Soccer, ballet, basketball, boy scouts, and dance team are a few of the after school activities that occupy my children’s time. Life with four children can get very hectic! Now, add in practices, games, recitals, and club events… that’s insanity times ten!
Our kids want to be in EVERYTHING. They like staying active and competitive. My husband and I are very supportive of this and encourage them to join activities that they will grow with and enjoy. However, in an era where there are so many options, children often jump from one activity to the next.
My oldest daughter is ten years old, and she’s been in dance classes since she was three. She started with ballet. A couple of years ago, she chose to explore jazz and tap too. I was totally supportive in her decision to broaden her dance skills. She loved the faster tempo and “hip” music that went along with these dance styles. But, this year she chose to sign up for ballet again. She envisioned dancing “pointe,” and she knew that she had to get back into the ballet groove soon. Okay, that was fine with me. Same studio and same teachers.
Then, it happened.
A few weeks into class, my daughter announced that she wanted to quit. She had been out of the ballet routine for two years, and she believed she was behind. She was frustrated, and did not think she could “catch up” with the other girls in the class.
I assured her that this was just the beginning. Yes, she would have to relearn some skills and practice some new steps, too. But, she continued to complain that ballet was boring and that she was not good at it. Therefore, she had to quit.
Uh, really? I proceeded to remind her of our family rule. Once they have joined something, they need to finish what they have started. This does not mean for the rest of their childhood they are stuck with that sport or activity. It simply means that they have to finish out the year or season. I understood her frustration, but we had our reasons for creating this rule.
- They have a commitment to their team. If you sign up for something, you have made a commitment to a team or a group. The teachers, coaches, and teammates are relying on you. My daughter had made friends with the other girls in her class, and I could tell that they enjoyed dancing with her. As with any sport, children can really learn a lot from each other. Also, coaches and instructors make rosters, formations, and special arrangements for each of their team members.
- There is a cost of some kind to parents and others. We do not appreciate wasting money on uniforms, registration fees, equipment, and time. In this case, we had our daughter fitted for new ballet shoes, purchased dance attire, and paid the registration and lesson fees.
- What would quitting teach them? Is it okay to move from one thing to the next just because we are tired of something or struggle with it? We do not want our children to get into the habit of starting something and then give it up soon after. As a mother, I do not want to feed into that cycle that I see so many families stuck in. The sooner we teach this to our kids, the easier it is to remove “quitting” from their vocabulary.
- If someone wants to get good at something, they have to keep at it. We’ve all heard it. “If you don’t succeed at first, try, try again.” Adults and children alike must learn to deal with frustration. There will be times when we try new things or learn new skills. We may not get it at first, but quitting will not always solve the problem. I peeked into my daughter’s class window to watch her one day. She was smiling, dancing, and enjoying herself. She has “caught up” again, and I think she looks simply graceful when she is dancing. I was even happy to hear her after she got out of class yesterday. She proudly explained that she was one of only three girls in the class that had mastered a specific dance step. I could tell that she was proud of this accomplishment.
My daughter has agreed to stay in the class until May, which marks the end of the dance year. Generally speaking, my children take the summer off from sports and scheduled activities to rest and reevaluate their options. This is an important break for all of us. My daughter still loves to dance, but favors jazz, which she wants to return to next fall.
I hope other parents will teach their children how quitting affects them and others. With that said, we must remember that parents should always have the option to ignore this rule if our children are getting hurt, bullied, sick, or overly stressed. We know our children better than anybody, and we will always do what we feel is best for them in the long run.