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Parenting

What to do When Your Kids Want to Quit Extracurriculars

This “finish what you start” attitude worked for me and it’s working for my kid, but it may not work for everyone. So here are some ways to handle outright rebellion against continuing an activity.

What to do When Your Kids Want to Quit Extracurriculars

From September to April, my son plays hockey two to three times a week for the city. It can be a pretty rigorous schedule, with early (and I mean, early) mornings, after-school practices and games, and a long season. But we’re a true hockey family through and through – my son has played for six years, and my husband has been an assistant coach for three. We commit and show up all season, and it’s really the centre of our social lives – everything fits in around hockey.

We usually sign up for spring hockey too, which consists of once-a-week games from April to June. It’s a less demanding schedule than regular-season hockey but it is a different game that requires a lot of physical exertion. As spring rolled around, I found my son was tired. Fifth-grade French immersion has been challenging, and he probably needed a break from hockey, but when spring hockey registration started a few months ago, he insisted on signing up.

We suggested that maybe he should take spring and summer off, but he was adamant: he wanted to keep playing. Now that it has started, he's not thrilled. There’s a lot of eye-rolling and groaning when he comes home from school and sees his hockey bag in the living room prepped for that night. After week three of the obvious disdain, we’d had enough.

We told him (nicely, but firmly) to suck it up, buttercup. Enough complaining. Own your decisions. We gave him the option to sign up (or not), and he chose to do it. And now he has to do it: he committed, his team needs him, and you finish what you start.

Besides, we expect him always to do something active. He knows that. We give him lots of freedom and screen time, but we also expect him to stay healthy, play sports, and get regular exercise. He doesn’t have to sign up for spring hockey next year, but he will have to sign up for something. That’s always been the rule.

Should we let them quit?

I definitely learned the “finish what you start” adage from my own parents. Whereas my brother stuck to two or three main sports, I was all over the place. I wanted to try it all: tap dancing, gymnastics, piano lessons, tee ball, jazz, diving. And I did try them all – for about one season each. While I never really stuck to one extracurricular, I always had to finish out the season or session because I’d committed to it in the first place. While I may not have found one true passion for a sport or activity, I learned valuable lessons in commitment to myself, my teammates, my teachers and my coaches. Plus, I got to express myself in lots of unique ways, which is never a bad thing.

I was a pretty easygoing kid, so even when I didn’t love something, I was polite and attentive and did what I was supposed to do in those classes. My kid is very much the same – he’s sighed and trudged into some very early spring hockey games, obviously not happy about playing, and yet he still gives it his all during those games. I’ve known many kids who wouldn’t have handled it so willingly and would have instead rebelled, acted out, and made the experience miserable for everyone. So, I’ll give my kid points for maturity on that one.

Piano lessons iStock

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This “finish what you start” attitude worked for me and it’s working for my kid, but it may not work for everyone. So here are some ways to handle outright rebellion against continuing an activity:

Set up a playdate with a teammate

Extracurriculars can involve kids from different areas and schools, and your child might not know anyone in their class. Find a child to go to the park with after class – it might help your kiddo form a bond with a new friend, and that could be just the incentive they need to look forward to soccer, dance class, or any other activity.

Practice at home

Some kids don’t immediately gravitate toward an activity, so they translate that into disliking it. But they may just need to become more familiar with it and then they’ll enjoy the class. Toss the ball around after dinner at the park or play music and have a family dance party where you encourage your new little dancer to show off their best moves.

Get involved in your child’s activity

If there’s a way you can help out, you should. If your little one sees you investing your own time and energy into the class, they might be more inclined to do so themselves. Volunteer as a team mom or organize carpooling with a few other parents. That way, the kids can interact with each other on their way to and from the activity.

Talk to their coach or teacher about it

Maybe they could ask your child to be a helper before class to set things up. Or, if their own child is in the class, they could buddy them up with yours so they don’t feel alone. These instructors also work regularly with kids and might have their own kid-friendly tricks to get them more involved and having fun.

a soccer team putting their hands in a circle iStock

Hear them out

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As a parent, we probably know what’s best for our children. If they are really unhappy with the extracurricular activity they’re participating in, hear them out. Let them explain to you why they’re not enjoying themselves. Maybe at the end of the day, the best thing to do is to stop going to that activity.

It’s no secret that I love being a hockey mom, and I can’t imagine a more fun sport to follow and watch. But we’ve always told our son that it's okay if he doesn’t want to play hockey anymore. He doesn’t have to keep signing up. However, it’s important to us that he stays active. He will always need to play some sort of sport, and it can be anything he wants… as long as he sticks to it until the end of the session.

This article was originally published on May 28, 2024

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