Why Kids Quit – And What to Do About It

Hello everyone! Spring is in the air, and with it comes warmer weather, greener trees, and a new round of spring sports! Whether this is a child’s first attempt at whichever activity they choose, or if they are a “veteran” of the sport at hand, there is bound to be a time when your child experiences the desire to quit. Why does this happen, and what can we possibly do about it?

First of all, quitting can be a good thing. Whether it’s baseball, soccer, dance, or martial arts, if a child truly does not want to continue with their sport of choice, or if it is negatively impacting their health or grades, it is a sign of strength to speak up and express their feelings.

However, more often than not the desire to quit comes from experiencing some type of difficulty, stress, or failure all of which are vitally important parts of the learning process. If a child gives in to the urge to quit, it can become easier and easier to quit and soon the desire to give up will appear anytime there is some type of difficulty.

So when our kid says “I quit,” what do we do? Lets understand some reasons why kids want to quit:

– They are not progressing as quickly as they want to, or perhaps not at all
– The feeling of disappointing teammates or coaches
– The perception that they are not good at it, especially in comparison to others
– Their best efforts are still not getting them to where they want to be
– A friend quit, so they want to as well
– They have experienced some kind of defeat (lost a game, fell during a routine, failed a belt test, etc.)
– Bullying

How can we help our children avoid or deal with this feeling, even when it feels like their mind is made up and they want out? Well, the earlier you can communicate to them the potential challenges they will face, the better…especially if it is before any commitments are made. Help them understand what they need to do to break through the learning curve, and manage their expectations. We don’t want to dissuade them from trying, but it is wise let them know what difficulties lie ahead. We also want to make sure they understand that even though some difficulty is almost guaranteed, it is not impossible to overcome!

As a parent, it is important to remember that we must remain empathetic to our child when they hit this point. Avoid showing frustration, and instead try to get to the root of the issue.

Some questions that could give some insight are: “You were really excited to do this at first, what changed?”, “Are you disappointed with how you are doing?”, “Is someone hurting you, physically or emotionally?”, and “Would you like to play the same sport/activity, but on a different team/somewhere else?”

In martial arts, we talk about the importance of perseverance all the time. Not giving up in the face of difficulty is a core tenet that we believe is critical to install in all of us, and especially in our kids. I have seen many students get to the point of wanting to quit, and do just that. I have also had many break through that point, and go on to be their best! If you feel like your child does indeed need to stick by their sport, remind them of the commitment made by them and you (buying equipment, signing up for a season/term, etc) and that they at least have to finish what they signed up for. If after they still want to quit or do something else, they at least fulfilled their commitment.

If we, as parents and coaches, can show empathy and belief in our children, and help guide them through challenges, difficulties, and defeats, we are setting them up for future success. They will have learned that if they want to achieve something, as difficult as it may be, quitting is not how to reach that goal. Work hard, and come out smiling on the other side!

Until next time.

-Derek Field


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