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To quit or not to quit?

What happens when your child tells you he wants to quit an activity like piano lessons or soccer? The situation throws many an otherwise steady parent into a quandary.

What is best for the child? Although these waters may be tough to navigate, three local medical professionals offer some tips to ensure that parents arrive at the right decision for both family and child.

1. Think before signing up. “Parents know their child well and know what the family’s circumstances, availability and finances look like,” says Dr. Rochelle Harris, clinical psychologist at Children’s Mercy. A parent needs to think ahead of time about what an activity is going to entail. Be informed of the benefits and the drawbacks. Before signing up, be clear and up front with the child regarding expectations and level of commitment to avoid future problems.

2. Try an activity before making a long-term commitment. According to Dr. Julie Ehly, pediatrician at Pediatric Associates, children under the age of 12 should be sampling a variety of activities, trying different ones instead of zeroing in on something specific. “Quitting is not part of our vocabulary when we’re trialing and sampling,” says Ehly.

3. Listen to the child’s concerns. If a child communicates discontent with an activity, facilitate a conversation about why she doesn’t want to participate anymore. Set aside a time when you and your child can be undistracted. Have the child talk about the feelings behind why she wants to quit. “The parent needs to validate those feelings, even if they don’t agree with them,” says Kathy Harms, PhD, senior director of therapy services at Crittenton Children’s Center.

4. Don’t make a heat-of-the-moment decision. Parents should not make a decision based on a comment that may only reflect an impulsive, spur-of-the-moment response. The context in which the comment comes up must be taken into consideration. “This will save a parent from saying or doing the wrong thing,” says Ehly.

5. Find a solution together. Invite the child to come up with some of his own ideas. He likely will be happier with the final decision, and this also will help the child make decisions when the parent isn’t around. “I can’t emphasize enough that parents need to encourage their child to come up with solutions in order to develop the ability to problem solve in their child,” says Harms.

6. Quit responsibly. If the parent and child decide that quitting an activity is best, it’s important to quit responsibly. If possible, wait to quit until the season is over or after the final piano or dance recital. “Talk with the teacher or coach and have the child be a part of that discussion,” says Harms.If continuing until the end isn’t possible, make sure your child isn’t abandoning a team. Speak with the coach and ask whether the child’s presence will be necessary at any time. Make arrangements to come when needed so that the team doesn’t have to forfeit. “Respect for others should be involved in the timing and the approach,” says Harris.

7. Be positive and open-minded. A child can learn positive lessons from both quitting and sticking it out. The valuable lesson that comes with not quitting is the importance of following through with one’s commitments. “It also shows that quitting is not how to deal with difficult situations,” says Harris.

However, quitting an activity also can be a lesson learned. “It shows the child that it’s okay to say that this is not for me,” says Harris. When parents support a child’s wants and needs, it tells the child the parents are really listening to his concerns and that they care.


Read the full story via KC Parent.

Learn more about Children's Mercy's Division of Developmental and Behavioral Sciences.