When is it Okay for Kids to Quit Their Activities?

I recently spoke with the mother of a 4-year-old who was wondering whether or not she should continue having her son participate in a soccer league that he didn’t seem to interest him. That is, he would rather play on the nearby playground than participate in the organized soccer activities. I responded that it is up to her to expose her child to a variety of different hobbies and interests, but it is not necessary to force her child to participate in things in which he is not interested. She further inquired about the type of message it would send the boy to let him quit in the middle of the season. I shared that if a child begs and whines and complains and finally talks you into letting him participate in something, then it is a good idea to make him finish out the obligation, to help him make good decisions about what types of commitments to make in the future, but if you signed your child up for something because you thought he would like it and he didn’t like it, there’s little harm in letting him bow out midway through an activity unless the group is highly dependant on him and I would seriously hope the coach of a 4-year-old soccer team would not be so foolish as to let the team become dependant on the performance of any one pre-school child. Further, even if the team or group has become highly dependant on your child, that doesn’t necessarily obligate him to continue participating. Having too much responsibility can make the event or activity not that much fun anymore. In cases where your child would like to quit an activity in which he has a very important role, you should evaluate, together, the consequences of pulling him out of the activity. For example, if your child quits a sports team, it is likely that another teammate would be happy to take his place but that the coach and some other team members might be angry that their chances to win decrease if the child was a very strong player. However, if your child has the lead role in a play and he wants to quit two weeks before the show opens, there might not be enough time to replace him and the whole show might be ruined. Finally, an important question to ask yourself is “Who wants the kid to be doing this? The kid or me?” Often we, as parents, want to see our children get excited about the same things we got excited about and we push our kids to participate in things that we were good at or things we enjoyed. Sometimes if we were denied an opportunity as a child, we want to be extra sure our child gets the opportunity we never had and we sometimes push them to join something we couldn’t. Parents can also see talents that a child has and may want to push a child to get the most out of his abilities and sometimes that doesn’t match what the child likes to do. In conclusion, it is important to expose your children to a variety of activities, but allow them to select freely from what you offer. If a child begs to make an obligation to an activity, it is a good idea to insist he carry through. If you are just having a child participate in something for exposure and he hates it, there is no real need to force him to continue to participate.

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