Should I Let My Child Quit Something She Started?
Parents often believe that if a child starts an activity, she should see it through, no matter what. This can be anything from ballet to baseball, soccer to gymnastics, piano to chess. Sometimes the child has begged to participate. Sometimes the parents have decided it would be good for her to join in, and have signed her up. They invest money, time, and effort into getting the child to the activity. They get to know the coaches and teachers, and they become familiar with the other parents. They encourage the child, giving feedback on her performance. Their emotional investment grows, along with their commitment, and as a result, the desire for the child to stay involved expands.
Ann and Pete’s daughter Brielle is a second grader. She loves to dance, swim, and play soccer. Her brother Andre is a hockey player and skier, and both kids take piano lessons. Ann and Pete are concerned because Brielle has been acting out lately, not able to fall asleep at night, and flying off the handle at the slightest provocation. She may just be saying, “This is too much!”
Some considerations are:
1. Does Brielle love each of her activities? Is being in all them just to much?
2. Does she get the down time she needs for a healthy childhood?
3. Does Brielle get enough sleep to be rational during the day? (There’s no substitute for adequate sleep, which is 10-11 hours per day.)
4. Are her parents more invested in her activities than she is?
5. Does she seem more like herself when there’s less going on?
It’s so easy to feel that since kids are young, they can be involved in something every waking minute. That’s just not true. They MUST have down time in order for their brains to process all they are learning and experiencing.
The wonderful thing about children is that they will let you know if they are overwhelmed. They usually can’t say it in words directly, but if you get good at reading their signals, they will definitely be there. Some signals are: crankiness, opposition, fatigue, arguing, hair-trigger sensitivity, and even physical aggression.
You know your child better than anyone. If you are seeing a normally sweet kid with the signs listed here, it’s time to take the reins and reduce the demands on her. It’s the only answer to this issue, and if you think you can just try for a while to see how it goes, you may be prolonging the pain for yourself and your child.
Children should dabble in life’s opportunities. They are immature, so they don’t know what will “grab” them and cause them to want to stay. They SHOULD run experiments with a variety of activities, but if too much stress results, or they’re just not interested, they need to stop. If parents are overly invested in their children’s accomplishments in the arts or sports, it’s time to take a hard look at how it affects the child’s life. Please remember that a second grader is only 7 years old, and she does not need to experience her whole life right now. She’ll have plenty of time later to pick up the piano if she so desires. Let’s take the pressure off so her childhood can be what it’s meant to be, a combination of academics, play, and outside activities.
Some kids do best with just school and play. If you have a child like this, let it be, and don’t feel guilty for not “maximizing” her experiences. She is perfect the way she is, and pushing increasing activity can be more harmful than enhancing to her life. Children who are overwhelmed are telling us something … “This is too much for me!” We need to listen for the sake of their health and respond by letting them quit without fear that they’ll be quitters. Your positive attitude can go a long way toward her becoming involved down the road. Relax and enjoy the times you don’t need to leave the house and can just spend time together.
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