17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Monday, March 17, 2008

From the Tales Inbox: Whining, Dreading and Quitting

From Tales reader Rachel H:

Okay Supermommies! I am looking for advice, suggestions, and anything else that would help here.

Have any of you ever had a child who once they "start" something... be it a class, a program...lessons...whatever.., within about 6 months or less the child starts to dread it, whine about having to go, and drive you crazy about it?

How do you as a parent respond to this type of behavior? Do you let them quit? Do you make them go, even if they continue to act like they hate whatever it is?

How do you teach a child that there are certain things we do to better ourselves, without forcing it/ making it a power struggle ?

My situation is that my darling daughter, who is 6- does this exact thing. Last year it was with her Ballet/tap class.. this year it seems to be starting up with gymnastics. And also with a reading program I am trying to implement with her.
How it usually goes is- I say, "DD, it's time for your reading lesson(or whatever it is that day)!" cheerily..

And she responds with this HUGE amount of dread, "UGGHH!!! No!!!I don't WANT to go to (insert activity) today!!)"

I try to reason, try to explain why it's good/fun for her, blah blah blah..and she will wear me down to the point that I feel like it becomes a war between me and her.. and I don't want that. I just want her to ENJOY doing things!!

When I was little , I LOVED that stuff. You couldn't GET me doing enough activities. I am just so confused and bewildered as to why she would act this way!

SOOOO... any thoughts?


  • I am no expert, but....
    I would pick my battles. Maybe she just isn't old enough for these classes. Maybe they are stressful, or just not fun. She is 6, she should be having fun. So if it is possible, maybe you should consider pulling her out until she reaches a point where she independently wants to try something. I would not make a big deal about "quitting" at this point.

    When she does express an interest in something new, talk to her about the realities: the clothes she will have to wear, the time she will have to practice, the games/recitals at which people will watch her. If she can commit to the whole thing, then go ahead and if she gets whiney, remind her that this is what she chose and she said she would not whine and there are still 8 more weeks in the seasons, or whatever.

    Also, at a time when you are not trying to get her started on something, maybe right after she had fun at gymnastics, talk to her about why she was not excited to go. My daughter recently had a problem going to Primary for several weeks in a row and when we talked about it, she said she likes to get there first. Now we rush there after Sacrament, and she is happy to greet her teacher from her chair. I have NO idea why this was an issue, but problem solved, so I'll go with it.

    There was recently an excellent post at designmom.com about age-appropriate sports that was a real eye-opener. I think sometimes we expect too much of out little ones.
    posted by Anonymous ESO at 3/17/2008 09:06:00 AM  

  • I can't figure out why you would make such a young child stick with something "for fun" that they don't even enjoy.

    I think they should be trying out a bunch of different things, and I imagine if you did make her commit beforehand to stick with the same activity, she might not have comprehended what that really would mean. Maybe she just wanted to try a few lessons. Maybe she didn't know what it was even like to play soccer, didn't know she wouldn't like the piano, didn't know she'd feel "no good" at ballet. Is she just supposed to keep it up forever because at age 6 she was interested in trying it out?
    posted by Blogger cchrissyy at 3/17/2008 10:12:00 AM  

  • I agree - if she's only 6, life should just be fun! No pressure. There's time for "finish what you started" later. At this age, full time school is a new stress in her life (I'm assuming she's in K or 1st grade) and she's probably tired enough from that. She'll develop interests as she gets older (I say like I know what I'm talking about! My oldest is 6.) At this point, all the activities are "to try" and we're out if it becomes not fun.
    posted by Blogger rebecca at 3/17/2008 10:28:00 AM  

  • Of course, I am a TOTAL expert, since I have no children. :)

    All I know is, when I was a kid, my very favorite thing to do after school was . . . NOTHING! Well, by nothing, I mean, hanging out with the family, or a friend, in an unstructured way. (Keep in mind that was about 102 years ago . . . ) I think every kid is different. You probably think it's odd for a kid to not want to do a lot of activities, because you would have loved it. Maybe your daughter is more like me and likes unstructured time. I am still the same in that respect, by the way. Can't stand schedules, appointments, and deadlines. Of course, we all have to cope with schedules, appointments, and deadlines whether we like it or not--and I still manage to behave in polite society even though I am an unstructured sort.

    Meanwhile, of course, YOU know your kid better than anybody else, so give yourself credit for that, and also that as long as you are doing the best you can (which you are!), your kids are going to be just fine. I think kids can adjust to any style of parenting as long as they know they are loved.
    posted by Blogger kathi d at 3/17/2008 01:14:00 PM  

  • I guess the only thing I have to add is a question - are these things she is BEGGING you to let her do? Because if she's spending weeks insisting that she HAS to take ______ (fill in with ballet, gymnastics, soccer, etc.) only to lose interest after a few weeks, maybe next time you have to say no and let her know it's because you don't think she's ready for it since she never wants to go once it starts. If this is a pattern (making you miserable until she's allowed to go, then making you miserable if you make her go) then I'd make it clear you're not going to play the game.

    If, however, she is not desperate to participate in these activities, then try taking a break. It can be nice as a mom to have a few structured activities that give you a little break here and there, but if your child isn't into it, it's more of a headache than it's worth. There are tons of things that my son likes to do, but once you make it a have-to activity (appointed time, rules, expectations, etc.) it immediately becomes something he hates. I've learned very few things in my 5 years of parenting, but one of them is that he isn't a lessons and classes type of kid! (And I definitely was, btw)
    posted by Blogger marian at 3/17/2008 02:11:00 PM  

  • We recently went through the same thing with our oldest and reading "lessons". He loved them for the first 50 or so, but once he stopped noticing a huge improvement in himself and it started to get harder, he didn't want to do it anymore. Being that we had kept him home instead of putting him in full day kindergarten as was offered in Maryland, I felt like I had to do my part as a mother to make sure he was still getting a good education and I didn't feel like 20 minutes a day of reading was too much to ask (since he would have spent 6 1/2 hours in school otherwise). It took a bit of maneuvering on my part, but I tried to time it where there was always something more enjoyable for him to do afterwards. But I had to be careful how I phrased it. I never said "you can't do ____ until you do your reading lesson's". Than it was a punishment/reward, and he doesn't fly with those. Instead I always said something like "We should go for a walk after reading lesson's" or "you're welcome to go to so and so's house after reading lesson's". Only rarely did he fight and fuss when I started this. (We did sit down and talk about why it's important to get through the not so fun stuff first so we can get to the best stuff after.)

    I think it's important to teach children, especially from a young age as they are much more teachable, that "fun" comes after responsibilities. Of course if there are too many activities that are suppose to be fun that she's not enjoying, those should be looked at. After months of talking about taking karate, our son decided after his first lesson it wasn't for him. But at the same time, I wish I had stuck with my piano lessons just a little bit longer (and who doesn't).

    Geez, isn't parenting a breeze?!

    Sorry for the random ramblings. Just my two cents.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 3/17/2008 02:50:00 PM  

  • Thanks for the input! I appreciate it all. Just having a sounding board is helpful.

    re: eso- I do want to talk more to her about what might be causing her to not want to go to gymnastics. Once she gets there she seems okay, it's just the headaches of getting her there that drive me batty.

    Last year with Ballet/tap I know she did not give a care about either. When the recital came around, she didn't hardly know her routines, and I was heartbroken- and she didn't really give a crud about it. I said to her "Don't you want to practice?" and she'd say "No." So once that season was over I asked her if she wanted to try again next year, and she said

    "Maybe in a couple years I'll try again. But not next year."
    So we left it at that.

    re: cchrissy- I never put her in anything she doesn't ask for and show interest in. And we don't pile it up. Only one or two things at a time. I don't expect her to be in something forever, but I will hold her to sticking something she chose out for at least that season.

    The reading lessons stress me out a little more because I feel like I am setting the tone for the potential love or hate for reading for like the rest of her life!! No pressure there, eh?

    I know she LOVES having me read to her, but now that she's in K- and is 6, I know that if she doesn't start reading soon she might get labeled next year in school and maybe even put in a slow readers class! That freaks me out. I just can't handle that. I want her to love reading and enjoy it...and I just don't get why it hasn't "clicked" for her like it has for so many other kids her age. She is incredibly fluent in her vocabulary...she can speak like an adult using huge words.

    So that's why I feel like we HAVE to do the reading lessons now. It's not like I can just hope that it will "work out".

    Anyway.. I really apprecaite the feedback and knowing I am not alone. I have really struggled to feel like a good mom, since I don't feel like it comes naturally to me!

    And to Kathi D- I tell my self all the time, hopefully even though I am totally NOT the perfect parent she will turn out well because she'll be VERY loved.

    And now I'll stop rambling!!(geez- this is like therapy!!)
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 3/17/2008 05:10:00 PM  

  • This isn't really advice, but I think I was your daughter when I was younger. I used to quit everything. I don't know if I threw a fit about it, but my mom never pushed me to stay with anything I tried (soccer, gymnastics, whatever). Looking back I always wish she had "made" me stick with things a bit longer, especially sports. Maybe I had the type of personality that got intimidated easily. I think it was easy for me to get insecure about my own abilities when I was younger. I have always been a perfectionist, and if I wasn't "good enough" at something I don't think I put in the time to try to improve. I wanted instant results. Do you think any of that is happening with your daughter?

    I don't know if there was really any way my mom could've "made" me continue with soccer or gymnastics. And now that I have my own child I think it would be very difficult to "make" him do something that he wasn't into. Having said that there is something to say for "seeing it through". For example, joining a dance class and finishing the 10 week class, and then re-evaluating whether or not to sign up again. And I think if it were my child I'd really just try to figure out the "why".... why is she having this reaction. Is she afraid to fail? Is she shy? Does she really have no interest? Is there a power struggle going on? I think knowing the why will help you find the best answer as to how to go about remedying the situation.

    Good luck. Sorry so long!
    posted by Blogger Beth at 3/17/2008 10:20:00 PM  

  • Ahem.

    I was that child.

    I was 7 years old when my dad had The Talk with me. The quitting talk.

    I remember it so clearly: he sat me down in the formal living room on the couch we were not allowed to touch. He explained that in life, some people were quitters and some people follow through and commit. What kind of person was I going to be? The kind that quit everything? He listed for me all the things that I'd quit in the previous couple years, and gently prompted me to be both more selective about my activities and more committed to them.

    It's been decades and I still remember that talk. Feel free to crib (ha.) It was one of those talks that truly shaped my life. No pressure.
    posted by Blogger Azúcar at 3/18/2008 01:27:00 AM  

  • re:Beth- Oh yes that is my daughter! I mean, her dad and I are both perfectionists in certain areas..and it has totally rubbed off on her! I NEVER tried to have her be that way..but she totally compares herself to a higher standard than what she can reasonably measure up to at her age...and then feels frustrated that she can't achieve that higher level right away.I do know that plays a lot into her wanting to quit. And I don't know how to combat that.
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 3/18/2008 05:07:00 AM  

  • Rachel - Maybe try to reinforce that the world doesn't hold her to as high standards as she is holding herself. I think in general perfectionist-type people hold themselves to (sometimes) an unrealistic standard. Looking back at things I struggled with when I was younger, I think it would be such a gift to try to instill in her now (at 6 yrs old) the importance of improving your skills, not being too hard on yourself, and self confidence in your flaws or weaknesses. I always expect way more of myself than I expect from anyone else. Chances are she is hard on herself in ballet class if she can't do the perfect pirouette, but wouldn't necessarily expect the same "perfection" from her friends. I think it's the type of thing that if you are aware of these things she struggles with, over time you can address and reinforce them, and you'll probably see a change. Maybe open up to her about your own struggles in being a perfectionist?? How it helped and hindered you? I think personal stories will help her feel a little more human and that flaws are just fine.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 3/18/2008 01:22:00 PM  

  • re:azucar-
    I like that way of thinking. I want to be like that too. I think it does more good than not to teach stick-to-it vs. quitting things. I am glad to hear that it can be done!

    Yeah- I think we could communicate more on that. Maybe even have some sort of FHE or something on doing things becuase we enjoy them, not because we are perfect or even good at them! And reminding her that just participating is great- somehow helping her allow herself to take it easier on herself- you know?
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 3/18/2008 01:55:00 PM  

  • Wow, it takes her a whole 6 months to start whining? My kids can't make it a whole sport season.
    My 10 year old is a kid who wants to do everything.....except what she is currently enrolled in.
    My suggestions:
    1. Enroll her in things that end. One session of gymnastics/sport/etc.
    2. Tell her she gets to choose somethings and you choose some things. We tell our dd that we want her to have a chance to be an expert on some things so she doesn't get to quit and try something new this year, etc.
    Next year dd gets to quit either basketball or piano, but we will insist she keeps one. She wants to add volleyball.
    3. Enroll her in fewer things. What is the hurry? Some kids need a lot of down time. What's the point of starting things in 1st grade that they really won't enjoy?
    4. Just don't listen to the whining. I told my son that we wanted him to learn the basketball skills because it was good for him.....school has PE because moving skills are important. He said, "Oh....I thought it was supposed to be for fun." He's 8 and would much rather do math than basketball. He accepted it a little better after that (he's that type of kid), because it is just a part of life and mom and dad say so. LUckily, basketball ends after a 3 month season, so it doesn't last forever.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 3/20/2008 11:43:00 PM  

  • Forgot to mention my son does need a lot of free time. 6 -12 months ago he'd cry when he didn't have time to "play" (mostly legos).
    My dd has extra energy, although nothing she has tried is as "fun" as she apparently thought it would be.
    Definitely parent each kid based on the kid, because there is something different going on with each of them.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 3/20/2008 11:49:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home