Quitters Sometimes Win: My Thoughts on Letting Kids Quit Activities

Hi Readers! A month or two ago I was interviewed by the website care.com about, of all things, my thoughts on “quitting.” Reading the Q&A over, I decided to post part of it here.  This is an excerpt from a slightly longer piece over at care.com:

What is your personal philosophy on quitting?

I think quitting is underrated. While “quitters never win,” neither do kids forced to participate in activities they have very little interest in. Give them some space – and time – and they will probably find something they love and don’t want to quit.

Have you ever felt that your kids are doing too much? How do you determine how many and which activities your kids are enrolled in?

I have felt they are doing too much and, at other times, too little. Once I started researching child development for my book, also called Free-Range Kids, I came to realize the value of free time and free play. So I let them drop their music lessons (scandal!) and have some free time between school and homework.

Growing up, how did your parents handle quitting an activity/sport/class?

They let me quit both Sunday school AND piano. And as an adult I went on to write a musical (well, the lyrics). And I went to live in Israel for a year. So either I got something out of those lessons before I quit, or I got something out of them BECAUSE I got to quit before I ended up hating everything they stood for. I actually don’t know!

Have your children expressed a desire to quit an activity or sport before? What was your response?

Yes – see above. One quit guitar, one quit piano and they both quit the namby-pamby soccer and Little League teams we had enrolled them in as grade schoolers. Today, one still dislikes sports and one now lives for them!

At what point have you or do you feel it’s ok to let your kids quit? Explain.

If they really have no interest, I don’t understand why it wouldn’t be ok for them to quit a non-essential activity. I would’ve detested my childhood if I had to keep taking the skating lessons I was bad at. Instead, I spent a lot of time reading and writing. Kids find their own level. We have to believe in them and that they’re going to be okay.

There are some who believe that not letting your child quit an activity is a learning experience in and of itself. Do you agree or disagree with this? Why?

I hate to make blanket statements about how anybody raises his or her kids. All I can say is that the belief that we can CREATE a certain kind of kid by pushing them or not pushing them is a strange one. One of the chapters in my book is, “Relax! Not Every Little Thing You Do Has That Much Impact on Your Child’s Development.” It’s a false feeling of control to think, “If I Do X, my child will turn out exactly the way I want.” OR, “If I DON’T do X, my child is ruined forever.”

What tips can you give parents of children who are expressing a desire to quit?

Don’t worry that this is the make-or-break decision that will determine who they are, what they like, and what they will become.


Read a little more here. – L.

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