Extracurricular Activities: Is It Okay To Let Your Child Quit?

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Kids have so many opportunities these days and most parents actively encourage them to pursue them.

From a young age there are sporting, cultural and academic pursuits that are touted to engage and extend our children to ensure they reach their full potential.

Some of these things our kids want to do, and some parents choose because they believe it will benefit them.

For example, nine year old Riley Ward does a staggering total of six extra curricular activities: swimming, surfing, football, martial arts, robotics and learns an instrument. While his mum, Yasmin confesses the cost and logistics of running him around can take its toll, they try to support his dreams. “My parents always let me do all the sport I wanted, so I want to do the same for my kids.”

Riley is a bright kid and a promising sportsman. He chose all his extra curricular activities, with the exception of swimming which his parents have made a condition of doing surfing.

But all these commitments, beg the question: What happens if it all gets too much and he wants to drop something?

“He can quit if he wants to, however he needs to complete the season/term/year we have committed to,” explains Yasmin.

So is it ok to let your kid quit if they decide they no longer want to engage in activity?

Most parents fear that letting kids drop activities is raising a “quitter”.

But on the other end of the spectrum, is it fair to make them keep going if they really don’t want to do something?

According to psychologist, Dr Justin Coulson, it’s ok to let kids quit. Talking to ABC Radio Perth on the topic, Dr Coulson said, “The easy response is, if it matters more to you than your child, then you probably need to stop.”

Which can be a difficult determination for a parent. Sometimes it can be tricky to know if your child really dislikes something or just wants to give up because it’s too hard at that particularly time. After all, we want our children to be resilient and learn to apply themselves.

However, Dr Coulson warns it can be harmful to your child to keep pushing them, “ …with too much pressure, they crack, they end up with anxiety, stress and perfectionistic tendencies which only exacerbate the anxiety.”

I know in the case of my 11 year old son, a little pushing can be required to get him involved in things. He usually enjoys activities once he’s there, but he is reluctant to join in initially as he can get anxious about new or unfamiliar situations.

Like the Ward’s, I have a rule that my kids need to give something a decent try before deciding whether its not for them. This particularly applies if it is a team sport as they’ve made a commitment to the team by signing up, so they need to see out the season.

But other than that, I’m okay with my kids being ‘quitters’. After all, if we as adults take up a hobby and find that it isn’t for us, we don’t persevere regardless, do we? We chalk it up as a learning experience and move on to something new.

Dr Coulson says the key to successful extracurricular activities is helping your child find their passion. “Let’s tap into their strengths and into their loves and give them opportunities to do things that are going to enlarge their childhood and their experience of joy in childhood.”

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Renee Meier

Renée is a freelance writer, perpetual student and aspiring novelist. In her spare time she's the sole parent to 3 rambunctious little people. She survives predominantly on coffee and squishy hugs.

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