Soccer, track, gymnastics—if your kid has tried them all but stuck with none of them, here’s how to handle the quit.
Q: My son tends to get really interested in a sport but then, a few months later (after I’ve bought all the equipment, of course) he loses interest and quits. Should I push him to stick with it or just let it go?
Many of us come to the parenting table with our own ideas of how we will absolutely not make the same mistakes our parents made. Essentially, we parent how we would have wanted to be parented as children.
It’s important for us to be aware of who’s dreams and expectations we are living when we make the decision of how to handle our children’s choices to quit.
I will make a few points that speak generally to the learning opportunities in either staying with the sport or abandoning it. Each child is unique, so tailor your approach accordingly.
My first question is simple: What does your child really want? Is this a sport he or she chose or is this something you encouraged strongly or insisted upon? Was he only interested in the sport because his best buddy was doing it and that relationship has changed? Or is he realizing he’s just not going to be great at it and is intimidated, embarrassed or discouraged? Because there are many considerations, it’s important to ask some open-ended questions to determine what’s really going on and why you child quit.
Some good questions to ask: Has anything happened that makes you not want to play? How are you getting along with your teammates? What is the worst part of playing this sport? What do you like the most? How would you feel about yourself if you gave up now? How would it hurt (or bother) you if you continue or, alternatively quit?
Allowing your son or daughter the opportunity to speak their mind builds trust and self esteem. Even if you disagree with what they are saying (or don’t necessarily believe it), give them the space to be heard.
There is value in allowing a child self-directed choice. We must teach them to listen to themselves and follow their intuition and heart’s desire. But, we must also teach them about character-building tenacity, the quality of stick-to-it-ness. While we want our children to be self-directed, we also want them to learn to persevere even after the initial excitement or interest wears off or after they have lost a few times. It’s a balance.
Let’s face it, spending a lot of money and wasting resources can be stressful for any family no matter your income bracket. If you do not feel comfortable forcing your child to continue or you have not successfully persuaded them to stick it through, you can require them to earn the money to pay you back with chores or a job. You may also consider selling the equipment on eBay, Craig’s List or a local consignment shop.
In addition to repayment you may require them to pick a replacement activity of which you mutually agree.
As the parent, you set the tone for what you expect from your sons and daughters. It is natural for children to explore their strengths and interests. Assure them that you love them whether they are the best or the worst on the team. Having your vote of confidence will go a long way as they negotiate the twists and turns and highs and lows of life’s journey. Remember you either win or you learn. There is no losing. Even when you quit.