Pushing Kids into Sports and Hobbies

Had an interesting conversation last night that got me thinking. Parents put kids in activities – music, art, gymnastics, sports – and hope to see their child go all the way and achieve the top level of proficiency. If the child stops enjoying it and wants to quit, the parent would try hard to encourage them to keep going. The idea is that the child should suck it up and stick to the activity because it will teach them how to achieve their goals in life.

The way I look at it though, work/school and hobbies are two different things. If my kids want to quit their studies and instead play video games every day, I will insist that they stick with their studies because it’s their primary occupation right now, just like work will be in the future. With your primary occupation, you have to stick with it and achieve your goals. You can’t just quit whenever you feel like it.

Hobbies, however, are what they are – things we like to do in our spare time without necessarily pushing ourselves hard. There is nothing wrong with quitting a hobby, taking a break from it or trying another hobby. It’s supposed to give us enjoyment, not pressure. Dance or gymnastics are hobbies for kids just like knitting and stamp collecting are for adults. If the child stops liking it, there is no need to push them to keep going to achieve that black belt or make the team. Let them quit and try something else!

In fact, they may come back to it later, when they are older and have a better idea of what they want. Taking a break from something is healing and refreshing. We put my son in BJJ, he eventually hated it and quit. After a year, he came back to it. My daughter trained BJJ almost every day for 4 years, then quit and for another 4 years didn’t want hear about it -that’s how much she hated it. And then, when she got older, all of a sudden one day she decided to come back. Now she is back, loves it and is very dedicated to training.

So just go with the flow and relax – it’s just a hobby. Pick your battles and push your kids where it really matters. With the rest, let your kids explore, quit, try things and maybe one day they would come back to it, or not. It’s all good.