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Fork in the Road: Should You Let Your Kids Quit Sports or Activities?

Posted by Dale Sadler

My son has been in karate now for almost a year. He is doing really well, progressing at a steady rate. He asked me the other day if he could do something else besides karate, and the great parenting fork in the road was placed before me: Should I make him continue going, or let him quit? He’s eight years old and I am not expecting to raise another Chuck Norris, but I like what karate offers in respect to discipline and exercise. He enjoys it too. I’m not making him go, but I am concerned over his disinterest.

Given the opportunity, children, will often be lazy. It takes focus and strength to go to practices week after week; children are children and teens are teens, so they may often find reasons to quit — and these reasons may not ultimately be what’s best for them.

Parents often leave it up to the child and say, “Whatever you want to do, son.” Personally, I believe this to be a bit too passive for my parenting taste. Children do not see the long-term pay-off of sticking to something. How many adults wish they’d stuck to those guitar lessons or piano classes? Children lack the fortitude to stick to things that are good for them, and sometimes it takes strong parents to help them see projects through.

But what if your child keeps asking to quit and truly doesn’t enjoy a sport, hobby or extracurricular activity?

Here are the guidelines I live by:

First, let your child quit if he seems legitimately unhappy in the activity. My mom made me stay in football. Several weightlifting trophies and football honors later, I’m actually glad she did, but if your child will be happier doing something else, move on to step two.

Second, if your child does quit, make sure that he starts something else immediately that is worthwhile. More time in front of the video game system is not a good replacement. Have something ready the very next week. This may be a class to improve his skills in a seasonal sport or maybe even tutoring to enhance his academic ability if there is a need. In any case, find an enriching, year-round activity.

Third, the option of returning to the original activity must always be on the table. Don’t burn any bridges by saying, “WE’LL NEVER COME BACK IF YOU QUIT NOW.” Why? There is a plus-side to quitting; you get to see if there’s something else you like. Studies have shown that winners know when to quit. Why continue what you don’t enjoy? If you realize later that you actually did enjoy the activity, that’s a huge amount of self-realization.

Read more: How To Motivate Teenagers

Also, children are curious and unless allowed to explore other possibilities, they may not discover where they are exceptional. This may involve a full circle back to the original activity. If that’s the case, pat yourself on the back parent — without a doubt, you found what your child wants to do.

Also, I would recommend that you pick a sport or activity where your child will be actively involved. We enjoy karate because it is not a seasonal sport and because it builds character. Our son gets regular exercise and doesn’t sit on the bench in martial arts — no one does. It also helps strengthen areas he needs to work on such as balance.

Another thing to keep in mind, according to “Basketball and football, the most visible of high school and college sports, have a very low percentage of athletes who play in high school and then eventually move up to the professional ranks. In men’s basketball, for example, there is only a .03% chance of a pro career. This means that of the almost 156,000 male, high school senior basketball players only 44 will be drafted to play in the NBA after college, and only 32 women (.02%) out of just over 127,000 female, high school senior players will eventually be drafted. In football the odds are slightly better, with .08% or 250 of just over 317,000 high school senior players being drafted.”

As a parent, have a goal of developing a strong adult with good character, not a professional athlete. In the end, my son did not quit karate, but we’re taking it one day at a time.


About Dale Sadler

Dale Sadler is the author of 28 Days to A Better Marriage and How to Argue with Your Teen & Win. By day he works with middle schoolers and by night he is a family counselor specializing in marriage, parenting and men's issues. He works hard to be the husband and father his family needs. Follow him @DaleSadlerLPC or visit

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