Drawing the Line: To Quit or Not to Quit?

This little boy of mine, he likes things to be easy. New experiences are great, so long as they don’t push him out of his comfort zone. As I wrote here recently, he decided after his first swimming lesson (which he happily smiled his way through) that he was done. No more.  He didn’t like having to swim on his back. Water got in his ears and water feels weird around a loose tooth, you know.

He staged a sit-in during the second lesson. I dangled a couple of enticing carrots prior to the lesson but said very little about him not participating. He was devastated when he didn’t get the promised rewards afterward like Baxter did.

I’ve thought a lot about quitting this summer. No, not quitting my family, but about kids and quitting and when it’s okay. I let Lyle drop out of a couple activities in recent months and I believe this set a pretty bad precedent for us. However, when I let him leave activities they were things that he was clearly not enjoying at all, or weren’t working out well for him. He was anxious and uncomfortable all the time while doing them. I draw the line when I see him enjoying an activity (such as camp, or swimming lessons) and just deciding afterwards that one part was too hard and he’s done. Those are the times when I push him to follow through and overcome his challenges in order to learn new skills, and I’m kind but very no nonsense about it.

And so although I let him sit out the swim lesson last week, I did follow through with some tough love and he felt the consequences of non-participation. His teacher told me matter-of-factly that if I could get him to sit on the stairs in the pool this week, they’d take it from there. She told him that if he participated in just 4 activities, he’d get to play during free time. I got him there, in spite of his wish that I never let go of him and couldn’t I PLEASE come in the water with him. I was firm and he got in without me. I quietly walked away and sat with the other parents, watching in amazement ten minutes later when he decided to join the group and participated for half an hour, doing everything he was asked to do. When he got out, he ran over grinning and told me it was “Very very very very very [x20] fun!” He asked when he could swim again and told me he had improved from the last time. But best of all, he expressed something important I’ve been working hard with him on this summer when he said, “I am going to remember I was happy this time. I’ll focus on that and not forget next Saturday.” I can’t tell you what a relief it was for me to hear him say that.

I think it’s very, very hard to know when to be a hard-ass and when to follow through on a child’s requests to stop an activity. At the moment I draw the line here: if he’s actually enjoying it most of the time while he’s doing it, and the adults facilitating the activity are supportive and understanding, we push through and keep going. That’s not to say that we don’t talk about it, discuss and acknowledge feelings around it, and work to increase self-awareness of reactions to challenges, but the difference is there’s no negotiation about the activity.

Where do you draw the line?

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8 responses to “Drawing the Line: To Quit or Not to Quit?

  1. Jaime Craine

    ” Where do you draw the line?” Not sure yet Jordan, I’m learning from you. 😉

    Love your posts!

  2. Good question. Not had to answer it for myself…yet. So glad Lyle got in the pool and that he had fun (x20+!!!). 🙂

  3. I, too, am learning from you, dear friend – thanks for preparing us all so well for future challenges!

  4. Yes, you set a wonderful example…and I often think of you and ask myself “what would Jordan do…” when faced with some of these questions. It seems to me as though you’ve leveled a good balance for your family, for your boys, and while I know this is only one small piece of a much bigger picture, I like that it gives me some perspective and insight into what might also work for us.

    So, in answer to your question: I’m with ya, drawing the line in much the same way.

  5. Knowing your own child’s limits is a huge deciding factor and you have that down pat. That’s the only reason E didn’t get 2 week swim lessons this year—it would have taken her a week just to get in the water. There’s time another year to try.

    The only thing we’ve quit were poorly taught adaptive swim lessons for C. I don’t anticipate letting my kids quit any activity we reach a consensus on trying after age 8 or so…obviously taken on a session by session or season by season basis.

    I think the line for me is *my* ability to guide them through the ups or downs. I don’t dismiss negative feelings and resulting behaviors, but I don’t let them ‘win’ either.

  6. WWJD (What Would Jordan Do)? Yes, I ask myself that often, too, you are such a good example! I’ve let my kids quit things & it pains me so much. I always feel like it is a terrible example. But, I’ve realized, that as in many things, I have to take it case by case, kid by kid. For Scott, he would quit everything before he even started, so forcing him to do things that are really important, in a one-step-at-a-time fashion seems to work. He would have never learned to swim if we hadn’t done the daily lessons & just stuck it out. He spent the first half of three summers in a row just sitting on the side of the pool. Now, Jane, we let her quit soccer this fall because she just wasn’t into it & we didn’t think it was all that important for her to do it. But when she’s grumpy & doesn’t feel like going to dance class, I always make her go b/c once she’s there, she loves it. Tough calls, though.

  7. I’ve struggled with this as well. I convinced Charlotte to stay on the swim team in the final two weeks even though she wanted to quit. I knew she’d be disappointed not to get that trophy at the end of season which she really wanted. We made a big deal about how she stuck with something and then earned a reward she really wanted (the trophy).

    But I let her quit piano lessons earlier in the year. Piano lessons had no end in sight (not like an 8-week swim season) and I hated the daily forcing her to practice. I wouldn’t want to turn her against something like music when she was only 5 years old.

    Every situation is different and we have to decide on a case-by-case basis. I am such a quitter of things, though, and I just don’t want to pass that trait on to either of my kids.

  8. New to your blog!! LOVELY!

    My J-man is the ultimate quitter. Given his host of issues, this does not bode well. I have no answers, except to say I woo him as much as I can. 😛

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