and gives me reasons why. But she doesn’t usually start activities she doesn’t have interest in completing. Do I stick out every little thing? No–but I try not to commit to something I don’t have the intention of following through with. Does this make me a better or worse parent than anyone else? Not at all. Parenting isn’t a competition, we’re all doing the best we can!