Should I let my child quit?

Rev. Deb Koster

October 8, 2014

Life's activities can be overwhelming, even for kids. Sometimes we want to quit. The scenario is all too familiar. Our kids beg and plead for something, only to change their minds once they realize the challenge involved. They think they want to take lessons, go to camp, get a dog, or take up a sport, at least until they are in the midst of it. Then they plead to let them drop out. This change of heart feels dishonest as it does not honor the commitment that was made.

We are told in Matthew 5:37, "Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil." We should not make promises and change our minds. Their is dishonesty in turning our back on things we have committed to doing.

What do children learn when we let them quit? What do they learn when we push them to stick it out? We want our kids to develop perseverance, to be equipped with skills for succeeding in life. We want our kids to learn to honor their commitments and not waste investments made, but persisting with them to stick with something can try everyone's patience. It is not easy to hear our kids cry and complain. As parents we want to protect our kids and we hate to see them struggle.

What do kids learn from quitting?

Perhaps the motivation we need to encourage perseverance is to see the lessons that are learned when we let them quit:

  1. They learn to give up. With our permission to quit, they don’t learn perseverance. Challenges become the cue to give up. They don’t discover what they are good at because they quit before they have given it a thorough try.
  2. They learn to be selfish. They decide that the people to whom they have made commitments don’t really matter and that it is okay to let teammates, colleagues, and mentors down. They care only about their emotions in the moment without thought to how quitting impacts those around them.
  3. They learn what failure feels like. Giving up before the end, they will carry that failure with them through life. Maybe it will motivate them not to fail again, or maybe it will become how they define themselves.
  4. They learn that their parents will give them whatever they want if they complain loud enough. It sets the stage for more defiance down the road.

What do kids learn from persevering?

When we push our kids to honor their commitments they learn a different set of lessons:

  1. They learn the value of keeping a promise. They learn the importance of following through with their commitments, honoring their promises, and respecting those to whom they have committed.
  2. They learn that they are stronger than they think. When they work through a challenge, they discover an inner strength that they did not think they had. They learn the value of perseverance. They may even discover that God walks with them and strengthens them to face challenges.
  3. They learn that challenges are not insurmountable. They discover that step-by-step they can do things that felt overwhelming at first. They discover people involved in the program who can teach them valuable lessons.
  4. They learn to be part of team. It may be they do need help, but chances are they have friends, resources, supporters, coaches, and encouragers to help them through. A cord of three strands is not easily broken, God walks with us through challenges and belonging to his community is a blessing.
  5. They learn that their parents are going to support them through challenges and not just give them what they want. They will come to understand that their parents loved them enough to set limits around bad behavior. They won’t appreciate that right away, but in time they will thank you.
  6. They discover their gifts by being stretched beyond their comfort zone. It may be they learn a new skill, or gain unexpected friends, or discover an area that they don’t like after all. It is good life preparation to be moved past where we are comfortable as God often moves us beyond our capabilities. As we stretch ourselves we learn to rely on God more completely.

There will be times when strategic decisions will need to be made over which activities are the best use of time and talents. This should be done in a way that honors commitments and teaches accountability. It may be difficult in the moment to listen to the complaining, but ultimately the lessons learned will be worth the struggle if we stand firm. We can acknowledge the challenges, we can cry with them, we can agree that life can be inconvenient, but we can also persevere. Caving to our kid's demands may give us temporary comfort, but how will that benefit our kids? What lessons do you want your kids to learn?

About the author — Rev. Deb Koster

Deb Koster is a producer, writer, and speaker for Family Fire. She is also an Innkeeper at The Parsonage Inn in Grand Rapids, MI where she leads marriage retreat on weekends. After over 20 years as a Registered Nurse, she completed a Master of Divinity degree and was ordained as a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church. Deb and her husband Steven enjoy doing ministry together and they are the parents of three awesome young adults.

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