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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Do we let our kids quit?

We've all been there. We sign our kids up for a program, team, activity, and they give it a try, heck - sometimes even stick with it for a full season or two, but then they turn on you. They refuse to go. There's no room for threats or bribes.  They want to quit.

And this mama ain't raising no quitters right? Right? Umm..right.

But it's not always that easy. 

My daughter recently had a week long school camp trip. It would be her second trip of its kind, but this one would be longer. She was going with her school, with her friends and teachers and it would be amazing. She'd love it just like her older sister did. 

But nope. I got a call on the second day that she was away. That call had a child, my child, trying desperately to hold back her tears and not let her voice crack. My child telling me that she needed to come home. No, she wasn't really sick, she just wasn't feeling well. No, she wasn't homesick exactly, she just wanted to come home. Yes she slept well the first night but just wanted her own bed. No, nothing had happened, she was just ready to be back at home.

So what do I do? Do I give in and let her quit and drive 2.5 hours each way to pick her up, or do I let her work through the last few days at the camp. My heart ached for her, as I knew she was unhappy, and yet I knew that she was in a safe place and that there was nothing seriously wrong. Do I honour my child's needs or do I encourage her to work through it and to become more resilient (I hope) in the process?

I gave her 24 hours. Mostly to buy myself some time to figure out what the right thing to do was.

She called me back.  I honoured my promise and I picked her up and she was happy and didn't regret coming home early at all. But I had still worried that perhaps I shouldn't have let her quit. That perhaps I had done the wrong thing. Am I teaching her that she can quit anything she wants and that's totally acceptable? And if I am, is there really anything wrong with that?

I don't have any regrets about my decision (what good are regrets anyways?)  But it did have me thinking about this notion of quitting and why as parents we are so anti-quitting. Is it really that terrible?

  • Quitting sometimes is ok.  Knowing when to quit something is important, whether it be a friendship that is toxic or a job that undervalues your work, it is ok to quit. It is ok to quit when something causes you a lot of stress, anxiety and unhappiness, because at the end of the day I want my children to be happy. If something doesn't work for them anymore, they need to know that sometimes it's ok for them to move on.
  • Quitting isn't a sign of weakness. Being able to say that you have to let something (or someone) go doesn't mean you are weak, in fact I think it means you have the strength and wisdom to recognize when something doesn't work for you anymore. 
  • Don't let yourself down: We've used the line "but you'll let your team down" on our kids when they weren't feeling up to going to a practice.  But I didn't stop to realize that they needed to not let themselves down first. They may have needed a break, or rest or just a chance to be kids. I want them to learn how to be able to put their own emotional needs first sometimes. 
  • There is a difference between following through on a commitment and quitting. We want them to honour their commitments, but also to recognize when something has come to an end because it no longer works for them.  And you know what? In all the times that we've allowed our children to quit something even after they've taken a break and closed out a season or a session (karate, soccer, piano, camp), they have had zero regrets. None at all. In fact, they've been happier and they've found another activity they love that fills their time instead. They may not become concert pianists but they may end up being a lead guitarist in a garage band. Whatever makes them happy.
  • My own fears: it's my own fears as a parent that get in my way sometimes of doing what is best for my child. If I let my kid quit something, what am I teaching them? Am I teaching them that they can quit anything they want in life and have no accountability? Will they then end up being horrible human beings who live off of us for the rest of their lives always ordering over priced avocado toast!?! If I let them quit then they won't know how to learn how to push through the negative experiences and won't learn to be resilient and therefore never succeed in anything ever in their entire lives while still expecting me to pay for their over priced avocado toast! The fears and anxieties can clearly spiral. But they stem from a place of love and concern.
Letting my children quit doesn't mean that they won't grow up to be well adjusted, happy humans. There are lots of other parenting tactics of mine that may end up doing that instead! Ha! I'm joking, but I do know that I have to treat each child, each event in their life as separate experiences and parent them as I see fit at that time, and that my friends, is something I won't ever quit doing!


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