I just want to start out saying that the reason this is so tough is because there IS NO RIGHT ANSWER. Yep, you really have to take lots of things into consideration, it's not a one-stop-shop. Here are few things that I considered when my boys wanted to quit piano when they were in elementary school:
- How miserable is your child and/or your family with the whining and complaining?
- Yes, I'm being totally honest. This was a hot button for me. Every week we had to nudge and cajole our kids to practice before the next lesson. My one son loved his instructor but never wanted to practice. It's good not to give up too quickly since sometimes a child struggles when things get harder and they really can push through and get to a better place. However, sometimes it is a true lack of interest, talent or there are other competing issues. After a year of whining we agreed we had had enough. Some families might switch instructors, use rewards, modify schedules for breaks or practice and that works for them. I tried many of those things but they didn't last long. Don't give up just because I did on piano, but think about it. (The happy ending was that when both our kids got to middle and and high school they both knew enough music to do really fun things with it. )
- Who chose the activity in the first place?
- In my case, it was me who really wanted the lessons, something I never got as a kid. My boys were ok signing up for lessons when we started, they were even excited.
- Is there a natural stopping point to exit gracefully?
- In sports there is often a team that your child will be disappointing if they quit mid-season. In our case, we didn't have a team, just our son. We figured out a good time to quit and just quietly ended the lessons. Later on in high school our son wanted to quit band in the middle of a season. Ouch. That was a tough one. After meeting with the director and discussing things with lots of emotion and anguish, we agreed that, although it was a hard decision for him to make, one that had lots of consequences, he could live with it. Having loving people around you when decisions are hard is what being a good parent is all about, that was the role my husband and I played. EMPATHY is the best tool at times like these.
- When one ends, choose another
- I love it when a family agrees to end one activity and as part of the brainstorming they allow and/or help the child pick a new activity to try. Be careful not to let your child give up activities only to replace them with electronics or other sedentary activities. In my house the boys got to choose their activities but they had to choose something, not nothing (aka electronics).
I use my piano story here but want to let you know that it wasn't my only parenting journey into lessons that involved quitting or moving on. I had a star soccer player who, after investing in goalie lessons in addition to club teams and such, decided he wanted to play basketball. No problem, we moved on to basketball school teams and club teams in addition to shooting lessons. It worked! He was great! But then he went off to college and now he's totally hooked on rock climbing and never picks up a basketball. What's the theme? He's active and athletic. Yeah! He does play electronics but at least he has the bigger picture of taking care of his health and he truly enjoys being active.
It was worth all those lessons and all that whining. He wasn't a quitter, he was exploring life and we helped him on his journey by brain storming and problem solving these issues when we came upon them. It wasn't always easy but life wasn't meant to be.
Oh yeah, by the way, he now has started music lessons and invested in a keyboard and guitar using his own time and money, not mine. Amazing!
If you'd like another thoughtful article to read on this subject try this one by Katy Abel on the FamilyEducation website: