Challenge of parenting

How to respond when our child wants to quit an extra-curricular activity

Parents often ask themselves what to do when their child announces that s/he wants to quit attending certain extra-curricular activity. Is it all right to stop attending it? When is it all right to stop attending it? What to do when s/he returns home from the extra-curricular activity (s/he until recently insisted to take up) and says “It’s terrible and I don’t want to go there any more!” Should we support our child and let him/her withdraw from the activity the moment s/he expresses dissatisfaction?

Maybe it is just “one of those days”

Children, just like adults, have their good and bad days. Sometimes it is worth waiting and watching if it is only “one of those days”. If your child goes to the extra-curricular activity grumbling, but after the activity regularly comes out smiling, telling it was fun, there are probably no reasons to worry. If, on the other hand, the wish to stop attending is expressed after the activity, talk to your child, listen and take what s/he says seriously, ask why s/he wants to stop attending it and why s/he has made such a decision.

After that, look for practical solutions, see if there are some “intermediate steps”, if s/he can miss some sessions and still equally participate. If s/he is into sports, see if s/he can train recreationally. It is important to estimate rightly when quitting an activity is beneficial in order not to overload the child. However, it is important to take care that quitting too easily may set your child about achieving fast, short-term satisfaction and send the message that it is all right to quit the moment something becomes more difficult, which then spreads to other areas of life. Investing efforts and labour may lead to deeper, longer satisfaction and a feeling of success.

Encourage your child to continue with the activity

Many children go through periods of questioning their commitment to the chosen extra-curricular activity they have taken up. Your task is to help your child determine if it something s/he will get over, or an unsolvable problem. Encourage your child to give the new activity a chance and agree that s/he will engage in it for a certain time, and then decide if s/he wants to quit or continue. This additional time can give your child the opportunity to enjoy the activity or make the decision to quit easier. If you agree certain time of attendance, you, too, have to stick to the agreement!

Do not bribe your child

Never use “bribery”, do not offer rewards or threaten with punishment to make your child continue with some activity. Extra-curricular activities should be fun, educative and support development. Using rewards and similar things undermines strengthening inner motivation for success. Rewards and punishments have short-term effects. Your child can continue with e.g. swimming because of the reward, but it will not resolve his/her frustration which will soon resurface.

When to support quitting an activity

If you have tried everything, and your child still shows displeasure every time s/he goes to the extra-curricular activity, it is time to quit so that the frustration does not grow into generalised hatred of all music, sports and other activities, or to avoid overload. Support your child’s decision, not only with words, but with your actions, too.

It is good to know that, although your child would be successful in a series of offered extra-curricular activities, s/he needs time for relaxation at home. School obligations demand a lot of energy, and your child needs rest, play with friends and siblings and participation in family activities. Even if s/he shows interest in music, dance, sport, or some other activity, s/he does not have to participate in everything at the same time.

Written by Dora Kralj, Social pedagogue, M.A.