Teaching Kids to Stick With It

How do we keep our child from becoming a "quitter"? Several months ago our 5-year-old son asked to be enrolled in 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. We don't want to push him into an area where he doesn't have an interest, but we also don't want him to get the idea that he can quit something just because he doesn't feel like doing it. How do we find the right balance on this issue? And does it change according to age?

We’ve heard from many parents who are facing similar struggles with their kids. They enroll them in a sport or activity, plop down a fair amount of cash on a uniform or equipment, and then their child loses interest or says he wants to quit.

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? The reason we raise the question is because there aren’t too many 5-year-olds out there begging to take martial arts lessons. In most cases involving kids in this age range the activity has often been initiated by 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 push them into 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 because he had a genuine interest in the sport or some of his friends were doing it, that’s a different story. In that case, we think he should be required to stick with it, at least until the end of the current cycle of classes or the end of the school semester.

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 too hard on 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 teaching sessions.

Remember, there is 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 need to determine what’s behind his desire to bail out. 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, we’d suggest 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 Joneses.” 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.

If you think it would be helpful to discuss your situation at greater length, we’d like to invite you to call our Counseling department. They’ll be pleased to assist you in any way they can.



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