Is Teaching a Child Not to Quit Always Best?
Q: How do we keep our child from becoming a “quitter”? Several months ago, we signed up our 5-year-old son for a Tae Kwon Do program. He’s enjoyed it and usually has a good time once he gets to class. But lately we’ve run into problems with him not wanting to go. What should we do?
A: This is a common frustration for lots of parents of young children. They enroll their child in a sport or activity, lay down a healthy sum of cash on uniforms and equipment, only to have their child lose interest and want to quit a few weeks later.
In a situation like this, the first thing you need to ask is this: Was the Tae Kwon Do class your idea, or did your son really have an interest in signing up? I raise the question because often with kids in this age range the activity has been initiated by their parents. If this observation applies to you, there’s a basic principle you should keep in mind. It’s great to encourage children to try new things, but we should never force or push anything that may not fit with their natural giftedness.
On the other hand, if your son asked you to sign him up for Tae Kwon Do and has simply lost interest, that’s a different story. In that case, I’d suggest it would benefit his growth and character development to see it through, at least until the end of the current cycle of classes or the end of summer.
The exception to this would be if he has some legitimate reason for not wanting to go to class. Could it be that his instructor is unreasonably harsh with the kids? Is he smaller or less coordinated than the other 5-year-olds in the class? The best way to determine if that’s the case is to observe him during one of the sessions.
Remember, there’s a fine line between challenging our kids to expand their horizons and pushing them to participate in something because we think it might be good for them. When a child signs up for an activity and then wants to drop it, it’s never wise to jump to the conclusion that he’s turning into a “quitter.” Instead, you want to determine what’s behind his desire to bail. If it’s just lack of interest or a problem with follow-through, you should probably make your son stick with it, at least for a pre-determined length of time. But if he simply isn’t physically, socially, or intellectually cut out for a certain sport or activity, it’s a bad idea to force him to engage in it. This could lead to frustration, repeated failure, and a poor self-concept.
By the way, I’d recommend limiting a child to one sport and one extra-curricular activity per semester. Too many parents push their kids to be involved in a dozen different things, with an emphasis on success, achievement, and “keeping up with the crowd.” Children don’t need to be involved in that many activities. Instead, they should be allowed to “be kids” and have plenty of quality and quantity time with Mom and Dad.