By Kelly Goede
It’s almost inevitable that your child, upon finding his passion is soccer, or lacrosse, or piano, will realize several years into it that “passion” may have been too strong a word. In fact, he may utter those dreaded words that make every parent’s skin crawl ever so slightly: “I. Quit.” And as his parents, we receive his pronouncement like the conundrum it is. Do we let him? Do we encourage (er, force) him to keep going, as if his entire future hinges on him continuing? Oh, the agony!
The stink of this type of dilemma is that no neat and tidy answer exists. We have no crystal ball telling you that your darling daughter will become the next Broadway star if she continues in musical theater past the “I quit” moments — and make no mistake, if you have a human child, she will want to quit at many points during her pursuit of her passion. For as much fervor and intensity as kids can invest in their chosen activity, they can also be quite whimsical, casually tossing aside the years spent practicing and the investment in equipment and training. Maddening, right? But oh so normal! And a little investigation can shed light on a possible way forward where both you and your child are at peace.
Mother of two, Wendy Mandese, has weathered the storms of her children deciding if they want to continue playing their various sports and instruments. Her daughter Ally, 15, has played violin for nine years and oboe for four, and her son Tommy, 12, has been playing violin and lacrosse for four years. Her advice is to find out the reason they want to quit.
“If they are being picked on or the teacher/coach is being ‘mean’ to them, then that’s a separate issue that needs to be investigated,” she said. “If they want to quit because it’s ‘too hard’ or they don’t want to spend time practicing, that’s trickier.”
Make time for a heart-to-heart talk with your child to unpack their feelings. Wendy went on to say that if your child does need a change, “it’s possible that they can continue their activity but maybe back down on lessons or practice duration or frequency, or maybe find another avenue for the same activity…we’re working on Tommy playing the fiddle with his dad’s band, instead of focusing on playing the classical stuff he’s sick of.” Giving our kids a voice to help express their opinion on how their “passion” proceeds will help them feel more plugged in if they choose to continue. Not allowing them to weigh in sets you up for a grumpy and resentful kiddo.
Mary Knestrick, owner of IndepenDANCE, has seen her fair share of children who have fallen in love — and perhaps fallen out of love — with dance. Although she said that each child’s situation is unique, she firmly stated that, “first and foremost, the child should be INSPIRED by the activity or sport they are participating in. And once they are immersed in this art or sport, it is the parent’s duty to teach commitment, consistency and finishing what was started, no matter the terms — as long as it is a positive environment and experience for the child.” You know your child best and communication with him or her is paramount to assessing their feelings on their chosen activity.
We also need to consider our own goals for him while participating in his sport or activity. We know that odds of him “going pro” are not statistically in his favor, so obviously we have other ideas for how his time on a field or performing will enrich his life. Can we achieve those goals some other way?
As the mother of two girls (Kara, 8, and Kayla, 12) involved in competitive cheerleading for the past five years, Ginger Gibson points out that her daughters thoughts of quitting are “a great time for me to relate the teams I work with at my job and how every person plays an important part.” She said she asks her girls how they would feel if the other team members gave up on them and how they could encourage them to keep going. Learning to function on a team is one of the most important life skills, and if your child can learn it through his or her chosen activity, then great. If it seems that quitting and changing tactics will better help your child learn about teamwork, then that is also great.