What you should do if your child is a ‘quitter’


Bella was going out of her mind. Her 9-year-old daughter, Angie, would agree to sign up for an activity with great enthusiasm. Swim team? Yes, please! Book club? You bet! Ballet? Sign me up! Then something would happen that made the activity, well, hard. Her team had to practice diving off racing blocks and she hated diving. She didn’t like the book chosen for book club. Her ballet teacher was too strict. When it came time to go to the lesson or club, a power struggle ensued that made it hard to get her out the door.
Bella and her husband had heard me run through the research revealing that the best thing you can do to cushion your kids from anxiety and to help them develop self-motivation is to let them take the driver’s seat. But now that belief was being tested. Was their 9-year-old driving herself into the quitter’s ditch? They were a hard-working couple who knew how important diligence and perseverance were to their own success. If they kept letting Angie quit, they were afraid they would be raising a soft kid who’d be underprepared for the real world.

I hear concerns like this all the time, and here is my advice:

  • Don’t think of your child’s character as “fixed.” All of our worry about our kids is about the future — we fear that they’ll get stuck in a negative place and won’t get better. Angie’s parents were envisioning their 9-year-old as a lazy 20-year-old, coming to them to bail her out. They needed to tell themselves: “Who she is now is not who she will always be.” We all know the negative impacts of peer pressure, but there are positives, too: I see many kids who are cautious or seem to have trouble committing become passionate in their pursuit of self-selected goals when they see their friends doing it, too. Kids can be completely different after puberty, when peer influences become even stronger, often with the result of a kid trying out for a team, joining a club, or signing up for volunteer work, apparently out of nowhere.

  • Explain the difference between “I don’t want to” and “I don’t feel like it.” Distinguishing long-term desires from immediate feelings will help kids understand the difference between an immediate task and ultimate goal. When Angie says, “I don’t want to read my book club book,” her parents might say that although she may not feel like reading it, she may want to read it if she hopes to continue being a part of the club. This is a lesson that doesn’t register right away, but it’s worth planting the seed and emphasizing over time.

Continue Reading at The Washington Post >>

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