When it comes to extra-curricular activities, it’s pretty normal to hear the words “it’s boring” or “I don’t want to do it anymore” from your kids. In the early years, you’re testing out all sorts of activities to see what your kids like.
Dance? Baseball? Art classes?
At some point, your kid might want to quit. The big question is when you let them.
I am a big advocate of finishing what you start. Case in point. My daughter wanted to do gymnastics again after a brief hiatus. We signed up for an eight week session and after three weeks, she was D.O.N.E. But I told her that she’d asked for this, I paid for it and she had to finish it out. Once the eight weeks were up, we didn’t go back.
If my kids generally aren’t interested, I’m not going to make them do something again. It’s when they want to quit because something they previously loved gets hard or challenging that I have a problem. Life is hard. And I think that extra-curricular activities are a great way to teach resilience. Besides, if you practice and repeat things, you gradually improve and then it’s not hard anymore.
But sometimes, it’s okay to throw in the towel. Maybe you’ll try again; maybe you won’t. Either way, it’s about what is best for your child.
My daughter decided at the last minute that she wanted to join our local summer swim team. Keep in mind, she’s a super shy kid, so being in a group of new people is incredibly overwhelming for her. But she wanted to do it and having swam in the summer as a kid myself, I was pretty thrilled she made this decision.
As we walked up to the pool, she grabbed my hand and said, “I am so excited, Mommy. I’m going to make new friends and it’s going to be SO fun!” She was beaming and I squeezed her hand as my heart exploded.
Then things took a turn. Because we signed up late, we didn’t get the memo that practice time had moved up an hour, so when we arrived, the kids were already in the pool. She had no chance to meet anyone, but hopped in the water with the coach anyway. Fifteen minutes later, practice was over and she was LIVID. We had an epic meltdown and I did my best to explain mistakes and miscommunication and just generally crappy timing. It happens. You deal with it and move on. But my heart was broken for her. She’s been so excited and this mishap just left her completely undone.
The next practice was the full hour but just as intense. It was clear that some of these kids have been swimming since they were four years old and everyone seemed to know everyone else. At the end of practice, I asked the coach if there would be a chance for the kids to introduce themselves and she said she’d try next practice. (I mean, I get it, it’s chaos at best trying to get a bazillion kids organized and swimming.)
After several practices, she still hadn’t met anyone and had an interaction with a few girls in her lane when she stepped out of line and tried to get back in. Nothing major, but it did nothing for her feelings of loneliness and being left out.
So I asked her one evening “How’s swim team going sweetie?” I didn’t lead. I just wanted to see how she felt.
She told me it wasn’t fun – that she didn’t know anyone and no one talks to her and it’s really hard.
We talked about which pieces bothered her the most, where she was struggling and what might help.
And then we quit.
We decided that instead of swim team, we’ll take some lessons. Then maybe next summer, if she’s feeling more confident and has met a few kids at the pool, she’ll try again.
Some things are learning opportunities. Some things our kids need to do so they can learn from them. Some things need to be finished.
And some things don’t.
To me, summer is supposed to be fun. If she wasn’t having fun and it was making her feel bad, then I didn’t want her to feel like she had to do it. I left it up to her. She decided to be done.
And I’m totally okay with that.