CANDY ALLAN: When do you let your kid quit?
Raising kids is often about encouragement and discipline and holding small people accountable for their actions and choices. But when is it okay to let your kid quit at something?
We’ve all heard Vince Lombardi’s quote: “Winners never quit and quitters never win.” And we all want our kids, ultimately, to be winners at life. But in order to do that, sometimes they’ll have to quit.
Now it’s pretty easy to draw some lines. Don’t quit school, for example.
But what about extra-curricular activities? Kids always hear they should be willing to try new things … but before you can do something new, sometimes you have to stop doing something else to have enough time. Okay, so maybe that’s acceptable – next year, you want to play soccer, so you won’t be able to play Little League.
For my kids, the rule has been if you sign up for an activity, you have to finish the activity. No quitting in the middle. So if you’re not happy on your Little League team, you have to stick it out because you made a commitment to your teammates when you signed up.
Some things, however, don’t have clearly defined “seasons.”
Take Girl Scouts, for example. Scouting runs all year long and has varied activities depending on the time of year. My daughter has been part of a Girl Scout Troop for several years. Recently, she came to me asking, “Mom, can I stop going to Girl Scouts?”
I was surprised … she’s enjoyed Girl Scouts and looked forward to meetings and activities. We discussed her reasons for wanting to stop and the fact she was, at the time, in the middle of selling cookies to raise money for her troop. She was first to say she understood she couldn’t stop in the middle of cookie sales, but she didn’t want to continue once the commitment was completed.
I told her she had to discuss her decision with her troop leaders. I followed up to make sure she had. She still wants to leave the troop. So, my husband and I told her she could.
She doesn’t want to do anything else instead. She just wants to be done.
I’ve been debating whether this is acceptable. Ultimately, for my daughter, I think it is. She’s always been one of those people who enjoy interacting with the world in small doses. Frankly, we were pretty surprised when she wanted to become a Girl Scout because she doesn’t generally want to join groups.
Her reasons were sound and well-thought-out. She argued her case logically and calmly.
Part of parenting also is teaching children to weigh their options and make rational decisions. I have to respect her choices and conclusions when she’s considered her actions and the consequences of her decisions.
Will she miss being a Girl Scout? I don’t know. Will she regret her choice? I don’t know.
And neither does she, yet.
Allowing her to decide teaches her she can control her actions and her time. As adults, we all have to make choices about how to spend the finite amount of time we have available to us — and sometimes, we walk away from things we don’t find as fulfilling.
I have to let my children practice that as they grow up or they’ll be lost later. Even if it means quitting.
Let’s be honest, I’ve been making up this parenting thing as I go along ever since my son was born. I know there’s more experienced parents out there and folks with different ideas. Respond to my column by emailing me at email@example.com, and you might see your thoughts in print in an upcoming issue of the Herald Review.