Help – my child is a quitter!

By admin
11 March 2015

What do you do if your child is always quitting extra murals?

We’ve all experienced it – your children beg for the new guitar or dance classes, because it’s their dream. You’ve barely paid the first instalment and suddenly they want to quit. What should you do? We asked Lianna Morrison, educational psychologist in Hermanus to help.

As a parent, how do you ensure that your child is serious about a new sport, class or hobby? What kind of questions can you ask to ensure it’s not just faze?

There are three factors to consider when making decisions regarding your child, and this includes when deciding about extra-murals: how does this impact my child socially, emotionally and physically? Extra-murals are a form of learning which should be non-threatening and add value to your child’s life.

Although extra-murals can be fun and your child may excel in a number of activities they can be tiring, may interfere with homework and family time and can be expensive and time consuming for the family. If your child wants to participate in what seems like everything, help them narrow their choices down to two or three. Guide them to understand that taking part because their friends are participating may not be a good enough reason, whereas taking art classes because they love being creative is.

Questions to ask:

  • Ask them to choose between activity A or activity B. Their choice can help determine what it is they enjoy and like to do.
  • If they struggle to decide, ask them if they had to pay for the activity themselves which one they would pay for (your child needs to be old enough to understand the value of money).
  • Are their choices in line with what they already enjoy doing? If they enjoy dancing around at home then asking to do a dance class is in line with their current interests or if they are creative a request to do art or pottery seems reasonable. Doing an activity because they think it will please you as a parent, is in contrast not a good reason.
  • Discuss with them what it is about the activity that appeals to them, for example if they want to participate because their friends are, ask them how they will maintain interest after the ‘honeymoon period’ has worn off?

If your child wants to quit soon after starting, should you allow them to quit?

Although it is easy to get frustrated with a child who wants to quit, it is an issue that should be thoroughly discussed/investigated. Sometimes children don’t want to continue due to uncertainty, which disappears after they’ve attended a few times. If they really hate the activity then forcing them to continue with it may be counter-productive, but before letting them quit try and come up with a solution with your child. There are numerous reasons other than a change in interest for a child wanting to quit:

  • They might feel embarrassed that a friend is more advanced than they are; remind them that the friend may have been participating in the activity longer or that we all have different talents. Remind them that people participate for different reasons where some want to be competitive, others want to do it for the enjoyment of the activity and both attitudes are valid.
  • They may want to quit because it is not what they were expecting. Discuss with your child what it is about the activity they do not like and how this differs from their perception of what the activity would entail.
  • If it is a problem with the coach or another child, listen to their concerns. Is it a personality difference, having their skills challenged or do they feel bullied? First try and resolve these issues before allowing your child to quit.
  • They may be struggling with the activity or feel shy and scared about trying new things. If they are struggling it may be good to investigate why they are struggling.
  • However your child may be struggling because of physical issues and it is important to check that these are not affecting your child’s abilities and enthusiasm to participate. Physical issues such as low muscle tone or poor eye-sight or eye-hand co-ordination may contribute to a reluctance to participate.
  • Related to the above point is if your child is already receiving occupational therapy (as an example) and the therapist recommended the activity to support the work they are doing in therapy, discontinuing should be discussed with the therapist. If your child is really miserable alternatives that work the same areas should be investigated
If not, how long should they participate? Depending on the activity they should complete at least a term (e.g. a school sport) or 6 months (e.g. dance, gymnastics, chess) or until the end of the first course. Although we tend to want our children to choose an activity to focus on, exposure to a variety of activities and skills for shorter periods of time can be just as valuable as focusing on one or two for many years as it can broaden their interests, knowledge and skills.
Teaching children the value of perseverance can be done by helping them understand why they are participating.

If your child has chosen an activity for which you had to buy equipment or instruments or if you have already paid a month’s classes explain to them that they need to attend until the paid for classes are over. Explain before they choose the activity that there is a budget for extra-murals and you are happy and willing to spend that money on their extra-murals, but that once that budget has been used then they are welcome to fund their interest themselves (more relevant to older children).

How you get your children to understand that they should stick to their decisions?

Teaching children the value of perseverance can be done by helping them understand why they are participating. Remind your child that we have to work on most things we enjoy, we all fell off our bicycles before we experienced that rush of freedom that comes with successfully pedalling on our own. Or compare persistence to an apple tree that started as a seed and had to grow before we could enjoy its shade, apples and places to climb. Not everything we do is or has to be fun all the time, we do have to work hard at things sometimes, but that feeling of knowing we persisted even when we didn’t really want to can never be taken away.

Are there times you should allow them to quit?

If your child is consistently coming back from the extra-murals irritable, hyper, overstimulated, tearful or in other ways showing their distress, making them continue with the activity is not benefitting anyone. Speaking to your child, the coach or teacher before quitting the activity is recommended as it may be an issue that can be resolved. If your child underestimated the amount of time the activity takes and it is affecting their school work or ability toparticipate in other ‘normal’ activities deciding to quit may be in their best interests.

As children grow older their interests can become more focused and they may prefer to do only one or two extra-mural activities. If the decision is made to quit make sure you have discussed the implications of the decision with your child and emphasise that there will be other opportunities and focus on the positive aspects e.g. more time to focus on their studies or to play at home.

-Roxanne Eastes

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