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What to Do When Your Child Quits Every Activity

Licensed marriage and family therapist Katie Godfrey shares tips for parents.

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The Problem:

My child wants to quit every activity she starts, from lessons to classes to sports. How do I get her to settle on something and stick with it?

The Expert:

Katie Godfrey, Ph.D., licensed marriage and family therapist, The Catalyst Center, LLC 

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The Solution:

It’s great when a child has a positive attitude about trying new things and loves that initial excitement of new opportunities. But because she is trying new things, it’s almost inevitable that she won’t love them all.

Depending on the age of your child, not wanting to stick with something can be developmentally normal. In elementary school, for example, parents should give their child permission to try all sorts of new things, and if they don’t care for it, that is just fine.

Prepare for the fact that she might want to quit certain activities by limiting the “just trying it out” activities to lower-cost options. Many organizations and parks and recreation districts offer one-time classes to give kids a taste of the activity before making a larger commitment. No matter where the activities are held, be sure to check on the refund policies before enrolling. This will give your child more freedom to quit without it being a frustrating financial strain on the budget.

Moving into middle and high school, it becomes more important for children to learn to complete something they start. Have a conversation with your child about only signing up for activities she plans on finishing. Let her know that even if she’s not wild about an activity, you still expect her to see it through until the end.

It can also be helpful to limit extracurricular activities to one at a time. Oftentimes, children are overscheduled, become overwhelmed, and may not want to stick with something even if they enjoy it. Limiting activities helps a child to truly focus. Additionally, it helps if children only choose to be involved in activities they are really interested in, which then encourages them to stick it out.

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