Hi Readers! A month or two ago I was interviewed by the website care.com rbnfiinbda
about, of all things, my thoughts on “quitting.” Reading the Q&A over, I decided to post part of it here. Â This is an excerpt from aÂ 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 calledÂ Free-Range Kids,Â 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.
I think it’s OK for a child to stop lessons or other individual activities. (For example, we signed up for a homeschool co-op that didn’t “do” much for myself or my son last year. We went one time and then ditched it for the rest of the year.) However, if a child has committed to being part of a team, I do think the child should continue on through the season they committed for. They have teammates and I think there is value in requiring my kids to not let those teammates down.
That said — none of my kids are in any extra curricular activities right now. My teenager can’t seem to keep his schoolwork a priority. (Though I’m hoping to enroll him in MMA quite soon.) And my other two are ages 7 & 8 and there will be plenty of time for extracurricular activities as they get older.
I am happy for my kids to quit things…BUT if they have nagged to do a class then they have to go for the term I have paid for. My daughter hassled me for ages about ballet and I finally found a school and signed her up. It costs quite a bit and I had to buy all the assorted leotards/tights/shoes. Some Saturdays she can’t be bothered and tries to get out of going, but I am quite strict about this! She is welcome to quit at the end of the term,. but can’t just randomly miss classes. She has been going for a little while – every term I give her the option ‘do you want to keep going?’ – but I make it clear that a ‘yes’ requires certain responsibilities then (getting ready on time on Saturday, extra rehearsals for concerts, a little bit of practice).
When my kids were little, they were allowed to pick one or at most two extra-curriculars per school year. They could choose anything – within reason – but they had to realize we’d make them stick with it until the season or the class or whatever it was ended. Worked for us. They picked things they really wanted to do and we didn’t have to nag them to get ready for class or sports group or what have you.
This is a good topic and one I think about a lot.
When I was a kid, I usually wasn’t “in” anything (outside of school/church) because (a) I wasn’t keenly interested, (b) my parents didn’t push stuff and (c) my parents didn’t have the means to pay fees or cart me (and my five siblings) around for extracurriculars. I tried a few things and was allowed to quit. I happen to be an extreme introvert and having to do “social” stuff with people I wouldn’t necessarily choose as friends made me awkward. I couldn’t perform well even if I did have talent, because of the social pressure. Bah. Even the individual stuff was not for me because it would eventually involve performing, which I was too shy to do.
So what did I do with my time – sit on the couch and watch MTV? No. I did watch some TV, but I also taught myself how to play several instruments, played with my neighbors and siblings (I was very active as long as it was just for fun), read, wrote prose and poetry, drew, did crafts, helped around the house, taught my younger siblings, earned my own spending money, and contemplated life a lot. I also took a relatively heavy load of classes so I could graduate HS in 3 years.
I do think I would have liked to do something like gymnastics or track, but it’s no tragedy that I did not.
My kids are in a bunch of stuff. They are 5 and I feel it’s important to keep them active. Where I live, you have to do indoor sports if you’re going to keep active year-round. And that means being in organized activities. My kids are in dance, karate, gymnastics, and swim lessons, as well as piano lessons. Two nights and one morning per week are “organized” while the rest are unstructured. So far it doesn’t seem like too much.
I won’t let my kids quit something unless they have an alternative they will attend. I have several reasons for this. One, our life is hectic and the regular schedule helps keep us sane. Two, the kids need to move and it’s too hard to find spontaneous opportunities in the winter months. Three, my two kids are very different but the same age, and as a single working mom, I can’t accommodate too many divergent choices. One kid loves dance but her sister just tolerates it. There’s no alternative except for the sister (who needs the exercise) to sit on a chair and watch for an hour. No thanks. I did choose programs that are purely recreational, so there isn’t any pressure.
If you ask me again in a few years, I will probably have a different answer. But for now, I decide these things for my kids.
I also think a kid shouldn’t quit mid-season if quitting would mean letting down a team. Other than that, if my older kid wanted to quit, I’d ask why. If its just some anxiety that will be resolved by continuing to try, I’d discourage quitting. But mostly I’d probably just say “what are your plans to keep active if you quit this?”
I once read about a child who wanted to quit piano after several years of classes. The parents were ok with it, but first they organized a recital so that the child could basically synthesize everything he’d learned in his lessons. It was a way of “closing the circle”, if you will. I found it quite appropriate for that particular child and situation.
I took karate as a child (ages 9-13) and at one point I wanted to quit because I was getting more involved in ballet. My parents made me stick it out until I got my black belt (about one extra year after I wanted to quit). I am TRULY THANKFUL for what they did. I would’ve hated to look back and consider myself a quitter. I then went on to do ballet for a few more years and decided to quit at a certain point, and they didn’t stop me.
So I guess what I am saying is that the decision will vary based on the situation, age of the child, prior history, etc.
Good interview, I especially enjoyed the part about kids finding their own level. Very true!
My kids choose to be in activities and what activities they want to do. They both play the piano and are both competitive dancers. Every year before the year starts I ask them if they want to stay in their activities, the answer has always been yes. If they wanted to quit the could, it’s up to them. They know this. The only thing I tell them is that if they sign up for dance they have to finish the whole season because it is a team. It wouldn’t be fair to their teamates to have to re- learn the dances or their teachers to have to re-choreograph the dances. I think if they were almost finished all the grades in piano and wanted to quit I would probably try to talk them in to finishing the last little bit. I don’t think I would force it though. Then they would just hate it and it would be less likely they would ever go back to it. I can’t say for sure, I haven’t hit that point yet. If they want to try a new activity they would also have to quit one of the ones they do now too. I don’t force them to do any activities but I do put limits on how much they can do.
I did make my kids to do swimming lessons until they could swim well enough to be independent around water. They didn’t hate it, but sometimes when the levels got a little harder they probably would have quit if I gave them the option….but I think swimming (in Australia where I am) is an essential life skill. My nephew was allowed to give up swimming because he didn’t like it and now it is a pain going to the pool or beach with them – he doesn’t like going because he has to stay in the toddler pool and he is too old, but he can’t swim well enough to be with the big kids. So he refuses to go at all, and the problem gets worse.
Quitting is an art–especially once you become a busy adult and need to quit activities just to keep your sanity. Letting kids quit things is good practice for adult life. Trust me, Lenore is right when she says “not every little thing you do has that much impact.” My parent’s were total slackers and definitely could’ve done more to help keep me on track. I dropped out of highschool, but by the age of 19 I found my own path that I had a crazy passion for. Before the age 20 I was a fire fighter and did that for 5 years until I realized that an education was important. I went on to complete a Bachelors and finally a Masters degree. I now have a job that I love, and earn $125.00 an hour doing it. Sometimes I wonder how different my path would’ve been if my parent’s had been “better” parents and didn’t allow me to quit things. Hard to say, but I think I went down the more interesting path that I took total ownership of. For the parent’s that insist on children continuing with team sports so that the team is not “let down”, make sure your child is REALLY adding something to the team. We insisted that our daughter finish her commitment to a basketball team. We did this because I believe in the value of doing things for the greater good….but honestly, basketball was not her thing and her team was held back by her sport’s ineptitude She is the daughter of two very physical, competive and sports minded parents. We finally relaxed and now she is a blossoming artist.
On point with the swimming lessons. I worked for our township for 5 years teaching and as a lifeguard. I have always felt that learning to be an adequate swimmer is not optional. It is something that all kids should know.
I also agree, that quitting is fine, but they need to complete their commitment. Whether it be to us parents, who have paid for, taken the time to arrange supplies, travel or whatever. Once the session is complete, then by all means give it up. As for team sports, yes finish the season, as your teammates need for you to honour your commitment.
@lexi You make a very valid point about making sure your child is actually adding something to the team. I think that it would depend on the type of sport it is too. With competitive dance the children have to audition to be on the team. Their skills have to be up to a certain level to be able to be on the team. If a child quits the team to close to a competition the rest of the children in that age group can’t compete, at least with the younger ones. They can’t adapt to a missing teamate as well as the older ones. I wouldn’t make my kids finish the year if they were holding the team back but then they wouldn’t be on the team if they weren’t able to keep up. I understand your point though. I had only thought about it from a competitive dance point of view because that’s what my kids do. I can see how making a child finish the year for the team wouldn’t always be the best idea.
I think it’s ok for kids to quit activities. I actually encouraged mine to quit gymnastics because her grandmother – who took her to the lesson each week – was putting way too much pressure on her and kept going on about how she should make the most of the opportunity yadiyada and spoilt the fun.
There are plenty of other opportunities outside of these extra-curricular activities to teach a child that quitting just because things get a bit hard is not the best way to approach life. They can be taught through little things, everyday activities and mostly through activities that they actually have an interest in.
To be honest, I thought my daughter was going to quite piano as soon as it became a bit hard. And I pushed her quite a bit to ‘get it right’ too because I come from a musical family and couldn’t tolerate her being sloppy about it. But she clenched her teeth and got through the difficult bits. And what pleased me most was that she did it with joy and lots of self-motivation to prove herself. I actually think that if she wouldn’t have known that I would’ve let her (or possibly made her) quit if she didn’t motivate herself, she wouldn’t have done so well. While now, she is the teacher’s pet and is doing her first exam in her first year! And makes me very proud indeed because she can take all the credit for it and I none.
We have a saying when starting a new activity. ” the worse that can happen is that you don’t like it and you quit, so why not.” I also try and find classes or training that allows 3 or 4 try out sessions before making a commitment. Like everyone else my daughter must finish sessions or paid for classes before she can quit. Our other rule is you can only do up to 2 after school activities and 1 school time extra activity.
I agree with those who say that it’s important for kids to stick to commitments. The other day my son decided he wants to quit confirmation class*, and we told him that would be fine. However, I wouldn’t let my daughter quit, because she’s made promises to the teachers to help out and be in charge of certain things for the class. I also think it’s reasonable to expect kids to finish out a season or a term that has already been paid for, especially if they begged to do it in the first place.
Uh, that was unclear. I meant, if my daughter wanted to quit, I would make her fulfill her commitments first.
I remember hearing my youngest brother had quit his sport halfway through a season. I recall becoming terrified of my chosen sport right at the end of the season when I was 7 (I got kicked in the head), and although my parents did not make me play, I had to go to every game for the remainder of the season (only a few games). So, I was surprised my youngest brother had been permitted to quit.
It turned out he was being bullied and was miserable.
I do believe the commitment needs to be fulfilled. It used to drive me batty whiney children not turning up to games of the sports I ran. If they turned up and didn’t want to play, that was fine. We could find out what the issue was and work through it. But, just not simply showing up was annoying.
I think a reasonable rule (unless there’s a really awful leader or an extenuating circumstance like illness) is to require a child to finish the commitment, but allow him not to return. For example, if a session of dance lessons goes for three months, the child needs to get to the end of the three months.
I disagree with this post.
Kids need to do what all the other kids do. Otherwise they will get left out and rejected and wind up with a life on outskirts, begging for food while their old friends with cruise by in Beamers with their Ivy-educated spouses.
Conformity is everything. If you don’t understand that, you’re not only a bad parent but a Bad American. And you should go back to Afghanistan.
I bet you don’t even Love Football.
I agree that there is definitely a time for quitting. But I think there has to be a required amount of sticking it out before being allowed to quit. I run a karate school and sometimes we get parents who come to us after a week and are like “oh my child says he doesn’t like it.” I always say give them at least a month first. I don’t think you can always tell if you are going to like something until you get past the newness of it, especially with sports, where there are often new skills to learn before you can really have fun.
I also think the reasons for quitting are important. If your child has given it a fair shot and hates the activity, by all means quit and try something else. But not because it is too hard, or because you would rather stay home and watch TV, or because you are just lazy.
IMO it is the school and homework that should give, not the music lessons. The child should be allowed to figure out which instrument they like (and I count voice and production software as instruments) but I have never met a kid that doesn’t want to have the ability to make music in SOME way, unless the music lessons are taking up their only time that isn’t spent on school and homework. My kids have the ability to “quit” school for the day or the week if they are feeling overwhelmed with other things, and that really has helped them stick with things they love to do and want to get better at, but probably wouldn’t have the mental energy for if they had a rigid schedule of 8 – 2:30 school 5 days a week and then homework.
I have never had a job where I couldn’t take a day off when I was feeling overwhelmed – not from McDonalds cashier to Network Administrator at an ISP – and I have always had the ability to choose a job where I wouldn’t have homework, as well as the ability to choose a job where I set my own hours and can work around music lessons, basketball games, etc. if I so choose. If I have a job that is keeping me from doing what I want or giving me too little free time, I drop the job, not the activity I want nor the free time, and earn money in a different way. And I can quit an activity if I find I don’t like it anymore or it isn’t meshing with my life at the moment. I don’t really care who I upset by quitting the activity because all that really matters is the happiness of my family and myself, and me spending my limited resource of time in ways that I think are valuable.
I think that in order to prepare kids for the real world, we have to let them live in the real world, so I give my kids those same options.
I would much rather my kid quit an activity than participated halfway.
If you choose to participate in an activity you should do it 100%. That means practice, performance/games, etc. Try to be the best you can be at that activity.
I would say that if I paid for a class or sport I would probably try to encourage my kids to see it through the current session but could see scenarios where quitting is an option.
The worse scenario is the music lessons you don’t practice for or the games where you get there late, etc. It is disrespectful to the other kids and the coach/teacher.
I am sorry if I misunderstood your post, but really? You let your kids take a week of school if they are feeling overwhelmed, and you think this is going to prepare them for the real world?
IMO, the real world will chew them up and spit them out.
I have seen a couple of generations of student and new employees come into my supervision, that have been raised like this.
1. I have had them call in, to inform me they are just too tired to come to work.
2. I have had them tell me they do not have to work in rain, snow, cold or hot weather conditions.
3. I had a couple that figured they were entitled to a half hour of wind down time, at the end of the day, while on the clock.
4. I have had them tell me that they do not have to lift anything they feel is to heavy, that they are entitled to time before their lunch and breaks to clean up, on the clock. Not a quick rinse, but time basically amounting to doubling the break period.
I do not even bother to try and educate these kids in the real world, anymore. They are so confident that they are entitled to this type of treatment, that there is no getting thru to them. When these issues pop up, and they do alot more than you would think, alot more, they are just informed to gather their things, and leave the property, as they are no longer employed.
That is the real world.
Yes, I let them take time off from worksheets and textbooks, sometimes a week (rarely that long, that’s usually only when we have a week full of games and recitals, or family gatherings such as Christmas time), but we educate year-round so they end up getting more days of “school” than a child in dayschool does, and then there’s the fact that we do other educational things during those days off.
I can choose a job where I don’t have to work in conditions that I don’t like. If I don’t like leaving the house in the snow, hot, etc. then I choose a job where I can work from home. If I don’t like getting out of bed when I’m tired I can choose a job where I can start working at whatever time I feel like. If I don’t like lifting heavy things then I don’t choose a job where I must lift heavy things. Those people may have been a horrible fit for your job, but firing them means they can go get a job that better suits them. I don’t see that as being chewed up and spit out; I see working a job you hate, and not enjoying your life to be chewed up and spit out.
Just to make things clear: I’m saying that in the real world we have the ability to not sign up for responsibilities we don’t want. What your employees did is the opposite; signed up for responsibilities they didn’t want and then complained and/or did things half assed. I agree THAT is not a good thing to do (and they are not entitled for payment for that). But that is a great example of why kids should be allowed to quit, not be pushed to keep doing activities they don’t want to do; they will just do them half assed, and in a lot of situations they figure if they do it badly enough they will eventually be “fired” (cut from the team and such).
After much debate, we let our 7th grader quit cello. I was sad about it, and at first really irritated with her. She has been playing since 3rd grade (with a hiatus in 5th grade because of a change of city/school). But… then I thought about it some more. Neither of us (parents) play an instrument. I wanted her to have a good solid understanding of music and music theory, be able to read music, and be able to play. She can do all that and more — she recently drew me a sketch of where all the instruments sit in an orchestra.
At her school, cello is 5 days a week, with no possibility for another elective. There’s also after school practice. I agreed she could drop cello as long as it didn’t mean she had to lose her honors classes (it didn’t) and that she picked up an elective she liked where she could learn something. She chose yearbook, where she’s taking photographs and learning how to do layout.
I wouldn’t have let her quit mid year, or right before a concert, but ultimately this has worked out well for her!
There is an individual aspect to this too. Some people thrive on the team / group aspect of these things. Others need to be free spirits. A free spirit probably shouldn’t sign up for a team sport without being very certain they have the drive to see it through to the end.
I tried softball when I was 10. I was a failure on various levels. I didn’t know the game (my family isn’t into baseball at all) so when they told me to play “shortstop” I was like “what’s that?” I didn’t have money for equipment or even a pair of shorts; I had to borrow the coach’s right-handed mitt. I had no transportation to “away” games. I was socially awkward. And the coach (also gym teacher) and I did not get along at all. Talk about a square peg in a round hole. Physically I was probably the most capable of all the girls, but that really didn’t matter at all. I stopped going after the 2nd or 3rd game (coach never did let me play). My only regret is that I didn’t quit sooner.
I think my bad experience is part of why I want my kids involved at an early age. At least they will have somewhat of a clue when they are of age to be recruited for school sports. I doubt I’ll pressure them to join school sports, but if they choose that, I don’t want them feeling like idiots.
I can see your point, but barely.
The kind of jobs, that you describe. One’s that allow you to not go in when you don’t want to, avoid weather, take time off for recreational activities are far and few between.
I for one would like to know just what kind of a job, allows you all this freedom.
I honestly cannot think of a job where it is acceptable to call the boss, and tell them, “You know what, I am just tired, and won’t be in today.”
For everyone out there that thinks this kind of work ethic is acceptable there are five people that went into work, and now have to pick up the slack, for the one that didn’t come in.
Work ethic has fallen drastically in the last couple of generations. And it is the accomodating parents of these adults that are to blame.
Schools haven’t helped either, but that is another topic.
I agree in letting my kids quit, and in letting me as the supportive parent quit. I want my children to commit to things they like. I sometimes push them beyond their initial desire to quit, but only briefly. If it is a team activity, and the team needs them, I typically make them deliver on that commitment.
I also discuss their reasoning in backing off, which I sometimes get, and sometimes do not.
My philosophy is to “feed” their hungers…to support them 100% when they are fully committed, and to back out of support when they are not really interested.
The tough job is to determine the why…lack of interest…other priorities on their part…over-commitment…they need to work at it…etc.
When the reason is that they need to work at it…practice…I typically push them along for a short time, and practice with them, or get some outside support. If that does not work, I let them quit.
After all, the list of things to do is endless, and exploring things and learning about oneself are as much a life lesson as is learning what commitment means.
I want to see the musical that Lenore wrote.
@Warren every job I know of allows you to call and say you won’t be in today. At most you don’t have to give a reason. Though yes they are free to not pay you for that day and/or fire you. Some jobs require you to find your own replacement for the day, but if you do that you can stay home and sleep. And in jobs where you are your own boss, you don’t even have to call. If a job FORCES you to come in to work every day, that would be a slave situation, not a job.
I think people have an outdated idea of what a job has to be, and refuse to look at the fact that the world has changed. A job does not have to mean you are lifting heavy things or leaving the house everyday anymore. It can, if you want it to, but it doesn’t have to. It is completely possible to sit at home doing what you want to do, whatever that may be, and make a job out of it. For example, I know people that play World of Warcraft as their jobs, get up when they want, take a day off whenever they feel like it, etc. that make $7,000+ a month. That’s nearly 7 times what they would be making if they “had a good work ethic” and were going to a minimum wage job for 40 hours a week.
I agree that parents that just let their kids sit around having everything handed to them are a problem, but that’s not what I’m doing. I make my kids work for everything, but they can choose to have nothing if they don’t want to work at all. THAT is how the real world works. I live in the real world and I do not choose a job because my mom makes me. I do not get up every morning because some boss says I have to. Nowadays I am my own boss and instead of working today I feel like posting on the internet and that’s fine, I can choose to do that. I will not make much money today but I have to decide which I want more, money or to take a break and post on the internet. Because of the fact that I choose to not get in a situation where I desperately need the money, I am able to choose post on the internet. I am educating my children to be able to make those choices, and make them for themselves rather than just doing what a boss or teacher or etc. tells them to do.
Warren, I would agree that work ethic has fallen in recent years, but at the same time, it seems to me that participation in organized youth activities has increased. In fact, nowadays helicopter parents tend to think that they need to make their kids do this so they can have a better resume or get into a better school. So I’m not sure whether there’s actually any correlation between quitting activities and poor work ethic.
In fact, frankly, I think people who hate their job should quit, rather than just drag everyone else down while collecting a paycheck. Make room for someone who will appreciate the opportunity. And if it’s such an awful job that nobody could like it, maybe that’s on the employer. I worked for an employer (professional) that had appx 100% turnover within one year. I liked the employees’ attitudes a lot better than the boss’s (I quit after 7 mos – and I am hardly a lazy job-hopper).
Well, I do work for myself, and my boss gets me out of bed every morning. I put in more effort, and time in now than ever. Why? Because I am building a future for my kids.
The only breaks I get are the one like now, when I am on hold with a supplier, or waiting a call back from a customer or supplier. I am not complaining, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Yes you can call in, and give no reason. Once maybe twice, and then your ass is usually in the unemployment line.
Again I warn parents that they need to be careful of the generations they are raising.
It may come down to it, on a cold and stormy night, and you are stuck on the side of the road, and no one to help. Why? they don’t have to work in those conditions.
FWIW I asked to quit piano lessons after about three months of taking them (i was 9) and my Mom let me. It was unlike her but I think she was too overwhelmed at the time to argue with me about it. II have literally regretted it my whole adult life. Both that I was such an easy quitter and that I never learned to read music or play piano.
The work ethic I speak of is not about liking the job. These young employees want to become tiremen, or mechanics. They just have been programmed to believe that they don’t have to work in the elements or actually strain their muscles.
If I had a nickle for everytime I had to tell someone less than half my age to “Put down your purse and swing the damn sledge.” I would be retired by now.
The schools are just as much to blame. The kids spend years being shown that if it is raining, blowing, cold, hot, or snowing they do not have to go outside.
There is far too many young people out there that do not actually know what an honest day of work means.
I think that quiting and this whole discussion stems from the need to schedule our children with so many activities. Honestly, kids don’t ask for all these things, do they?
Maybe we’re cheap, but we limit our kids to what’s local, convenient and inexpensive. Fall is the soccer club at our local park. What I’ve been seeing more and more is the seasonal sports turning into year-round activities (indoor soccer leagues) and asking players to commit to ridiculous practice schedules and expensive trainings. It’s just soccer. Your kid will probably not be David Beckham.
Playing sports for kids should be fun This is their free time. They should enjoy the activity. As a coach, I had a kid tell me the only reason he is playing on the team is because his parents think he plays too many video games. He didn’t want to be there. I want kids to learn, but if they are not enjoying the activity, they take away from other players I could be helping.
There is something out there for everyone. It doesn’t have to be scheduled. Kids get great satisfaction from free play and will usually find something they enjoy wthout the adults in their life signing them up for Mandarin lessons.
I let my 9 year old daughter quit piano. Since I had already budgeted the time and the money, I am taking them instead! I love it far more than I ever did when I took them as a child. I am having a great time and I am also enjoying not forcing my daughter to practice.
I think it’s important to ask yourself, and teach kids to ask themselves: ‘have you tried hard enough?’. That is, have they really tried to like it, work with it and it’s still not working? Or are they just quitting because it is challenging or inconvenient or because it’s not going perfectly? My view is that if you have tried hard enough, then quitting can help us learn that if something is not working for us, it is alright to cut loses and move along to find something that would work.
And a thought on perfectionism: in contrast to people who say ‘if something is worth doing, do it well’, to which I say ‘if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly’, that is, don’t worry about doing it perfectly, just get it done.
Still, there are some things that to us are not negotiable. For example, our kids do one movement activity per week. They can choose the activity but it has to be a movement one – so one kid is doing dance and the other gymnastics. And they do Spanish lessons -although we are taking a break now due to us parents being overwhelmed with a new routine.
Ultimately, I think the issue is not just about quitting but also about overscheduling kids. I think that kids can still do activities and have free play time, by sticking close to home, having a thin schedule and keeping things low-key.
This is a fascinating topic because I teach group music (Yamaha) and piano lessons – about 90 students from 3 years old and over. I have seen it all. Parents who call their five year old lazy for not wanting to practise for an hour a day (dude! They’re FIVE!) Parents who quit because their child didn’t “feel” like practising (although I am sure they don’t “feel” like brushing their teeth or eating veggies either.) I think overscheduling is a key point, as well as the concept of “non-essential” activities. For my own kids, learning piano is an integral part of their childhood education – but it is really fun, motivating, engaging, playful and full of rewards, because I don’t want to get a stage where they are miserable. Yet, if they were miserable about learning maths, we would still learn maths! If you are with a great teacher who can bring enthusiasm and freshness to something they don’t always love, that can do wonders for getting through a dodgy patch.
I think itâ€™s important to ask yourself, and teach kids to ask themselves: â€˜have you tried hard enough?”
I think you put your finger on it. School age kids aren’t exactly known for their patience or long-sightedness. You don’t want to let them quit too easily but you do want to let them quit after careful consideration.
We actually have the opposite problem; I’m working with my kids to say “no” up front rather than quit later. So now when they want to do something, or we ask them if they want to do something, we sit down with a calendar and work out the time and resource budget.
All too often they end up declining to do the activity. Case in point: my daughter was heavily recruited by the cross country team and the nordic ski team. She loves both but declined to join because she figured out that she would not have enough hours in a day to do all the commitments she already has.
@Amanda- I am with you 100%. Kids need to learn the natural consequences of their action and take responsibility for them. I have always let my kids miss school for any reason, and I have 4 grown and 1 almost grown children who make choices that work for them.
@Days/Broken Arrows–LOL! (Is your name a Neil Young reference?)
Our rule has also been that they have to finish out the session they are in and then can quit. Especially if they have begged for it, or if a lot of money has been spent. That said, if one of the kids really hated a class and could explain why they didn’t want to continue then we would try to help them work out the situation and then if that didn’t work we would let them quit. I think that sometimes it is important to try and work things out before walking away. But at the end of the activity if they didn’t like it they aren’t going back.
The only exception is swimming. They all have to be able to swim as we live by the ocean and it is a safety issue. But once they can swim well enough for safety they don’t have to continue lessons.
DSD went through many different activities throughout her childhood. She was in karate, soccer, hockey, baseball, guitar, piano etc. She tried them each for a year and if she liked it she went back. If she didn’t she quit. She took a lot of flack for this with some family members saying she couldn’t commit to anything. We backed her on her decisions and defended her to those people. She did commit for the time of the activity. And when she really enjoyed something she went back. She is still doing guitar and it has been about 5 years. She commits very well when she has the motivation of enjoyment!
I think there’s a massive disjoint in this discussion and it comes from an underlying pre-conceived notion of competition. ‘Quitting’ as a word, and all it’s inferences is negative. ‘Is it ok to let your child quite’ is like saying ‘Is it ok to let your child fail’.
Ceasing an activity that does not benefit you is not ‘quitting’ but merely acknowledging that that activity is no longer productive and cessation is better than continnuing to beat your head against a brick wall.
I understand teaching commitment, and following through with your decisions and I also believe that one cannot simply miss out on classes because they ‘don’t feel like it’. If they have made a commitment to attend, then they should. If, however, they wish to end that commitment permenantly, then they can, but must understand the implications of each.
I attended Scouts when I was young and hated it. My parents and I both knew I loved the idea of scouts, but I really disliked the troop. I left that troop, found another and continued many happy years of scouting. Sometimes it is not the activity, but the class and the people that may not gel with your child, sometimes they may not have friends, or get bullied, maybe that’s why they never want to go? Sometimes a child says ‘I hate ballet’ when they mean ‘I hate my ballet teacher’.
I believe it is our job to read this, to ascertain wether our child is genuinely unhappy being forced into something they don’t want to do, or is unhappy with the manner in which they are doing it and a move would be better than cessation.
Our parental role is to guide, not to force.
If you hate your job, leave, if you hate piano, stop playing. You may have thought you would enjoy an activity, then discovered it wasn’t what you thought after starting. This is normal, it shouldn’t be that one never tries, and it shouldn’t be that one gets punished for trying and discovering they were mistaken…that’s just life.
Quitting (horrible word) is not failing. A child does not have to excel at an activity to enjoy it, or to deam it’s worth, they can be the worst footballer in the world, but if they enjoy playing then they should continue. Likewise they could be the best, but if they hate playing, then they should be true to that and stop. People aren’t always good at what they enjoy and forcing them to do something they dislike will lead to a very unhappy and miserable world.
“Honestly, kids donâ€™t ask for all these things, do they?”
Mine does. I have to limit the things that I tell her about because she will likely ask to do it. Right now, we do tennis and ballet. However, she also wants to do karate, piano, gymnastics, trapeze, hip hop dance and soccer. Luckily none of that is available on the island. If we were back in the states and I let her do anything she wanted, we would be booked non-stop with extracurricular activities.
I make my kid finish the session that she is enrolled in. She can quit after that. So far, the only thing she has wanted to quit was trapeze but now, 2 years later, really wants to go back.
For me, it really depends on the situation. If my kids have begged and begged to do something, I make them try it for at least three months, if it’s something that’s continuing. If it’s a sport they really wanted to try, they have to finish the season. Then I don’t make them ever go back if they don’t want to. If it’s something that I put them in thinking they’d like it, they at least have to finish a pay cycle. Sometimes things just don’t work out too. My oldest wants to quit piano because he doesn’t have time to practice. While I wish he’d continue, and he does seem to like it, I think he’s right. With all his homework and band practice now and cub scouts, he just doesn’t have time for piano too. He got the basics, reading music, which was mostly what I wanted him to get from it anyway. So I think it just depends on the situation.
I hadn’t thought a lot about this before. But listening to people say if the kid is on a team sport then they should finish the season….
Well, yes and no. Lets use High School Football as an example. It makes money for the school, which is a good thing – it helps to support sports. But that means it is also high pressure, especially if you are good. The pressure being, if you quit to do better academically or just because you don’t like it, then the coach, the team mates, and maybe teachers and administration will be pestering you to get back on the team.
But, if you quit, it also means that another student will have a chance to take the spot and to maybe do something that they have always wanted to do. In most schools, there are try outs, and some kids get cut. Unless it is a really small school, one person quitting mid season is not going to disqualify the team as they will have people in reserve who will be happy to take over.
I just remembered my stint with piano lessons. I actually taught myself piano long before I ever had a lesson. But when I was about 13/14, I was making a few bucks from paper routes and babysitting, and I thought, maybe I should take some lessons and get “good” at this. My mom had a co-worker who was trained as a music teacher, so I started paying her for one lesson every three weeks. Unfortunately being in lessons made me feel like I was practicing for someone else, so I lost the motivation I’d had to play every day. I felt sorry for the teacher, but honestly I felt the lessons were doing me more harm than good. So I quit.
I think the difference there is that I was the one who signed up in the first place; my mom just made me aware of the opportunity. It was between me and the teacher all along, and in the end, my mom didn’t push one way or the other.
If I’d decided I no longer wanted to ride my bike in the park, would that be “quitting”? Why is it “quitting” if money is involved, but not “quitting” when it’s purely for fun?
I like your point about religion.
We’re a religious family, and of course I would like my children to be religious as adults. Just as I hope they eat their vegetables and brush their teeth, when they are adults as well.
Our faith is a gift, and I really need to follow by example by living my faith for myself as well for them. Eventually as adults (sooner, then that) it is something they have to be for themselves, not because mom and dad told them so. I understand, they will stray away, but that door is never closed for them.
I think at times parenting, as a religious person, can actually be easier. My children a little older, ask question about why we believe what we believe without it being offensive. I can pull up resources online, and apply it to how we live our lives. I never have to say , ‘because I say so’.
Renee, that’s a good point and depending on the child, the questions can come quite young. My 5yo was asking me about this yesterday. She asked if we were Christians, and I explained that Christians believe Jesus is God. Then I said, do you believe that? (She’s been in church / Sunday School and now Christian day school for years, so I figured she’d say “yes.”) Her answer: “I believe Jesus is Jesus and I believe God is God. But I’m still a Christian. Are you?” Hmm. Personally I don’t agree with what our church/school teaches about God so I said, “beliefs are beliefs. Nobody can tell you what to believe, but they can tell you what they believe and why.” Next topic. (She’ll still come to church etc. for some years to come, because I say so.)
Depends on what you mean by “quit.” If you mean not being forced to do an activity they don’t enjoy year after year (which is not how I think of the word “quit,”) then of course they should be allowed to stop and I can’t see why a parent would force a child to do otherwise, though I know it happens.
But if it means not finishing out a commitment, season, or paid session, which IS how I think of “quit,” then I would be against that. Of course, there can be extenuating circumstances. I knew a family who didn’t let their daughter quit a team even though it was running the family ragged getting her to the games, during which she sat on the bench, and then had trouble finishing her homework on those evenings. It was no fun for her, didn’t really matter to the team whether she was there, and was interfering with other priorities. But “we don’t let our kids” quit, so they didn’t, until the end of the season. I would have been more flexible with that.
But generally, if there’s a commitment made, an expectation on the part of a team that you’ll be there for the season, or money invested, that seems like a good opportunity to teach the idea that you should finish what you start unless there’s really a very good reason not to. Electing not to pursue the activity in the future, though, doesn’t seem like “quitting” to me. I mean I know it fits the literal definition of the word but it’s not what I think of when I think of the idea that it’s not good to quit.
It just seems like common sense to me.
A hugely musical child, I picked out complex tunes on the piano and learned elabourate Bach pieces by ear. At 10, I was enrolled in piano lessons, and I wasn’t reading music, but faking my way through it. When the teacher called my bluff and started me on very simple pieces so I could learn to read, I felt it was all “beneath me” and I quit in a huff. Really, I was just not able to handle acquiring a skill that required patience. If it didn’t come easily to me, as learning by ear did, then I didn’t want to do it. I look back on that and try to imagine how my parents could have helped me through that resistance. Perhaps nothing. Perhaps I was meant to completely stall out as a musician because I could not read the common language of written music. Seems a shame, and yet… it is reality, and all is meant to be, in my view.
I just can’t bring myself to force my kids to do anything extracurricular. If their heart’s not on fire to do it, I don’t bother.
Today in fact I am coming up against my child’s resistance. I want to enrol him in a special travel abroad program for 11-year-olds, and he’s saying NO WAY. I know from other parents whose kids did this program that their kids also resisted, and then were SO GLAD they went.
What to do???
Bill Gates quit college
Albert Einstein quit the Swiss patent office
Rod Stewart quit soccer
Harrison Ford quit acting to become a carpenter, then quit carpentry to go back to acting
And Famous Non-Quitters:
The Donner Party
Tsu Dho Nimh brings up a good point: quite a few famous successful people quit high school or college because they were in a hurry to pursue their dream. (Of course that’s different from quitting because you aren’t getting enough time on your computer games.)
Personally I don’t believe in putting young children in any extra curricular activities. (I’m talking about early elementary age and under. I think their time is best spent entertaining themselves, playing outside, growing their creativity, and using their imaginations. We lived in Alaska for quite a while in Anchorage and even then, we simply bought warm outdoor gear and our kids were outside every day except for rare exceptions. Organized classes seem to be a sign that you are being a good parent, exposing your child to many opportunities. I just don;t see the value. Generations of preschoolers and young elementary kids have grown up without these classes – and grown up quite well. Maybe even better than many of today’s kids who have to be busy in an organized activity(s) to feel fulfilled. That being said, every kid is different and there may be good reasons to enroll a young child in one of those classes. But I feel that a kid of any age deserves to be able to decide what extra activities they do and continue with. In the instance of prepaying for a class that the child decides they do not like, I say give the child a choice. Either they continue through the prepayment date or they can earn money to pay back what the class cost. Learning the value of hard work will be better for the character of the child in the long run than any 6-8 week “class” would be anyways.
I agree with Jenna it depends on the situation. Somethings like learning the basics of swimming should be mandatory for safety reasons.
Team sports that they ask to join – they should finish the season if they just don’t like the sport. If there is bullying by the coach or teammates that is reason to be able to quit.
For things without seasons I think the child and parent should agree on a try it out time frame and the child needs to stick with it for that time – unless their reason for quitting is because of bad behavior of others.
Signed up with out their knowledge – the kid should be able to quit at any time.
Sarah, I was never a fan of extracurriculars either, until I had a kid who would never get off her butt voluntarily. If I left it up to her, she would be obese and I’d be losing custody due to medical neglect. The mere thought of trying to get her playing outside during the cold, yucky half of the year is giving me a stiff neck.
I’m not a fan of competition for young kids either, but I’ve noticed that my lazy chick seems to be motivated by trying to keep up / be better on the school playground. Maybe a little competition would be good for her. I may look into when she can qualify for swim team or something.
I actually hadn’t read your post, SKL, but I went back and read it. Your kids are involved in a lot for five, LOL! But like I said, in some situations there may be good reasons to enroll a young child in organized activities. It sounds like your daughter has medical issues and so you do what you have to do and I commend you for that. Thankfully most kids won’t gain excessive weight if they are naturally more sedentary. I have 2 girls who have never been “active” kids. When they play outside they are setting up a tea party under a tree for their dolls, laying in the grass looking at clouds, sitting quietly observing nature, playing make believe games that require little more movement than walking from point A to point B, observing falling snowflakes, picking flowers, etc. I guess you can count walking as movement but other than that they just aren’t active kids. But they definitely don’t have weight issues. I don’t worry about it, though, because I know years ago it wasn’t considered lady like for girls to be running and jumping like boys and we didn’t have weight problems then. Women did have chores to do and I do make sure my girls learn how to work around the home so maybe that’s where they get their exercise. 🙂 We also are careful what we eat, in that we only eat whole foods, which I think makes a big difference for us, at least. But sometimes there are good reasons for organized activities, like your daughter’s circumstance, That’s the great thing about being mothers in that we know our own kids best and we know what they need and it sounds like you are working hard to meet those needs.
My mother did something that I continue today with my own children. First, she didn’t allow us to take organized classes before the age of 8. She believed young children need to be free to play as they wish and spend their time growing their imaginations and learning to contribute within the family (chores). I have her to thank for a very carefree, imaginative early childhood free from structure of organized classes. (She also homeschooled us.) When we turned 8 if there was a skill we wanted to learn that we felt a class would help us with, we had to help pay for it ourselves with our allowance that we earned from doing chores around the house. This may seem mean to some parents, but we learned early on the value of work and the value of money. We didn’t take a class unless we were serious about it and we spent more time carefully considering what our true interests were. Because of this we were all able to find and follow our desires and we also learned to pursue on our own and become independent learners. For instance when I was 10 I decided I wanted to try the violin. After pricing lessons with my parents I decided I would borrow a violin from a friend who’s parents shelled out a lot of money for a year of lessons and a violin, only to have her quit. They graciously let me borrow it to try out. Instead of lessons, I decided to get a beginning lesson book and teach myself for a while to see if I really liked it. It turned out I really loved it and continue to teach myself until I reached a point I felt I could really benefit from a mentor. I had saved enough money from my allowance and doing chores for neighbors that I was able to pay for half of the violin and my parents paid for the other half. We found a teacher and I decided I wanted to do lessons every two weeks, which I helped pay for. After while we switched to once a month and then I dropped the lessons when I knew I could play anything I picked up. To this day I know I have my parents to thank for teaching me money management, hard work, perseverance, and for the gift of music in my life, since I love the violin and still play today. Also, since we were helping pay for the lessons, if there was something we decided we did not want to continue, my parents always respected our decision. My brother tried out soccer and decided after a couple of games, he did not enjoy it all. There was no guilt trips or discussions of sticking it out. My parents said, “Son, this is your decision and we don’t see any reason to continue if you don’t enjoy it.” He lost some money from this and learned a lesson. After that he decided to do some observing and take a few trial classes for free – many classes will let you try out a class for free or observe a class for free. After some research he decided to give Karate a try and he loved it! He got his black belt and teaches Karate on the side today. I have another sister that never took a lesson in her life. Art was her thing and she picked it up on her own and by watching some free videos from the library. She sells her works today and is very happy.
“Generations of preschoolers and young elementary kids have grown up without these classes â€“ and grown up quite well. ”
Except this is not true. SOME members of every generation, including this one, grew up without extracurriculars, but it was far from universal. There is only one member of my family known to me who wasn’t involved in some organized sport team or lessons, and she was young during the great depression so no money. This includes my grandfather born in the early 1900s who played baseball as a child.
Overscheduling kids is bad. Forcing kids into activities they have no interest in is bad. Refusing to allow a child to pursue a valid interest, even if fleeting, because s/he has not attained some arbitrary age is equally bad in my opinion. An hour out of the week to learn ballet, piano, baseball or soccer is not going to hinder a child’s imagination or creative play. Most kids who engage in extracurriculars are never going to become professionals, but many develop lifelong interests that are meaningful parts of their lives. My grandmother was never great but enjoyed playing the organ her entire life thanks to childhood music lessons.
â€œGenerations of preschoolers and young elementary kids have grown up without these classes â€“ and grown up quite well. â€
Actually, it is true. 🙂 In all the history I’ve studied I haven’t heard of Little League teams amongst the new colonists 1st graders. (In fact the first little league for boys younger than their teens wasn’t formed until 1939 and didn’t gain popularity nationwide for many years after. I haven’t heard of ballet lessons amongst the pioneer’s kindergartners. Maybe they had them and we didn’t hear of it. But for MOST little kids long ago, these opportunities simply didn’t exist. Even a few decades ago you didn’t hear of too many 3,4,5,or 6 year olds being involved in organized classes. They were at home, outside playing. Organized classes/activities were traditionally thought as being for older kids – at least of formal school age. Today parents enroll their infants in organized classes. I just don’t see the long term benefit. If you want to enroll a young child in a class, that’s fine. (As long as you don’t insist they continue if they change their minds. THAT I find wrong.) However, just because some parents decide to have their kids wait until they are older, doesn’t mean they are doing something wrong, as you said. It certainly isn’t nearly as bad as forcing a young child into an activity they don’t enjoy. There’s nothing wrong with teaching kids to wait. In today’s world everything is immediate gratification. Being told, you can do this when you turn such and such age is not the end of the world or a bad thing.
Well, Sarah and Donna, it goes back to Lenore’s comment that a parent’s decision on this matter, by itself, isn’t going to make or break a child’s future.
I’ve been reading about Freddie Mercury lately. His mom really wanted him to be an accountant. He had one year of piano lessons. It didn’t stop him from eventually immersing himself in music and doing quite well. Michael Jackson, on the other hand . . . .
Beethoven’s older brother didn’t want him playing music. He had to sneak to do it. But, little Mozart was paraded around Europe by his father. They both had an OK career in music I’d say.
I don’t think anyone ever said you shouldn’t participate in extracurricular activities AT ALL in childhood. I think a couple of people said they don’t believe in enrolling YOUNG children in extra curricular activities in most situations. (There are always exceptions.) Every parent has different ways of doing things. My mother decided the age 8 thing based on her personal beliefs. None of us seemed to care, though and it really wasn’t a big deal. If we had been catered to since infant hood, maybe we would have, but we were used to limits and rules and sometimes having to wait (gasp! the horror! LOL) 🙂 We were able to learn and entertain ourselves, despite not having classes to help us along. I know most parents nowadays see this as neglecting a child’s interests, but waiting a couple of years really isn’t a big deal. You can still develop lifelong interests by starting something at 8 or 9. It doesn’t have to begin at 4. 🙂 And by beginning when they are a bit older they know a bit more about what really interests them. And certainly if they think they love soccer at 5, get them a soccer ball and encourage them to play outside with their friends with it. Or if they think they love ballet, get them a ballet outfit and a CD of classical music and maybe even a DVD of ballet lessons and let them twirl to their little hearts content and put on “shows” for Mommy and Daddy. But I just don’t see that formal lessons are a necessity or that you will ruin them if you don’t get them. When they are little they love everything, and paying for them to show you they love everything may be fine for some, but I’d rather they love everything for free and feel free to explore everything they love without the commitment of formal classes and lessons. 😉
These last few comments remind me of an episode of “Leave it to Beaver” I watched with my kids yesterday. Beaver and Wally went to sign up for Boy Scouts and Beaver was told at age 8 he was too young, so he sadly walked home alone. Instead of trying to find something else for him to do, his parents told him that Wally was older and when he got older he would get to do activities, too. Then they basically told him to go outside and play. I suppose nowadays they would have rallied together a group of parents to form a group for the younger kids so they wouldn’t feel left out, LOL. 🙂
Sarah – Well, yes, if you are talking colonists and pioneers, you are probably correct. Considering baseball wasn’t invented for another 200 years, I’d be really surprised if colonist children had baseball teams. If you are talking recent history, my grandparents and parents contradict your research as all were involved in lessons and sports teams during early elementary school.
I didn’t say it was wrong not to take classes. I completely agree with SKL that neither choice is going to make or break a child. Few lives are determined by participation in sports or lessons at all. I hope my daughter finds activities that she enjoys throughout life in her extracurricular activities. I have no illusions that she will one day be a professional dancer or tennis player.
I do think it is wrong to set arbitrary dates to do anything. I don’t see any point in limiting things based on some arbitrary age you likely decided before the child was even born and pulled out of thin air. I prefer to see people dealt with on an individual basis. I can’t overrule the law so there is nothing I can do about somethings but, in general, I believe decisions should be made based on interests, maturity, sense of responsibility and not age.
“Thereâ€™s nothing wrong with teaching kids to wait. In todayâ€™s world everything is immediate gratification. Being told, you can do this when you turn such and such age is not the end of the world or a bad thing.”
I don’t see why saying that arbitrary ages are bad instantly means that I think kids should never have to wait and should be given immediate gratification. I tell my child “no” to things that I don’t believe that she ready for all the time. I just don’t insist she waits until some date I decided before she was born to do them for no reason other than I already decided that date and I am going to stick to it. I prefer to judge people based on themselves and not the day on the calendar.
Donna, your grandfather was on an organized baseball team for young elementary kids in the early 1900’s? That’s certainly unusual. If you study history these organised teams led by an adult weren’t commonly around for at least another half a century. (Little league for young teams wasn’t even formed until 1939.) I’m certainly not calling you a liar. Just saying he grew up in an unusual circumstance. Most kids in those days, historically speaking, played ball at recess or just gathered together after school themselves to play. It wasn’t usual to be on an organised team led by adults. In fact your grandfather is the first I’ve ever heard of. 🙂
Donna, you said that having children wait until a certain age determined by the parent by was a bad thing. I simply responded that having a child wait is not a bad thing. I wasn’t saying that you never make your child wait. But it ISN’T something terrible and the end of the world is a parent decided to let their young child explore lots of interests at their free will without enrolling them in a formal class with rules and expectations set by adults. It’s a different philosophy but it’s not a bad one. I don’t see that these parents are denying their children anything. With a little creativity, you can explore interests without being in a formal class. That’s all some of us are saying. What about that list of all the long lists of interests your 6 year old has, but that there is no access to classes? (I believe you mentioned karate, piano, gymnastics, trapeze, hip hop dance and soccer.) Are you denying her interest in something because there are no classes available. I’m sure you are not. If she’s really into soccer I’m sure you have bought her a soccer ball and kicked it around with her and made make shift goals and encouraged her to play soccer with her friends. Keyboards are very inexpensive, so I’m sure if you haven’t already, you will buy her a keyboard and a lesson book she can go through on her own to learn and practice. Gymnastics is easy with a little creativity outside and a swingset. A trapeze can easily and inexpensively be set up in a doorway of your house for her to swing to her little heart’s content. Hip hop dance can be done with a DVD from the library and a couple of CDs. By letting her try all of these things in an inexpensive free time way in the home (she doesn’t HAVE to do any of them – it’s all just part of her play) you will quickly discover which ones she is really in to and which are just the product of a normal small child loving anything but not necessarily wanting to stick with everything. Then when opportunities arrive, you’ll know which ones she would really enjoy pursuing. Obviously this isn’t the only way to parent. It’s actually unpopular, as we see most parents are very anxious to enroll their small children in formal classes. But I’ve seen good things from waiting and certainly no bad. This is my own personal experience and every parent has to make their own decisions based on their own child. But we shouldn’t say that just because we have chosen a certain way that another way is always wrong for every one else. If you go back and read our posts, you’ll find that Sarah and I have both said that even though we believe this way, we acknowledge that not every kid would benefit from this way and there may be good reasons to enroll a young child in organised activities.
@Hannah–Would it be possible to amend “homemade gymnastics equipment” to “open gym at the YMCA?” They have proper gymnastics equipment there, and people to supervise, and it’s much safer than a child doing flips on a swingset, or a makeshift trapeze set up in a doorway. At the same time, since it’s “open gym,” a child could explore gymnastics at his or her leisure, but in a safe environment, possibly make some friends in the process, and through that process, decide whether or not to take a formal gymnastics class. I know it’s less free-range (and a bit more expensive) than doing it the “DIY” way, but I’ve seen/heard/read too many horror stories about children getting broken bones, concussions, etc., by doing gymnastics improperly. I’m not talking about cartwheels on the lawn; that’s fine, I meant things like children trying to do flying somersaults off of beds (like my brother did, which resulted in an ER run), or attempting to copy Olympic gymnastic bar routines on the playground, or any number of things that would be relatively safe if done on proper equipment with mats underneath, but can be extremely dangerous otherwise.
P.S., My brother and I had a passing interest in “karate” when we were kids, from watching the smash hit TV series of the 90’s, “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.” However, this interest manifested itself in “playing Power Rangers,” wherein my brother and I would act out elaborate scenes from the show (and often make up our own). Fine, right? Creative play is a good thing, right? Well, it always ended up with us beating the living daylights out of each other, and in the end, my parents cancelled our cable TV subscription, which was not restored until the summer after my first year of university. Anyway, looking back, I think it would have been better to enroll us in a formal karate class. That wouldn’t have been easy at the time, since my dad worked full-time, and my mom was in law school, but since there was a recreation centre within walking distance of my brother’s and my school at the time, we could have probably gotten ourselves there after school, and my dad could have picked us up after work. I don’t know why nobody thought of it at the time.
Emily, we all have to make choices based on our own beliefs and children. So if you have a child interested in gymnastics or karate and you are afraid of them hurting themselves and want to sign them up for a class they will be well supervised, then that is your prerogative, as their mother. You know what is best for your own kids. This is just something we believe in. Maybe it’s because we homeschool, but our little kids really aren’t going out of their way begging to take lots of classes. (When kids are in school I think there may be more peer influence of somebody taking something and so your child wants to try it, too.) If I had a kid who was adamantly interested in something in particular and continued to be over time I might reconsider. The age 8 thing is just a general guideline our family uses. Nothing more. I just don’t feel like early childhood is the time for formal classes, in general. I have so many friends who proudly announce their child is taking ballet. Then a few months later say she got tired of that so now we’re trying gymnastics. Then in a few months we’re switching to soccer. There’s nothing wrong with this lifestyle if you don’t mind shuffling your young child to all these classes and shelling out money for them. We just prefer a more simplistic lifestyle, that’s all. Right now my kids are all outside playing. My 8 year old is riding his bike around the neighborhood with a friend of his. My 6 and 4 year olds are making mud pies for a tea party they are hosting for the backyard fairies they tell me live in our trees and my 2 year old is playing in his sandbox. They are happy, healthy, and very busy enjoying their childhood. I just don’t see a need for formal classes for them right now and I guess they are too busy having fun to ask for them. 🙂
@Hannah–I’m not a mother, I was just a bit alarmed at the idea of putting up a homemade trapeze in a doorway, and allowing a child to flip to his or her heart’s content, or encouraging a child to perform gymnastics on what might be a flimsy metal-tubing swing set that’s not cemented or weighted to the ground, or on a tree branch that might snap and break. Kids are creative too–a bed can easily become a trampoline, and a fence (or even the ridge of a roof, like in Anne of Green Gables) can become a balance beam, and honestly, that can become a problem. If the choices are to either enroll a child in gymnastics from the time they can walk, or wait until they’re old enough to appreciate it, then fine…..but if the choices are formal gymnastics class, open gym, or DIY gymnastics equipment around the house and the yard, then I think the first two options make much more sense. Also, I don’t really think open gym counts as a formal class, because it’s entirely child-directed, with hands-off supervision to ensure safety.
If it were any other activity, like, say, soccer, piano, or art, then I agree, it’d be fine to have the child kick a ball around the backyard, or teach them to play Chopsticks or whatever at home, or draw and paint with them in the kitchen, but I think that gymnastics instruction (beyond basic moves like somersaults, handstands, and cartwheels) is something that should probably be done with professional instruction, on proper equipment.
The thing is, even if you enroll them in gymnastics, a child who is really set on doing it is going to do these things, regardless. In fact, maybe even more so, since they are doing it in class each week. So a 5 year old who wants to jump, and only gets to do it for a few minutes each week in gymnastics class, will have her appetite increased for jumping perhaps even more and will most likely try to do it on the bed at home – unless you make it a strict rule that we do not jump on the bed and enforce consequences for it – which you can do regardless of whether or not they take gymnastics. And honestly, even then, some kids will still do it. 🙂 My friend’s 5 year old daughter has been injured – just normal bumps and bruises, thankfully – by doing gymnastic stuff in her home and on her swingset that she learned in gymnastic class. Her mother has forbid it, but she’s just one of those kids that likes to push limits and is very headstrong. So unless they are older, I just don’t see where taking a formal class is going to ensure their safety. Some kids will listen to house rules and some will need a bit more supervision. A great solution for a little jumper is actually a mattress on the floor. They will get some jumping in, but not high enough to pose a great danger of being hurt. I once babysat for family who had one on the floor of their playroom and I remember their 4 year old boy could do whole body flips and he learned just by jumping on the mattress. No gymnastics. In fact, he never took gymnastics. It was more about having fun moving his body for him, then it was a formal class with instruction and becoming a gymnast. And his parents were smart enough to provide their little boys with equipment needed to move, but not pose great risks of injury. Also, a trapeze in the doorway is actually a very safe thing. They make toy trapezes just for that purpose. It’s a great way to burn off energy on rainy days. We have one and our kids love it. They actually sell them on onestepahead.com, which is normally a very anti free range site with some very ridiculous over the top safety equipment. So the fact that even they sell it, tells me it’s not that radical. 😉 They are very common on backyard swingsets and at parks. It’s a normal childhood toy, and has been for a long time. I know it’s hard to worry about kids hurting themselves, but sometimes we just have to relax and realize that mostly they will be fine and try hard as we can, we can’t always keep them safe, nor should we try.
On another note *of a teasing nature*, I imagine after watching you and your brother beat each other up doing Karate at home, your parents probably figured if they had you trained by a professional, you’d be even more proficient in killing each other, LOL. 😉
I’m not sure whether I would have gone out of my way to enroll my kids in “activities” if both of them enjoyed moving on their own. Initially I put them in tot gymnastics because they didn’t get any other time with kids. Then when they went to preschool/daycare, their school had coaches come in during the day for a very reasonable price, so I took advantage of that up through KG. Now they are in 1st so I had to decide what to do. I decided based on my individual kids’ issues. If I believed they’d run the neighborhood outside of school like I did, I might have opted for maybe one movement activity plus piano lessons.
I do agree that it’s best to have them at least learn swimming and some martial art/self-defense. They could learn those without being in a structured group activity, though.
@Hannah–About the doorway trapezes, I’d be afraid of a child either smacking into the doorframe, being accidentally hit by the door (if someone closes it without looking while the child is on the trapeze), or, most likely, falling off the trapeze onto a hardwood or tiled floor. As for the karate thing, my brother and I idolized the Power Rangers (lol), and we wanted to be like them, so we would have likely “only used our martial arts skills to defend ourselves and others,” as they said so often on the show. The reason why we didn’t get to take karate (and why I had to quit figure skating, and cut back on horseback riding) was, as I said, because my mom was in law school, and my dad worked full time, so logistically, extra-curricular activities just couldn’t happen on a regular basis. I’m sort of looking into taking karate now, as an adult, but so much of it boils down to time, money, scheduling, and transportation issues.
P.S., Carpet isn’t necessarily a safe surface to fall on. My bedroom floor is carpeted, but when my brother landed headfirst on it while trying to perform gymnastics off my bed, he was still knocked unconscious.
I didn’t take the time to read the above 75 comments, so forgive me if I echo a previous one, but if a parent doesn’t want their kid to quit or think the kid might maybe change their mind they could make a deal to go for it one more year. This depends on the age of the child of course. I wouldn’t push a three year old for one full year.
Both of my kids are in swim classes (ages 5 and nearly 2) and right now both of them love it. The classes are month to month and occasionally we take a month off and just go on trips to the zoo or museum instead.
I think parents are allowed to have their own convictions separate from their kids. If they grow up and disagree with you it is okay. I think we have a lot of fear about hurting our kids. We probably will. Just like our parents. It’s life and its why we need to believe in something bigger than ourselves or our parents.