Does your child want to quit their hobby? Parenting expert reveals how to know when quitting is ok and when to encourage a child to stick it out

Many children take up extra-curricular hobbies, but what do you do when they want to quit?

child playing the piano
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A parenting expert has shared their belief that it’s ok to let your child quit their extra-curricular hobbies if they want to and revealed how best to navigate their changing opinions on their interests. 

Keeping children entertained can feel like an uphill struggle. There are plenty of things to do with kids to satisfy their need for busyness from easy crafts for kids to the best kids movies on Netflix. But sometimes it's not enough to keep them busy at home and it's great to enrol them in extra-curricular hobbies like basketball, music lessons, ballet, or the like to get them socialising and off of their screens - especially if you can tell your child has had too much screen time

But what do you do when, after a few weeks or months, your child comes to you and wants to quit? 'Just keep trying,' feels like the instinctive response, teaching them to stick with things in the hopes of raising resilient children. But now one expert has revealed why they think you should let your child quit - though there are steps you should take to figure out why their opinion on the activity has changed.

“Even as adults, it’s hard for us to stick with something new—especially when we feel unsure, not good enough, or out of our element,” Vanessa Lapointe, a psychologist, family educator, and author of Discipline Without Damage, told Fortune Well. “If this is true for us as adults with fully mature brains and a decent understanding of how effort is exchanged for outcomes, imagine how much harder this is for young children! They don’t have the life experience to know how it all works.”

With that in mind, Lapointe says to first encourage the child to stick it out. “Sometimes a little gentle encouragement to give it a fair go is appropriate,” she says. Take into consideration your child's temperament; are they being shy? Are they frustrated they can't nail the activity first try? Or are they coming to you and honestly knowing that they don't want to carry on? 

This is important as many children, especially those under ten, can't understand that they must put in work to see a reward and need that encouragement to stick things out. Lapointe explains, “Young children do not yet have the neural architecture and emotional maturity to understand the exchange of time and effort for an outcome.

“Somewhere around age 10 they come into that understanding, and from there it makes more sense to have discussions about commitment and seeing something through, and about training hard and pushing yourself further.” 

However, if your child really is not finding joy in an activity, quitting is ok! Whether they are younger and dreading going to lessons or practises, or they're older and have realised it's not an interest they have anymore, give your child a voice and respect their decision, says the expert. 

“As our children get older, it is more appropriate for them to have a bigger voice when it comes to selecting activities and pursuits, with maybe a little encouragement from parents to stick it out on the harder days,” says Lapointe. “Within this, it is okay to have expectations for our children around developing good health habits, including being active—and to allow your child a place in the discussion about how that will be accomplished."

But, she adds, the decision can only be made once all the elements have been considered. Each child is so different to the next and ultimately, you should do what you feel is right as a parent. She explains, “It’s really important that you only stick it out once the situation and your child’s individual needs, including their age, temperament and what else is going on in their life, have been carefully considered."

In related news, are you thinking about having a second baby? Turns out there is an 'ideal' age gap between siblings, according to science. Plus, do you sometimes catch your kids in a lie? Child psychologist Dr Becky explains why they bend the truth and shares best response while a new study has revealed that 65% of parents struggle to find the time to play with their kids - but just 10 minutes a day playing with mum or dad can boost a child's development, says psychologist.

News writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is a news writer for Goodtoknow, specialising in family content. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.