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Are we raising quitters?

Posted June 25, 2014 in Altoona, Advice Column, Pleasant Hill

No one sets out to raise a quitter, right? The definition of a quitter is very subjective. One thing for sure, quitting is a behavior. We praise our kids when they behave well and give ourselves credit on teaching them well. But when they have less desirable behavior, we are less likely to look within. The seeds of quitting come from parents.

Sally signs Billy up for hockey, and within two practices Billy says his skates are too tight or practices are too long. Right there parents have a choice. Some would go ask for a league refund, blaming the league for a perceived flaw. A little later, Billy says the drills are boring, and he doesn’t play much. The parents respond quickly, pulling Billy out so he doesn’t have to suffer from boredom. Right there, Billy begins to learn that quitting when it gets tough or boring is acceptable.

Billy’s parents could have taught him that sailing around on the ice isn’t easy, and scoring goals doesn’t come naturally without hard work and practice, that any goal worth achieving is worth effort and commitment. The parents blow it off and register Billy for gymnastics. Months later, after Billy complains, he is pulled out and sits at home playing Flappy Bird on the iPhone.

I have seen subjects like math, for example, eventually become hard, even for bright kids. How many times have you heard your child say, “I guess I am not good at math?” Then you respond, “I wasn’t, either.” The child learns right away that low expectations are acceptable, and the best you offered the child was the perspective of “quitter child.” Instead, the parent needs to break down in steps how the child can achieve and work through reaching a worthy goal.

Our society places such a high value on winning that anything less means it wasn’t worth it. Winning is not the end results. It is the process, the struggle, the victories, the responsibilities and the defeats that are life teachers.

Before engaging in any commitment with your child, sort out the priorities, goals and advantages of seeing a struggle through. The child needs to know there will be no excuse to quit, no matter what. Parents need to encourage persistence.

Likewise, kids must learn to take responsibility for their actions. Quitting is an action that can turn into a lifelong behavior. When kids quit, it is an enormous deal. Start by removing the word “failure” from your vocabulary. Be a winning role model. Demonstrate that perseverance of a worthy goal carries forward throughout life. If you do, one day if your children are tempted to quit, they’ll be reminded of hurdles they triumphed over. If you don’t, quitting will be their default mode.

Information provided by David Charleston, founder/director, 515-261-0030, The Orange Planet.

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