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Mother Knows Best? Allowing Kids to Make Choices on Activities

 “Mom, I only have ONE day a week when I can relax and do nothing.” The words straight from my 7-year-old that broke my heart and had me rethinking all of my life choices up to that point. Was that really true? Just ONE day that he didn’t have an activity? There was Occupational Therapy on Wednesday, Taekwondo on Tuesday and Saturday, basketball on Thursday, piano on Friday…YIKES! He was almost right. I am sure that Monday didn’t feel like a day off with a full day of school, and Sunday was truly his only day of full rest.  

After my initial disbelief wore off, my mind went from shock to justification. Occupational Therapy has to happen for now, Taekwondo is great for discipline, balance, strength, endurance, multi-step directions, etc. He loves basketball, and every kid should take piano lessons, right?! Right? OK, we will just get through the next few weeks until this season is over or we reach the next belt. Then he can drop something to free up some time.

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In the end, I let it go. Well, most of it. Basketball season ended so it was a natural split. Taekwondo was a tougher break up for me if I am being honest. I told my son that he had to commit to a “season” of something before trying something else. He couldn’t quit whenever he felt like it. He had to see things through to the end. To be clear, a “season” is whatever amount of time I have paid for. For Taekwondo, that was 6 months. He did a year of classes. He did really well, but then just lost interest in it.  

When they were toddlers, certain activities were non-negotiable for me. I needed them to know how to swim so they would be safe around water. I also needed a padded room where they could run around for an hour, so off to the Little Gym we went every Saturday morning! Today, their needs (and mine) have shifted. They want down time, time with friends riding bikes outside, time to relax and read and just be unstructured. I can respect that!

My dilemma is this –  how do you find the balance between letting them quit an activity and pushing them through a tough spot because it’s good for them in the long run? When do you let them decide for themselves?

The answer is unclear. I think it depends on each individual kid and each distinct situation. If the extracurricular activities are eating into homework time, dinner time, family time or just relax and be a kid time, then I think it’s a good idea to reevaluate the pros and cons of an activity. If the child is disinterested because his best friend moved on and now he wants to go too, then maybe a conversation about perseverance and making new friends is in order.  

Last month, my gut told me that it was a good time to let my son make his own choice about Taekwondo. We spoke to him about it and tried to get him to imagine himself with a black belt, how that would feel, how great it would be, etc. He considered all of our talks, but in the end, he decided to leave Taekwondo behind at the end of 2017.

So what will we do next time he wants to quit? Well, we will have to see what’s going on then and take everything on a case by case basis. Allowing my son to take the lead on these decisions lets him grow up a bit. He will certainly make good choices and bad choices along the way in life, but they will be his choices. As his mom, it’s my job to give him information and advice, but then let him take that and run with it.

I have to say, we are all a little better off since cutting back. It’s nice to come right home after work without having to take him to an activity and drag little brother along! Who knew?! And no obligations on Saturday mornings? Well that’s just crazy talk! I’m going to enjoy the quiet of fewer activities for now before Spring sports start!

What are your thoughts on extra curricular activities? Comment below!

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