Is it okay to let a kid quit activities?
A mom I know is struggling with this issue of stick-to-it-tiveness and her kindergartener. Her daughter begged to do dance lessons and the season is long, September to June. By December she was already whining she didn't want to go anymore. Her mom wouldn't hear of it and made her follow through on her commitment. Now summer is here, and her kids are on a local swim team.
Once again, her daughter begged her to do it. The mom was going to be at the pool anyway because her older son loves the swim team. But she cautioned her that swim teams can be tough -- she knows firsthand because she was a swim team member. They practice every afternoon for 40 minutes and have a meet every Saturday. She reminded her how she had gotten tired of the dance lessons half way through. No way, the girl insisted, "I want to swim."
I'm sure you know where this story is headed. Not three weeks into swim practice, the girl is whining about not wanting to go. "My arms hurt by the end," she whines. "It's not fun."
In the poolside debate, we moms agreed that the reason we like sports is they provide a good life lesson about being a part of a team, working hard and improving even when you don't feel like it. I think it makes for good future employees.
"But she's only 5," one mom argued. It would be one thing if she were a teen. But at 5, can she really realize what she's in for?
We all agreed, the stick-with-it stuff is an important lesson, but should it be tempered by the age of a child? Can a 5 year old really understand what she's getting into and be blamed for getting bored with swim practice every. freaking. day. (Can you tell I'm already bored with it?)
My suggestion was to flip the issue around and dangle a reward for being ready to go and no whining. I'm thinking a gold star every day she's good about it and 5 gold stars gets you an extra half hour at bedtime, or she gets to pick the family game night activity or some other reward that she would look forward to. Another mom friend suggested imposing a whining tax. Any child who begs to be on a team will have to pony up some of your costs if they start whining about it. Mom gets a full refund if they want to quit.
I like that idea, though I'm not sure a 5 year old values money yet. But it's a good way to show them that there's a cost to all this as well.
-- Sharon Kennedy Wynne