What do you usually do when your kid wants to quit their lessons after only a few days after enrollment?
We then pack up their gear, tell them we don’t quit, and push them out the door to their unbearable lesson, practically kicking and screaming. After all, we want to encourage them! But then they’re crying… and the sympathy kicks in and you start feeling terrible. Now what?
We often think that if we allow our kids to drop out of their lessons, we’d be encouraging and raising a quitter – someone that does not push through challenges. Although that’s one way to view it, most parents say that there aren’t that many things that their child wanted to drop out from that can potentially create this “quitter personality” that they’re so concerned about.
First of all, it’s important to acknowledge that the extracurricular activity is a new experience that requires your child to explore the unknown. This does require some courage, and if your child does try it out and find that they don’t enjoy it, we need to firstly encourage that they’ve tried and realized that they’ve made a mistake to commit to the lessons. In any other circumstance, we would probably tell them “good try” and “let’s help you find something else you’d enjoy!”
Put yourself in their shoes.
Imagine you sign up for a yoga class and discover that you’re the only person who cannot do the complex poses while everyone else can gracefully move through them. You’d probably drop out and try to find something else – possibly start with a beginner’s class or maybe even decide on a completely different sport. Now imagine how hesitant you would be to sign up for another activity if you were forced to stick it out with that yoga class, no matter how intolerable you found it. I doubt you’d want to try a new class in the future!
So how do you draw that fine line between encouraging a new experience and helping your child push through? Here are some ideas:
1. Involve your kid in picking their lessons
Your child is the one that will be taking part in the activity, so you want to make sure that they’re interested in trying it, not just you.
2. Participate before committing
Speak to the instructor and see if your child can sit and observe the other kids taking part in the activity. Better yet, ask if your child can join for a lesson/drop-in before signing up.
3. Direct your attention to your child’s words to uncover the reasons behind their sudden dislike
When they tell you they hate the sport, find out why. Is there a problem? Could it be they felt out of place and could not keep up? Is it the instructor that they dislike or the sport altogether? Perhaps they don’t understand what’s being asked and feel embarrassed and defeated when they can’t follow the instructions. Pay attention to their feelings and try to understand the cause of the problem. Brainstorm together how you could resolve this.
4. Normalize discouraged feelings
Some kids are only motivated when they excel or at the top of their class. Other kids expect to be innately good without putting a lot of effort into the learning process. Understand their goals and role models in the sport. Point out their effort and improvement that are leading up to their goals and explain that with their hard work, they’ll get there if continue practicing. Feeling discouraged when you don’t do as good as you had hoped or expected is normal; perhaps your kid needs some encouragement and guidance in seeing that.
Some final thoughts:
Ask about refund deadlines and have a conversation with your child before signing up. Explain that you are making a financial commitment and when the refund deadline approaches, ask your child to decide whether they want to continue or try something else. If they decide on dropping out after the refund date, discuss a logical consequence. Since you were paying for the lessons on their behalf, perhaps they can contribute to the financial expense. Discuss this in advance to ensure you’re both on the same page about what can be their contribution. You might decide on a small deduction of their allowance or a gesture of their choice instead of a monetary amount. Let them be a part of the decision process to let them feel responsible and accountable, not punished.