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Ask the Experts

Should I Let My Child Quit?

By Dr. Ron Taffel, Family Therapist

Question:

My daughter just told me that she wants to quit her soccer team. She said this through tears, then went on to explain that, in her opinion, she's not good enough to play on the team. Apparently, the coach yelled at her in front of the other kids for not trying hard enough.

I'm in a quandary as to what to do. I don't want to force her to continue with something if she really doesn't want to (I was in many similar situations myself as a kid and know what that feels like). However, I think that if she tried a little harder, she would do just fine. I am worried that if I let her quit that I will send a message that if something is too hard, whether it's academics or sports, it's okay to give up. She's used to doing well with little to no effort. Working hard to achieve a level of skill or mastery is a foreign concept to her. Should I push her to work harder? Or should I let her quit?

Answer:

Ah, this is one of the trickiest ongoing decisions a parent must make over and over again. I immediately relate to it with our own children. Here's what may work for you. Speak to your daughter's coach first. Find out what happened in this incident without putting the coach on the defensive. Remember, with teachers, coaches and other responsible adults in our kids' lives, you're always better off creating an ally. Explain your quandary to the coach and the two of you may come up with a small adjustment-coach's tone, whom she's paired off with, when/how instruction is offered. It's amazing how a child's feelings toward sticking it out can change with these simple mid-course corrections. "Trying hard" in this case means that we parents try to help coaches and kids adapt to each other a little, then we can ask the same kind of "trying" from our kids.


Dr. Ron Taffel is a noted child and family therapist, and author of Parenting by Heart, Why Parents Disagree, Nurturing Good Children Now, The Second Family, and a guide for child professionals, Getting Through to Difficult Kids and Parents. He consults with and lectures at schools and community organizations around the country. He lives with his wife and children in New York City.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

01/23/2012:
"stupid. people are looking for a "yes" or "no". not, "we'll try this, and then you decide for yourself! "
07/19/2010:
"I believe very much in commitment. However, you have to follow your parental instincts and try to know your child's coach. Two years ago, my son tried out for many soccer teams, then one coach asked me if my son would like to join his team to which I said that I have to talk to my son. Then he approached my son to ask him the same question so my 9-year-old told accepted the offer. I didn't feel comfortable because that coach didn't have much patience when any of the players would make a mistake. Shortly, before the first game I called the coach to let him know that we were running late. When we arrived he yelled at me in front of everyone, which made me mad but I didn't say a word. Then he was yelling at my son throughout the game. It was no surprise to me that my son asked me to remove him from that team, which I did. I don't regret doing it because my son's emotional being is more important than any obssesive competitive coach."
04/12/2010:
"Hi,I know how she fills. When I was a kid i joined a soccer team in middle school. I didnt know how to play but all the other girls did.I didnt have any friends there and my coach yelled at me too! And maybe she was trying her best?.? Have you thought of that?But never force her to play soccer. Try when she's older."
11/18/2009:
"I think once you make a commitment to a team, you should have to honor your commitment. You let down an entire team if you quit. They may not be able to play because there is not enough players. Talk to the coach calmly about fears. Sometimes in life we have to follow through even if we don't like the situation. Would you allow her to bail on a school project if the teacher upset her? "
09/1/2009:
"I have kind of the same thing going on with my 9 year old son, whom we signed up for Football again this year. He attended one practice and said it was too hard and wants to quit, no matter what we say. HE has even gone to the point of talking with the coach and one minute he decides to stay in it then when it comes time for practice he gets there and quits again. What do we do about this? The only reason he is giving is that it is too hard. But he was able to do it last year. Any suggestions?"
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