Creative Child

Should I Let My Kid Quit?

by Mary Reckmeyer

When your kids come to you and tell you they want to quit — whether it’s soccer, debate, guitar or ballet — it’s pretty disappointing. Let's face it. You think about all the time and money you and your children have invested in those activities. You’re proud of them and their accomplishments. Maybe you even entertained ideas of a future career path or scholarship opportunities for their extracurricular achievements.

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I remember wanting to play the guitar when I was 11 years old. I thought it would look cool and that maybe I would end up on stage with a little practice. After spending many Saturdays window-shopping with my dad at music stores, he finally broke down and bought me a used guitar along with lessons.

I practiced until calluses formed on my fingertips, and my parents would listen appreciatively. After six months, I learned to play Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” but I also learned that I didn’t have as much passion or talent for the guitar as I thought I would. I told my dad I wanted to quit. I didn’t really have time for it anymore (because 11-year-old girls are very busy).

The reality, of course, was that I had tried playing guitar and realized that there were other things I enjoyed more, learned more quickly, and could become more passionate for through practice.

In other words, I tried to play the guitar and found out I wasn’t very good at it.

Did my dad know I wouldn’t be good at the guitar when he signed me up for lessons? No doubt he had some idea. I had also struggled with piano lessons, and the church choir teacher once told me it would be OK if I just mouthed the words instead of singing out loud.

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But when I was growing up, my parents always looked for what interested my three siblings and me and what we were passionate about, however big or small. We knew that none of us needed to be like the others. We felt like our parents appreciated us for our uniqueness.

Appreciating Your Kids’ Natural Talents

People need to find what resonates with them. That might mean changing an activity, or it might mean sticking with one.

When I spoke with a man named William, he told me about his daughter Terry. She was a highly ranked high school swimmer who often placed in the top spot at swim meets. Her coaches predicted that in another year, she would break the school record and qualify for state.

One day, Terry told her father that she wanted to quit the swim team. William was shocked. He wondered why she might be feeling this way: Was she not getting along with the coach or her teammates? Was swimming taking time away from her new boyfriend? Were expectations of her potential too high? Was she simply burned out?

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William didn’t want Terry to regret a quick decision. He knew that she felt a responsibility to her team and that she would be disappointed if she didn’t fully develop her swimming talents. He knew that she didn’t want to let her father, herself or the team down. So he asked her some questions and gave her some things to think about. But he let her make the decision. And it worked. Terry stayed on the swim team and broke the school record the following year.

Kids need to learn that even with talent, it takes practice to get really good at something. But if your children are not learning, engaged or improving at an activity, it might not get better. If they don’t have the talent and they don’t like the activity, quitting might be a good decision.


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