What A Grandchild Quitting Something Teaches Grandma and Grandpa As Well As the Grandchild

kids-playing-sportsEven before Christine Gray’s mother stated in “Fifty Shades of Gray,” that children should be exposed to a second language, music lessons and a sport, this Grandma tried to do that with our children over nearly forty years ago.  The sport turned out to be tap and ballet, and each child stopped fairly quickly.  The music lessons were piano, and for the youngest interest ended more quickly than I wanted.  An independent and stubborn thinker, as she was the youngest, and we working parents did not have the energy to argue.  I was a police person in other aspects of her life, and did not want to add this to the list.  The oldest child played tennis, the piano, and learned Spanish.  She was, as the oldest in birth order, the one to follow rules and please us parents, always the perfect child.  She excelled at none, and it never seems to bother her, as she appreciates what she learned and enjoys that the family can play tennis together, still taking lessons periodically.

Fast forward, two of our grandchildren were exposed to more than one language at an early age.  This Grandma remembered how I spoke multiple languages as a young child and did not speak English until I started elementary school.  I found, as I matured, that it became very easy for me to learn languages.  I wanted the grandchildren to continue with the second language and have the same advantage I had.  I even went as far as to seek out and find a Spanish speaking teacher who could do enrichment in two languages.  She remains as a tutor, but seems to do all enrichment in English.  I hope somehow their short introduction to Spanish at any early age will be of assistance to them in the future.

The older two grandchildren have sports, a second language, and music in their lives.  Our granddaughter’s first sport, tennis, since she was two, is her passion, and if she could do it all day long, I think she would.  Our oldest grandson plays guitar, which I saw first was a chore for him, but now that he has become proficient, has become enjoyable.

The third grandchild began his sport, as his second language, as a baby and toddler. When he became six he began music lessons.  The music teacher introduced several instruments to allow him to choose his own favorite.  He chose keyboard and trumpet and played both in the first year of lessons.  He decided to quit.  His parents allowed him to quit.  He became proficient in his sport, and his parents did not want him to quit, when he mentioned he might want to.  I did not ask why the difference and assume it was one of several reasons.  He was much better at the sport than the music.  He did the sport for much longer. His parents seemed more invested in the sport.  They also, probably, were too tired to fight with him.  And, he is their first born, but they are the babies in their respective families, which could contribute to why they really did not care that the grandson quit music. On his own, recently, this grandchild has found a passion in a new sport, and tells me he intends to play it professionally or coach it when he grows up.

My experiences as a mother and now a grandmother led me to wonder about quitting.  The word, itself, seems to connote something bad.  Was allowing quitting a good or bad thing?  How should quitting be approached?  Always the Pollyanna, optimistically looking for the good, I wanted to find out if and when allowing a child to quit was a good thing.

It seemed that “Is your child a quitter? When to push a kid and when to let go,” Today Show, on line in 2013 was right on target.

I learned:

“Up to 50 million kids play youth sports in America, and 73 percent who begin playing a sport quit before they turn 13, according to statistics gathered by organizations such as the National Council for Youth Sports, National Alliance for Youth Sports, Minnesota Youth Soccer, and American Alliance for Health.”

The on line article quoted two different “experts” on the topic of quitting.  It is interesting that the psychologist who seemed against allowing children to quit, wrote a book titled, “Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture.” The author of the book, a Harvard University sociologist, Hilary Levey Friedman, says “Childhood is the time to try out many different things, so not all music, art, and sports classes will stick for the long run, but kids should try to get a complete experience with a class or team before moving on to something else.”   Defining what a complete experience is, Levey Friedman says, “[Kids] need to learn that when they make a commitment, this matters for others — if you are on a team — or for financial reasons — if mom or dad committed to paying for music lessons for a semester.”

The psychologist who seemed in favor of allowing children to quit, wrote a book titled, “The Self-Aware Parent.” A family psychotherapist in Los Angeles and the author, Fran Walfish, says that the age of the child who wants to quit is important and may influence how to proceed.  She says, “[A] 4-year-old signed up for soccer or baseball may not yet be emotionally and behaviorally ready to take turns, and deal with letdowns and disappointments. . . .If this is the case, you should tell your youngster, ‘We’re not ready yet, we’ll try again next season. . . .On the other hand, a 9-year-old with a habit of starting and quitting may need a push to stick it out to the end.” “Parents need to help their kids face, sometimes, doing things they don’t want to because they are bored, challenged, or struggling,” according to Walfish.

No one seemed to mention birth order as a factor for the child wanting to quit or the parent invested in a child not quitting.  There does not seem to be any disagreement, and a third expert was also quoted, that once the season or commitment period is over, if reasoning with the child as to why continuing is a good thing is not working, and forcing the child to continue will cause distress to the child or detrimentally impact the parent-child relationship, then the child should be allowed to quit.

After reading the first quote in the previous article, that nearly three quarters of kids quit sports before they turn thirteen, why that occurred was a question that was not answered. The Washington Post, June 13, 2016, had a perfect article titled, “Why 70 percent of kids quit sports by age 13.”  Julianna W. Miner, the author, gives her reasons why she thinks this is so: “It’s not fun anymore because it’s not designed to be: our culture no longer supports older kids playing for the fun of it; there is a clear push for kids to specialize and achieve at the highest possible level: there is a cost to be competitive and not everyone is willing or able to pay it; and, of course, it’s just the age.”  It is worth reading the entire article.

Thinking of what I learned from both articles, and my own experience as a mother and a grandmother, I come to the conclusion that it is not the quitting that one should be worried about at all.

Take the quote from Ms. Miner, “Increasingly kids are pressured to “find their passion” and excel in that area (be it music, arts, sports, etc.). “  If children are not allowed to expand their horizons early on (as early as appropriate for the sport or the music lessons or language), how can the grandchild know what he or she could excel in?  How can the grandchild know what he or she wants to excel in?  We know that the top 25% will stay with their success at age 13 and all that such affords them, for example, in self esteem.  The commitment will then be worth it to him or her.  If we start the child as early as possible with various options, we adults have less invested, and may not care as much if the child quits.  And sometimes, the exposure alone at any early age can let the grandchild, as a adult, enjoy continuing the activity for the fun of it.

Who cares anyway?  Isn’t what is important the fact that the child has had the opportunity to have experiences that expand his or her horizons?

And this is where grandma, and grandpa too, come in.  We want the best for our grandchildren and know that new and varied experiences enrich their lives and increase their intelligence.  We already know that birth order and treating at each child as an individual is important, and we can tailor what we propose to the parents of each grandchild specifically to the skills and interests of the grandchild.  We can identify sports, music, and language that might appeal to and be of interest to a grandchild.  We have the time and energy to research when it is the appropriate age to introduce the activity. We have the time and energy to be or hire the chauffeurs, instructors, the coaches or find the studios or teams.  We can make a season or year of lessons a birthday present or holiday present or anything present.  With less monetary and time commitment, the parents of our grandchildren may think this exploration is just great.

Now, the hard part is grandma and grandpa not being upset when the grandchild quits. Unfortunately, this Grandma knows this from experience too.













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