We’ve covered the many benefits of kids participating in sports and arts based extracurricular activities in Top 10 Benefits of Sports-Based Extracurricular Activities and Top 10 Reasons Your Kids Need Arts-Based Extracurricular Activities. You evaluated your options and chose an activity (or a few!) and hopefully your child is enjoying their activity and everything is tickety-boo at home. For some families however, things may have blown up into World War III with protests of, “I don’t want to go,” accompanied by kicking and screaming. What should parents do?
I believe there is no right or wrong answer. Whether you allow your child to quit an activity or not will depend on a lot of factors unique to your situation: your child’s temperament, whether it’s a team sport and others will be impacted, the reason for wanting to quit, and many, many more.
An Ounce of Prevention
It’s always best to start with preventative measures:
- Involve your child in the selection of their extracurricular activities. If they are younger, present them with a list of possibilities to choose from.
- Try activities before registering for a full session/season/year. Check out the school’s or coach’s philosophy. Do you like the Coach/teacher? How are other kids behaving? Do they seem to be enjoying themselves? Trial classes are a great way to gauge your child’s interest.
- Don’t over-schedule. Extracurricular activities should not fill every waking moment of a child’s free time. They need down time, social time, family time, ample time to complete homework, and enough time to get an appropriate amount of sleep for their age.
Once you’ve chosen an activity, set expectations:
- Explain that once they register, they are committing to complete the session/season/year. After that, you can re-evaluate together.
- Avoid nagging by clearly communicating the schedule and consistently making it to class and practice. Set a regular practice time if practice is required.
- Create a supportive environment at home. Speak enthusiastically about their chosen activity and create a fun environment for practice at home.
- Set short-term goals to keep them motivated. Don’t use season playoffs or the spring recital as incentive – it’s simply too far away.
Communication is Key
So, what do you do if you’ve gone full-boar on prevention and you are still met with “I want to quit!”?
Call me crazy, but your first course of action shouldn’t be to enter into an endless tug-of-war with your child. That can only serve to frustrate both of you. Communication is key and you might save a lot of grief by simply probing the reasons for wanting to quit.
Don’t assume the reasons for your child wanting to quit. Take the time to explore what’s really going on. If your child says “I don’t like activity XYZ anymore,” perhaps they no longer enjoy it, but they might also be saying:
• I don’t understand / I can’t follow the class.
• I’m being teased and feel sad.
• I’m scared. I’ve never been on a stage and had to perform in front of an audience before.
• I’m bored, this doesn’t challenge me.
• Practicing takes away all of my free time.
Some reasons may have simple solutions that will get your child back to enjoying their extracurricular activity. But if there are no apparent solutions to keep your child engaged, consider the following points in your discussion with your child when deciding how and when to exit:
- Do they have teammates counting on them?
- How long is left before the session is over? Can they stick it out and re-evaluate at that time?
- Can you get a pro-rated refund ? (This of course is more of an adult consideration.)
Trust Your Gut
Even if we want to instill good work ethic in our children and we want to nurture “stick-to-it-ness” or “grit“, you need to make the decision that is best for your child and your family. If despite you best efforts, your child is tense, irritable, or distracted, it may be due to something bigger at play or it may be due to overwhelm. At some point, you may just have to let them quit. When all else fails, trust your gut. And obviously, if your child’s safety, health, or well-being is at risk, it should go without saying that it’s time to quit.
So, if you feel that it’s in your child’s best interest to quit and you’ve considered all the options, approach the coach or teacher and explain the situation. Thank them for their time and effort and move on.
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