It is a fine line that parents often walk, between being pushy and motivating. Take a common scenario: a child exhibits immense excitement for an activity but is now bored/de-motivated and wants to quit. What should a parent do? Push the child to continue or let him quit? Will driving him to stick to an activity teach him perseverance? Or will it create a negative association with the activity? Will letting him quit make him a quitter for life? Or is quitting a part of growing up?
Like I said, it’s a fine line we parents walk and it’s very unsettling. Here are factors you should consider when your child wants to quit an activity:
- Who chose the activity? Was it your own personal desire that your child learn to play the violin? Children rarely stick to activities they did not choose themselves. Parents should refrain from imposing their own desires on their children for it is a recipe for an unhappy child and a strained relationship. If your child, however, chose the activity himself and even took a trial class, you need drive home the lesson of perseverance. Tell your child it was his decision and he has to stick to it. It’s not necessary he will get your point, but keep making it. Tell him he has to attend all the classes that you’ve paid for. After that if he still doesn’t like it, he can quit. Hold him accountable for his decision.
- Age matters: Children below the age of eight are not really capable of understanding the importance of commitment. So if your six-year-old wants to quit piano you need to be your most creative self to make him persevere. Or just make him join again when he is older.
- Role model: If you model an example of perseverance, your child will notice. Tell your child of the times when you wanted to quit and you didn’t. Show them how you work hard to achieve something. Children really do get inspired by role models. Tell them of athletes and geniuses who succeeded because they failed a 100 times but persisted. This will also strengthen your child’s understanding of the correlation between effort and success.
- Overburdened? Children today are often running from one structured activity to another. Research says that children should not be enrolled in more than three activities in a week. Give them time to play with friends without any rules and boundaries, to while away some time and to enjoy the joys of childhood. Try the rejected activity again after a few months. Maybe they are ready then.
- Reward system: When the going gets tough, parents resort to the reward system to entice a behaviour they want from their child. However, how long and how much will you reward your child if he does not love what he is being rewarded for? Passion for an activity comes from within an individual not from the want of rewards. Notably, rewards may teach your child to be a people-pleaser and reward-addict.
- Are you listening? Sometimes you just need to listen to a child. Maybe he feels tired, maybe he is being bullied, maybe the coach/teacher is not attentive, maybe he wants to have more fun time or maybe he is plain bored. Once you listen to him, you can come up with a solution accordingly.
- Fear of failure: Some children develop a fear of being judged for their performance. Again, listening to and being in tune with your child’s emotions is important here. You need to reiterate to the child that you do not expect perfection. If at all, you want her to excel, if and because it makes her happy. Take the pressure off.
As parents we have to judge when to push and when to let our children quit. If, however, a child learns to stick to an activity and complete it despite boredom, obstacles and failure, he will have learnt a priceless lesson in self-discipline and perseverance. A lesson that will ensure success and high self-esteem in life.