You signed up your elementary school-aged daughter to play hockey at the local rink, paid the registration fee for the season and bought her equipment. Then, after three practices, she announces she hates hockey and wants to quit. Should you let her?
Yes, says Calgary-based parenting expert Judy Arnall.
“I wouldn’t force a child to continue if he or she really doesn’t want to, because there are other ways to teach discipline, such as through chores and volunteering,” she says. “For younger kids in particular, I think going to a new activity three times is giving it a fair chance.”
If your son says he no longer wants to play trumpet in the school band, it’s important to ask him why not. “Maybe there’s a mean kid in the band who’s making him unhappy,” says Arnall. “It might not have anything to do with him not liking the trumpet.”
If that’s the case, parents can help their child find a better solution to the situation than quitting.
If the child has truly lost interest in the activity, it’s best to let him or her drop it. Parents should keep in mind that nagging a child to practise piano scales or pack their hockey bag before practice isn’t the same as reminding them.
“If you find yourself having to nag, then your interest in your child’s activity has become greater than theirs, and it’s time to consider letting them quit,” says Arnall.
The good news is that just because kids quit a few activities during their school years it doesn’t mean they will end up quitting all of their jobs. Plus, people sometimes take up activities they dropped as youngsters when they become adults. “You can learn anything at any age,” says Arnall.
When it’s OK?to stop
According to American child psychologist David Elkind, the author of The Hurried Child, children ages nine and younger typically don’t have a clear sense yet of what kinds of activities they will like and stick with. He believes it’s fine for them to give up the activity if they don’t appear to be enjoying it.