Whether it is ballet class, violin lessons, involvement in team sports or even school, there may be a time when your child wants to quit.
Have you heard, “I don’t want to go anymore” or “I stink at baseball” or “I hate ballet”?
Whatever the words, your child probably sounds frustrated. Frustration is the indicator that someone is about to quit. You may want to respond with how much you paid for the lessons, how it isn’t responsible to quit, how they will learn to love it in time, how they will get better at it with practice or any phrase that distills down to the “importance” of making yourself do something that you don’t want to do.
I have thought or wanted to say all of those words to convince my daughter to “hang in there.” Instead, please consider a different route.
Our job as parents is to introduce our child to the wonders of the world, including dance, art, music, sports, hiking and swimming. We hope that they enjoy these wonders. We hope that one may stick or even fire up their soul. The truth is that your child isn’t going to like everything. The great value lies in experiencing many things even if, at some point, your child quits.
Most parents also want their child to be responsible, to be a team player and to persevere. Forcing a child to continue doing something that they find uninteresting, socially uncomfortable or totally unenjoyable will not teach them those valuable lessons. The key to those lessons is finding out what your child is giving up on when they wish to quit.
Get curious about what is going on. Possibly something happened with another child or the teacher. Maybe they are judging themselves harshly. Perhaps they are overwhelmed, overcommitted or exhausted.
From that place of curiosity, begin a conversation by saying something like, “I hear you don’t want to go to ballet anymore. Tell me what’s up.” Then go on a discovery of what lies below the surface.
When our daughter was in elementary school, she wanted to quit taking violin lessons. What lay below her desire to quit was a general disinterest. We asked if she was willing to complete the series that was already paid for and then reevaluate how she felt. She agreed. She not only felt powerful as the person who made the decision, but she learned to persevere.
A friend’s son wanted to quit baseball in high school. She discovered that underneath his desire to quit was a boatload of critical self-judgments about his abilities. He was not a strong baseball player; however, he was an incredible leader. My friend talked to her son about how his encouragement of his teammates had created an amazing group — tight, energized, cooperative. He could see how he contributed to the team and happily decided to stay through the end of the season. He learned to see his value.
Desiring to quit isn’t a problem. It is an opportunity to dig deeper for what is behind the desire. In that exploration is where responsibility, determination, dedication, discipline and cooperation are born.