Quitting is a bad habit and one that is taught and learned. As parents we have way more control over this than we think, or even want to take responsibility for. Our children emulate what they see. If you bounce from job to job, or hobby to hobby, your child is more likely to do the same. Conversely, if you have been committed to your marriage, your career, your faith, or to a fitness regimen, your children are likely to do the same. Duplication is by no means guaranteed, and as a father of 5 who has stumbled, fumbled, and bumbled my way through parenthood, I’ve discovered 3 key indicators of when I am enabling, perhaps even cultivating, a culture of quitting.
1. You Use Your Excuses As Their Exit
Being a good parent is hard. Very hard. Harder than most people think. Combine this with your faith, a meaningful relationship with your spouse, a career, a fitness regimen, and you’ve got a resume that would make any circus juggler envious.
It’s our job as parents to nurture the interests and creativity of our children. So what do we do? We have them learn an instrument. We put them in sports. We send them to coding or acting class. We keep them busy-especially during the summer months. Here’s the catch, keeping them busy makes your busier.
After a particularly stressful day, the last thing you want to hear is, “Mommy/Daddy I have practice at 6:30 pm.” Don’t even get me started if you are the coach. All you want to do is sit on the couch. I’ve been there. When I get home after a long day, I don’t want to jump back in my car to drop off my kid.
Your child sees this and feeds off this energy. The last thing a kid wants to hear or see is their mom or dad groan about taking them to band practice after anxiously waiting for you to come home for the last hour. It sets a precedence and one that children can use as leverage to quit in the future. Remember, everything is fun in the beginning-until you want to be exceptional at it. Then the reality of what it takes to be good settles in. When this reality settles in is when most people, not only children, abandon their goals or dreams.
“But Paul, I have to force my kid to go and it’s a battle every time.”
I’ve been there. It is easy to just give up and let your child stay home or worse yet, quit because you don’t want to deal with the regular confrontation of forcing them to participate in their activities or because you are exhausted. You cannot permit your lethargy as a way out for your child or they will use your moment of weakness as an escape. Once your child learns how to use this as leverage they will exploit it. Trust me. They will. I know some of you will argue, “Not my child.” and I’ll just smile and agree with you.
Don’t let your excuses be the reason your children quit.
2. You Finish/Fix Things For Them
It never fails. There is a class assignment or a science fair and one child turns in a project or a diorama that was clearly completed by a parent. I’m not trying to make a blanket statement. I realize that there are many talented children who are beyond their years, but let’s be real, when Tommy turns in a model of Fenway Park that looks like Frank Lloyd Wright could have done it, it’s going to raise an eyebrow. I’m all for participating in the assignment with your kid and using it as an opportunity to connect, just not doing it for them. Winning an award for work they did not personally complete is just as bad, or worse than participation trophies. Buy them the supplies and all the tools they need to complete the assignment, just don’t do it for them or you’ll find yourself doing this more times than you think.
It is important that we let our children finish what they start. This applies to everything, even household chores. There are more times than I can count where I ask one of my kids to do something, knowing that I can get it done faster and better than they can, and yet I sit on the sidelines watching and waiting for them to complete the tasks. It wasn’t always this way. I used to: 1) assign a chore to my children, 2) wait for them to complete it, 3) get tired of waiting, and 4) do it myself. This was a horrible pattern and it taught them that if they didn’t do something, it would eventually get done by someone else. Bad. Bad. Bad.
There is an amazing sense of satisfaction and self worth that is accompanied with finishing things on our own and as parents, it can be challenging to watch our children struggle, but it is necessary.
3. You Make Quitting an Option
I cringe when I hear someone say, “Try it, and if you don’t like it-quit.” When you start something with that kind of mentality you have one foot in, and one foot out the door. I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and place for exploring options, because there is. I am saying however, that if all you are doing is exploring options, and never committing to them, you are setting yourself up for guaranteed failure.
Shame on you if you are teaching your children the same method of operation. Live your life as you wish, but don’t rob your child of the pride and self satisfaction that comes from committing to something and following it through.
My wife and I have taken our children to their activities on days when they were kicking, screaming and even crying. We’ve taken them on days where we were tired, hungry, stressed out, and broke. We are non-negotiable. My kids know this. In our family it isn’t about being the best in as much as it is about finishing what you start.
Being the best is a by-product of staying committed and putting in the work when others are “trying it out.”
If you make quitting an option, most children will opt in and develop a habit of not finishing what they start. If you make finishing the only option they know, they are less likely to head for the hills upon the first roadblock they hit.
I hope you enjoyed this piece may it bring more commitment and success to you and your children.