When Should You Let Your Kids Quit a Sport or Hobby?
Celebrity fitness trainer Heidi Powell shares some tips she's learned from her wellness career and raising four kids on when kids should stick it out and when it's okay for them to walk away.
Celebrity fitness trainer Heidi Powell knows about wanting to quit. She's seen it on her TV show "Extreme Weight Loss" and she's seen it in her own home when her kids come to her not wanting to go to football practice.
"My kids have the craziest schedule. You look at it and it's literally one to the next to the next to the next," Powell said. The mom explained that because she has four kids ranging from age 5 to age 14, she and her partners, both current husband Chris Powell and ex-husband Derek Solomon, have "run the gamut" with finding the right balance for each of her children. Here's what the super-fit mom has learned in 15 years of kid activities.
Wanting to Quit Is Normal
"The whole time my kids are in sports, they're like 'I don't want to go, I don't want to go.' It's typical; it's standard," she said. "Unless you have the rare kid that's like 'Oh my gosh I love doing baseball every day.' Most kids aren't like that." AKA, parents should expect kids to try to get out of practicing their hobbies.
"I've been one of those kids," Powell said, sharing that it was a source of insecurity for her as a child and young adult. "I wanted to quit everything I started because it's hard and when things are hard in life, we don't want to do them."
Sometimes it's Not the Right Fit
But the fitness celebrity said she knows that sometimes certain activities just aren't right for certain kids. "There are times where you need to excuse yourself from things," she said. "But I don't like to use the word quit with my kids. Quit means you give up in my vocabulary and giving up is not something we ever want to do."
Instead, she suggests thinking of quitting a little differently. "Make sure they don't want to quit because it's hard, make sure they're doing it because they don't enjoy the skill and they want to try something new."
But You Shouldn't Walk Away Immediately
Powell makes her kids finish the whole term of whichever activity they signed up for. "So when you say, 'I'm going to sign up and I'm going to take these 8 classes of dance,' you know what? I don't care how much you hate it, we're going to finish the term because there's so much fulfillment on the other side of that eighth class," she said. "Even if you hate it, every single bit of those 8 classes, it teaches the kid what it feels like to complete something. And it teaches us to be really careful about what we commit to. And now my kids know, mom is going to make me finish whatever I start."
Sticking with it Gives Kids Confidence
"As adults, we know that when we do things that are hard and we push through the things that we don't want to do, those are the things that make us feel the best and make us feel the most confident." And Powell said she wants that to be the message she sends to her kids.
"They say it takes 10,000 hours of something before you become an expert," she said. "I'm not saying I want my kids to be experts in everything they do, but I want them to feel like they are good enough and that they are worthy and they are valuable, and also to know that when they want something, they can get it if they work for it."
Kids Have Fickle Interests
Powell said she used to let her older kids bounce from activity to activity based on what they wanted to attend but quickly stopped. "Kids don't have the ability to decide what's good for them, they just don't," she said. "They're always going to want what they don't have."
Instead, she said she views her parental duties to be figuring out the activities her kids gravitate toward and sprinkling in some new experiences. "Maybe one season you do soccer and then the next season you have your kid do baseball and then the next season you have them do MMA," she said. "What we want to do as parents is to spark joy and excitement and fun in fitness."
And if you stick to the finish-the-term rule, Powell said, "Chances are when they finish something, they feel so good that they want to extend a little longer." She explained her philosophy is "If they like it, we can add more. If they don't like it, it's a great time to try something new and there should not be any shame in trying something new. Only celebration: You finished it, you did such a great job, what do you want to do next?"
There Are Some Hard Outs
Powell said there are exceptions to the rule. "If something is interfering with their schoolwork, if it's interfering with their sleep, or if it's interfering with their health or their happiness," Powell said. "If I as a parent can see those things, then I can make the decision to scale down or scale back. But I always try to do it in a way that feels like they are not quitting because that is something that I don't want them to get accustomed to."
If you're looking for warning signs that something is wrong, she said, "It's usually when they're complaining the least, believe it or not. Because when something is really hurting a child, they internalize it. Maybe this is just my kids but when my kids are trying to get out of something, they're on me like 'Oh mom I don't like it!' But when they're actually hurting, they introvert a little bit."
Keep Talking to Your Kids
If a child comes to you and says they want to quit, "The most important thing is to open up a dialogue. Tell me about it. Why do you want to get out of this sport? Why do you not want to do this?" Powell said. "I always make my kids pick at least one thing they like about it," she said. From there, you can understand if the right move is to leave the activity ASAP or more likely, stick it out until the end of the season and either sign up for another one or try something new.