Do you let your child quit? It’s always a struggle as a parent.
As a rule, we’ve always tried to encourage our kids to stick out what they have committed to. That meant that Maggie endured a rough season of soccer when she was 6, and that we all suffered a few difficult seasons of swimming while Adam tried to figure out if he wanted to swim or not. (He’d decide to swim. We’d sign him up. He’d change his mind. Arguments would ensue.)
It always feels like a fine line between encouraging them to stick something out, and forcing them into weeks of misery that might ultimately result in years of therapy. As a parent, it’s a tough line to straddle.
I was in the midst of this battle recently. All four kids made a big change this year. They all left the swim team they had been on for years and joined new teams. The oldest and youngest went to one team and the twins joined another. Lilly was the most hesitant with her choice, but it seemed like the best fit for her. She had friends on the team and it was the slightly less rigorous option.
A few days before she started, I gave her a little talk explaining that it would be a tough transition, and she might want to quit at first. She seemed to be with me as I explained she would need to stick it out for a few months — to get used to the swimming, the coach and the people. But a couple of days after she started, she came to me and said she wanted to go back to the old team. She looked at me like I was crazy when I reminded her we had agreed she was going to stick it out through December.
So both of us had heavy hearts when I forced her to go to swimming that day, and every day that week. She was stressed. It was hard. She was mad at me for making her go. Sometimes I felt like it would just be easier to send her back to the old team, but I knew it wasn’t the right move for her. So I stuck it out and so did she. Little by little, she stopped complaining. She’d never admit it, but after nearly two months I think she likes the new team. She told me the other day she doesn’t want to go back to the old team any more.
Lilly may not always want to swim, but for now she doesn’t want to quit. And I’m tentatively optimistic that she won’t end up in therapy because I made her stick it out.
FranklyStein is a blog by Chesapeake Family Magazine editor Betsy Stein who lives in Catonsville with her husband, Chris, and four children, Maggie, 16, Lilly, 14, Adam, 14, and Jonah, 10.