3 Reasons to Say ‘Yes’ to Quitting
We live in a world of overscheduling. Blame the endless opportunities. Blame the race to succeed. Blame peer (make that parent-to-parent) pressure. Blame whatever you want – the fact is that kids today are enrolled in far more extra curricular activities than in the past.
Some kids love taking classes, playing on teams, and having their hands in everything. These extroverted and highly social kids need the stimulation (to a point). A little of this and a little of that raises their self-confidence and helps them thrive.
But other kids shy away from outside activities. They have friends at school, they might play on one team or take one class, and they enjoy a few play dates a month. But they don’t seek out an activity for each day of the week.
As well they shouldn’t. All kids, even the very busy ones, need downtime.
They also need the power of choice.
We live in a country that places great emphasis on getting to the finish line. Everything is a race and you can’t quit until you reach the end.
I get it. It’s important to see things through. Finishing what you start is an important life lesson.
Unless it’s not.
Sometimes…we need to find our way out of tricky situations. Sometimes we need to stop and reevaluate along the way to see if that job is a good fit, if the relationship is working, or if the 700-page book is really worth finishing. Sometimes we need to make difficult choices.
Kids face difficult choices every day. They would, that is, if they had the freedom to make choices.
Kids beg to join teams and take classes for a variety of reasons. More often than not, it has something to do with friends. But not every sport or every class is right for every kid. And forcing them to reach the finish line when something is overwhelming and causing anxiety can do more harm than good.
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to talk about commitment before kids join sports teams. When you join a team, you agree to be a part of that team for the season. Some kids might need to simply watch for a season before they make such a commitment. To leave a team halfway through the season is to increase stress for the whole team.
But when it comes to classes and other extracurricular activities, it’s a good idea to reevaluate regularly. Sometimes a class looks good on paper, and even during the free trial class, but turns out to be much different than originally expected.
There tends to be a honeymoon period when it comes to kids and extracurricular activities. When the honeymoon ends, the stress can set in.
If a class or group causes stress or worry, is it really worth sticking around to the end of the session? I think not.
Three good reasons to say yes to quitting:
Kids need downtime:
Yes, your child begged to take the art class with her two besties. And for a few weeks it was great fun. Until the euphoria of a new class with friends wore off and suddenly your child realized that art isn’t really her thing.
Kids need downtime. Even when they are super sure that they can keep going, they need time to decompress. Perhaps the class is difficult or not much fun. Those are always possibilities. But a need for some quiet time after school is a very real possibility as well.
Teach your child the art of relaxation and watch her thrive once again.
Kids need to be empowered:
As parents, we always want our kids to be assertive. We want them to stand up for their beliefs and be strong. But then we force them to finish what they started, even if it’s horrible and stress inducing.
Allowing your child to talk through the pros and cons of quitting and activity and listening without judgment empowers your child. There are always lessons to be learned in life – learning to think carefully before jumping into something is an important one. And learning to walk away when something isn’t working is essential.
Self-confidence is vital:
As a therapist, I’ve seen vibrant and active kids shrink over time because they felt trapped and something wasn’t working. I’ve seen the effect of stress on young minds. There is little to be gained from reaching the finish line of you are half the person you were when you started the race.
When self-confidence spirals, kids tend to make poor choices. Some internalize their feelings and become anxious and depressed. Others act out. Either way, it’s heartbreaking. Think twice before you say that sticking it out is a lesson in character building. Often times, it isn’t.
Would you let your kid quit an activity before it ends?
Image via Katie Hurley