Soon after Judy Arnall’s third son started playing soccer at age six, he wanted to stop. Arnall had assumed that because his older brothers had wanted to play, he would, too. She was wrong, but she didn’t let him quit.

 

Instead, Arnall attended every game and practice with him until the season ended.

 

“We were both miserable,” says Arnall, a Calgary-based parenting expert whose most recent book is The Last Word On Parenting Advice.

 

“I learned that even if you want to expose your child to new experiences that will develop their talents, it has to be something they’re interested in.”

 

Arnall offers the following tips on what to consider when choosing an after-school activity:

 

Get your child to buy in.

“Ask what they want to do,” says Arnall. If you push them into an activity they don’t like, it will cause resentment and power struggles. “I tell parents, if you want your child in hockey because you like hockey, you should be the one registering to play for a team.”

Consider cost.

If your daughter refuses to practise the piano anymore, you have to ask yourself how much money you are willing to sacrifice on the remaining lessons if you let her quit midway through the term. “It’s a good idea to ask about refund policies before you commit,” says Arnall. “Although very few programs offer full or even partial refunds.”

Implement the “begging rule.”

If Arnall’s children really want to sign up for sports or music lessons, they have to ask for them — more than once, over a period of several weeks. “Then I know it’s not just a passing fancy and they’re really interested,” she says.

Have your child contribute.

Some money toward the extracurricular activity, that is. “Using some of their allowance or birthday money to help pay for their lessons will help give them a sense of ownership,” says Arnall.

Life lessons

Taking part in extracurricular activities offers many benefits to students. From learning team-building skills to gaining self-esteem, there are few downsides when young people take part in after-school sports, bands, teams or clubs. Kids will learn how to manage their time and the value of making long-term commitments, among other important life lessons.