It’s perfectly normal for a child to want to give up on an activity at some point in their lives. Modern Parents know that the decision to either force their child to continue an activity or to allow them to give up on it is a hard one.
Sometimes we need to encourage our kids to continue persevering in an activity for some very good reasons. One reason would be to teach them the importance of commitment.
You should mean what you say and not let your teammates down.
Another good reason to require that your child continues with an activity is because deep down you know that if they continue, they’ll be great at the activity and they’ll thank you for encouraging them to continue (that’s the dream anyway, am I right?).
On the other hand, there are also some very legitimate reasons to allow your child to give up on an activity too. For instance, when you see that the activity is not going well and it is actually damaging your child’s self-esteem. Another reason might be that the activity is nothing like you or your child thought it would be, and it’s a total waste of time.
The problem for most Modern Parents becomes knowing what is the right decision to make, based upon each individual child’s unique circumstances.
One way to be sure of the answer is to have an honest, collaborative conversation with your child – where you make the decision whether to continue or quit together.
Having this collaborative conversation is important because it:
- Allows you to teach your child how to make important life decisions by talking through all the pros and cons together, You model to your child how to think through a complicated, emotional decision.
- Allows your child to have ownership in the decision, which is very important.
- Builds trust and rapport between you and your child.
So how do you get the conversation with your child started?
Below are 21 possible conversation starters, based upon the reason they might want to quit their activity. The important thing to remember is that you don’t want to start the conversation with a yes/no question – that is no way to encourage your child to open up to you. Instead, start with a prompt that encourages more thoughtful answers from your child.
If You think they haven’t given it their all:
“What is it that makes you want to quit?”
“Do you think you’ll regret this later?”
“What first attracted you to this activity in the first place? Was the activity different from what you expected?
“Do you think you’ve given this activity your all? If not, why do you think you haven’t?”
So you don’t discourage them from trying things in the future:
“It’s ok – You don’t know what you’ll like unless you try lots of things”
“Was there anything that you did kind of like about it? Maybe we can find an activity that better suits that interest”
“Sometimes things sound fun when we hear about it from someone else, but you won’t know if it’s a fun activity until you try it for yourself”
“I’m proud of you for trying. I like your willingness to be open to new things.”
If you think they are frustrated because they aren’t the best:
“Sometimes when someone else is the best it’s no fun, but it looked like you were enjoying yourself during the activity. What about concentrating on how fun the activity is instead of being the best?”
“It might seem like your friend is better than you at this activity today, but things might be different tomorrow. Let’s give it a try tomorrow and see how you feel after that.”
“Sam might be better than you at this, but you seem to be having an easier time than Mark and Julie”
“You might not be the best at this activity, but I’ve seen you get better and better over time. It also seems like you enjoy it more now that you have increased your skills.”
If it seems like they are only doing the activity when they get praised or rewarded:
“Don’t you think getting an award every time you do your activity would make the reward seem less special?”
“Do you think people feel better when they get praise or win an award when they’ve put a lot of effort into something, rather than when they put only a little effort into something?”
“What words of praise could you tell yourself every time you noticed that you got a little bit better at your activity?”
If you think they’re giving up because the activity suddenly became harder than they expected:
“It seemed like you were having a good time until things got hard. Do you think you might enjoy the activity again once the hard part is over?”
“There are some fun parts and some not so fun parts to every activity. What were the parts that you thought were fun? Do you think the fun part is enough of a reason to keep going once the hard part is over?”
“Can you think of something that might help you get through this hard time so that you can get to the stuff you like again?”
They become bored of the activity over time:
“Do you think there is anything else you would like to learn from this activity?”
“Do you think you’ve mastered this activity. If so, what do you think the next step might be in terms of increasing your skills or interest?”
“It’s ok. Sometimes we outgrow stuff. What would you like to try next?”
Having this conversation with your child is important, but remember to keep the responsibility of persevering with the activity on them. Don’t offer to fix something or help tem through a difficult time. You won’t always be there to help them when times get tough when they are adults, so you want them to learn how to take personal responsibility for their own motivation.
Also, remember to be collaborative. I have found – both with parenting my own 2 teenagers and through working with other Modern Parents – that kids tend to stop listening when we start lecturing. Asking our kids about their feelings or opinions first – even if we don’t necessarily agree with them – will open the door for our kids to listen to our opinion later.
These are good life skills learning moments – don’t waste them.