Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Kid Who's Not a Quitter?

Vickie Bergman blogs about education and parenting at Demand Euphoria.

Last week, there was a segment on the Today Show with "parenting expert" Michele Borba, based on her article entitled How To Raise a Kid Who's Not a Quitter. First of all, I am always suspicious of anyone who writes a "How-to-raise-a-kid-who's-not" article, because I don't think it's possible to use a formula on your child to make him a certain way or not a certain way. Secondly, I recently blogged about how I Am a Quitter, and I don't think it's a bad thing. Why do people think it is important to raise "non-quitters"? Have they thought about what that means?

What does it even mean to "not be a quitter"? Certainly it can't mean that you never stop doing something once you have started. Because no one would qualify. So it must mean something else, like you never quit something because it's hard. Or you never quit something "in the middle" or until you have achieved a certain amount of success.

I'm also assuming that quitting "bad" things like smoking or driving drunk are not seen as negative. So we are only talking about quitting things that not everyone thinks are bad. Like sports teams or performances or other activities.

What if you quit something for a little while, and then go back to it and kick ass at it? Does that count as being a quitter still?

While you are thinking about forming a definition of someone who is not a quitter, here are some things to consider about quitting:

  1. Quitting is not forever. Quit is such a harsh word, it sounds so final, like it's too late to start again because you already quit. Look at Michael Jordan. Why is it not all right to take a break from things? I quit college for a year, and then went back. If people had convinced me that I was a loser or a "drop-out" because I was a quitter, maybe I would have thought there was no chance I could go back and finish.
  2. Your team might be counting on you... to quit. One of the things people like to say about the consequences of letting your child quit a team, is that he would be letting down his teammates. Let's be honest about this. If your kid is one of the worst ones on the team, he would probably not be missed. And even if he is the best one on the team, maybe his quitting would allow the next best players to shine brighter. In general, any one kid quitting a team leaves more room for the kids who actually want to be there to play even more of the time.
  3. Quitting one activity opens up space for other activities. We can't do everything all the time. Maybe your child wants to quit his baseball team because be in the school play. Maybe he quits the school play (if the play can go on without him, which it probably can, see #2) because he gets an unexpected opportunity to travel to an exotic place. Why isn't it better for him to be able to change his mind and choose what he thinks will make him happiest?
  4. Quitting something because it's too hard is perfectly acceptable. If it's "too hard" for your child, that means he has decided it's not worth the effort. Why should anyone else be able to decide that for him?
  5. You don't "save" money by not letting your child quit. If the money is already spent, then let it go. You forcing your child to continue an activity does not get you the money back. It just tells your child that the money is more important than his happiness.
  6. Forcing children to finish what they started might make them afraid to start things. And if they don't think it is safe to try different things, they might miss out on something wonderful. Make it safe for your children to try things.
  7. People who try more things are going to quit more things. Practically speaking. Think about it. Every thing your child tries is another thing he will probably end up quitting. Let him try more things! Let him quit more things! This is the best way for him to find things he really loves.
Why do we think we need to "teach" our kids perseverance? If your kids are enjoying something, if they find it valuable, they won't stop doing it. And if they don't, why shouldn't they stop?

Have you thought about what makes someone qualify as "not a quitter"? Because I still have no idea.

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