Guest Post by Karin Fuller
I was listening to Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s radio show when a mother called about her grade-school aged daughter, who kept wanting to start activities, like gymnastics and dance, and then quit a few months later.
“So?” said Dr. Laura. “Let her quit.”
The mother seemed surprised, perhaps because she’d likely been expecting to hear children should be made to finish what they start, to complete the year or the season or however the schedule’s arranged.
Since I was driving while listening to the show, I couldn’t jot notes on the actual phrasing, but the general gist was:
We can’t know what we’re going to enjoy doing until we do it.
If we end up not enjoying it, we should quit. Simple as that. Forcing a child to continue an activity once they’ve decided it isn’t something they like can deter them from trying other new things, since it essentially penalizes them for having tried.
Much like the woman who called the show,
I was raised with a “Winners never quit and quitters never win” mentality – with a side order of competitiveness.
You didn’t simply participate, you pushed to be the best.
Dr. Laura said parents and coaches often become so focused on a child’s talents or athleticism they mentally skip ahead, envisioning future Olympians or professional athletes or Broadway stars.
Whatever happened to enjoying what you enjoy for the simple sake of enjoying it?
Every gymnast isn’t going to become the next Mary Lou Retton, every writer not the next Stephen King. Hitting that level of expertise, or having a child who does, shouldn’t be the goal every time something new is attempted. You do it to expand your world, to learn something new.
I thought about my daughter, a picky eater for years.
“Just try one bite,” I’d say.
“I don’t like it,” she’d say.
“How do you know you won’t like it? You’ve never tried it.”
“I just know.”
My daughter’s insistence at not liking things she’d never once tried drove me nuts.
Gradually, she became more flexible and began to try this or that – and mostly liked this or that. But just because she suddenly liked peppers didn’t mean she was going to eat them at every meal or become a professional pepper eater. Liking peppers simply made her world a little bigger. (And made her more fun to feed.)
Once in a while, I’ll meet someone who says they’ve always wanted to write.
Since I’m forever touting writing as this cheap and portable hobby that doesn’t require special clothing or perspiration, I’ll usually get all excited and invite them to join our Hurricane writing group.
“But I wouldn’t be any good,” they’ll often say.
“How do you know?” I’ll ask.
“I just know.”
“So what?” I’m going to say. “If you don’t like it, quit.”
As Dr. Laura said, there’s no shame in trying something new and later quitting. The shame is reserved for not trying at all.
What about you? Do you believe kids should be able to dip a toe into an activity, then yank it out? Or, should they stay with an activity until the end?
Today’s post is by my dear friend Karin Fuller. By day, Karin works as an Executive Assistant at tvsdesigns in Atlanta. By night, she’s a writer who also enjoys building rayguns from found objects. This column originally ran in the Herald-Dispatch newspaper.
I’m going to take this opportunity to promote another writer friend. My writer gal-pal, Cole Smith, just launched her first ever novel, a cozy mystery (with a little bit of romance) titled “Waiting for Jacob.”* I zoom-zoomed through it last weekend and found it adorable. For a limited time, it’s available for 99 cents. (*affiliate link)
Liat Faver says
Since I don’t have kids, I can only reflect on my own childhood, during which my parents allowed me the possibilities of trying, succeeding, failing, and opting out. It gave me great enjoyment, and, because it required discipline and adaptability, a great work ethic. My caveat is this: When your child finds, or thinks they’ve found their passion, don’t tell them it’s impossible or even hard. If you can’t afford to catch them if they fall, that’s something to tell them. But don’t kill the dream. It took me a long time to forgive that.
These are great thoughts, Liat, and very good counsel. Thanks so much, friend!