It happens to all parents. That moment when your child announces they are giving up on something. I QUIT! It can be a shock, especially when it is something they previously loved. Knowing how to handle those moments can be tricky, but here are a few tips on what to do when your child wants to quit.
What To Do When Your Kid Wants To Quit
This is one of my biggest parenting fails. With my oldest I had no clue what to do or say when he announced he was giving up the first time. He was only in preschool and he was DONE with swimming. He never wanted to go back to another lesson. I was shocked. He was normally a happy kid that loved getting out and doing stuff.
In retrospect I handled it all wrong. Seriously, I screwed up big time.
I praised his talents. I praised how good he was. We discussed how expensive things were and how we couldn’t keep paying for things he wasn’t going to finish. I even threatened to take away privileges if he gave up.
What a mess!!
It was only once my youngest stormed onto the scene that I learned some valuable lessons about quitting.
Our youngest came into our family with a number of special needs and it was while we were learning about childhood development and mental health to help him, that I discovered a number of techniques to encourage kids to do hard things. To overcome those obstacles and challenges that can seem insurmountable and drive a child to want to quit and give up.
Take Emotion Out Of It
The first step is to take the emotion out of the situation. In order to understand why the child feels the need to give up, we need to have an open, safe conversation. Whether it is a project, an extra-curricular activity or something bigger like a friendship, if they are at the point of announcing they are quitting, there is going to be emotions involved. More than likely the child is going to feel HIGHLY emotional, we need to counter that with a sense of peace and a calm space to share their feelings.
Let Them Talk
Next, we need to use active listening techniques to encourage the child to talk about the reasons they want to quit, their current emotions, and their thoughts on the situation. Gather as much information as possible.
Sometimes just talking is enough for them to work through some big feelings and come back to a place of calm and hope about the situation. Sometimes bigger issues will become evident.
Is this a new issue? Or has it been going on for a while?
Evaluate if this is a new issue that may resolve with a little encouragement, or if it is something that has been building up for a while.
Are they tired and burned out?
Between school and family and extra-curricular activities, families and kids often have most of their days highly scheduled. This is exhausting. To grow and develop, kids need free time. Sometimes announcements are done in the heat of the moment. Do a HALT check (are they Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired) to see if there is something occurring in the moment.
Discuss the Power of Yet – Developing a growth mindset
If they are frustrated because they are finding something too hard, discuss the “power of yet”. This is a powerful part of developing a growth mindset. Instead of believing their abilities are fixed, kids learn that with persistence and the right strategies, they can learn and do new things. They just haven’t mastered it, yet!
One day my youngest was out riding his bike. He kept falling and wobbling about, but as he circled around me he chanted: I’m practicing! I’m practicing!
He was celebrating his effort, not success. That’s the growth mindset in action!
If after getting to the bottom of the situation, it may be best to discuss letting the child quit. But that doesn’t mean instantly giving up. Explore the pros and cons of quitting, trying it for a bit longer, or sticking with it.
When it came to swimming we discovered it was because he was cold and felt like he wasn’t doing as good as the other kids. So we discussed staying with it until the end of his session. But at the end of that session of lessons, he was actually having some fun. Then he had a few sessions where he made good friends and suddenly swimming was fun again. That was 8 years ago.
Recently he has discussed quitting again because he is finding the lessons boring, but we talked about the fact that he is very close to graduating with his Red Cross Certification and what that could mean for future job opportunities (life guarding is an interest). He has now decided to stick with it and graduate from the program with his certificate.
Remember – Quitting Isn’t Always A Bad Thing
It’s important to remember that quitting isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Perhaps the child needs more time to focus on other passions. Maybe they have outgrown their interest in something. Maybe, when they are telling you they want to quit, they are actually asking for help with a bigger issue.
Knowing when to quit something is an important life skill. One of those big life decisions we can help guide children through. Sometimes there is great value in quitting and we simply need to help children learn how to navigate the process in a mature way.
Let Them Take Ownership of the Decision
It’s important that children start to learn the power of their decisions and the power they have over the direction of their lives. This means learning that choices come with positive and negative outcomes. This will help raise adults that can confidently and maturely handle big life decisions and behave in a mature and confident manner.
So, in an age appropriate way, let them be part of the process of not only starting things, but ending them properly. You might be amazed at how much maturity they can bring to the process when they feel they have ownership over the course of their own lives.
We all need change in our lives. Sometimes this means quitting
Knowing how to navigate change and how to end of one part of our journey to start another is so important. Sometimes we need to quit something to make ourselves available to wonderful and amazing new adventures.