Should I make my kid take lessons even if he hates it?

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Paint Brushes

Kelly sent us a question about lessons: What if you sign your kiddo up… and he or she can’t stand it?

Last summer, I signed my eight-year-old son up for art classes. At first he really seemed to love them, but now he says they’re “boring” and wants to quit. I don’t want to force him to do something he’s not enjoying … but I also really want to cultivate his creativity and appreciation of the arts! Should I let him bail, or keep encouraging him?

I personally am all about this question — in our household, my husband is in the “make our kid take piano lessons even if he hates it” camp, while I am very defiantly part of the “let him do what he wants!” crowd. Both sides have validity: my husband maintains that Jasper will learn discipline and possibly a magnificent skill if he pursues music, but I am terrified of the idea of forcing Jasper to do something he doesn’t want to do.

What do you guys think: is it worth it to make your kid keep up with artistic endeavors even if he or she really doesn’t want to?

Comments on Should I make my kid take lessons even if he hates it?

  1. I have 6 year old twins. One takes Karate, one takes Art. The Artist wants to quit and take karate with his brother. But he doesn’t realize they’ll be in different classes. And he has such a talent for art already. We’re making him at least stick it out til the end of the school year.

    That being said… when my brother was young, he tried every hobby you can think of (football, karate, baseball, swimming, art music etc) and quit all of them until he finally found the Jr Navy. He stuck with that for 4 years and went all the way through the program. You can bet he learned discipline and respect though that!

    Sometimes its not about sticking with it. Its finding something he truely loves and is interested in. Then HE’LL make the choice to persue it. We can’t expect an 8-year-old to know what he wants to do. That’s what this age is for!

  2. If he finds this particular arts class boring, how will making him attend a “boring” class teach him to love and appreciate the arts? Sounds like he will just learn that they are boring!

    Maybe find a different class? Ask him what he likes best about art class and find something that’s more engaging.

    • I COMPLETELY agree with this. It’s exactly what I was thinking. Forcing a kid to take a class they don’t like can have the adverse effect and make them not want anything to do with the topic, at all.

      • I suppose the real question is what do you want him to learn from this experience? If you want to teach him to follow through on things and stick-to-it-iveness, then making him stick with it is probably the best idea. But if your goal is to encourage his budding artistic expression, forcing him to submit to drudgery and equating art with drudgery is probably not the way to go. To meet that end, you need lots of paints and paper and a place to explore. There are so many ways to encourage kids’ creativity without forcing them to sit in a chair and do what a teacher says. The end result of that might just make him hate art even though he might have loved it in a less rigid structure. If he did this with everything he tried, then maybe force him to stick it out. But if this is the first time this has come up, I’d give him an out, personally.

        • Art is one of those things where experience breeds appreciation, so I agree. I absolutely hated my 8th grand art class because the teacher was less about breeding appreciation for art and more for making sure we copied everything perfectly from our workbooks. :/

          My question would be: what about trying a different type of art or trying it in a different setting? If he’s taking a drawing class, take him somewhere with awesome buildings he can practice on. Find an art commune or street artists performing and show him all of the different ways his art can be used. If all they’ve been doing in class in painting still lifes (lives?), I’d be bored out of my skull too!

    • Totally this! Forcing a kid to continue with an activity they hate or think is boring is only going to foster a deep resentment towards that thing. Totally try a different type of art that he might enjoy better. Maybe present him with options and let HIM pick which one to pursue (i.e. “OK, you don’t like your painting class… there’s also a sculpting class, a drawing class, and a design class. Which one would you rather try?”)

      • I am a student who just signed up for badminton lessons in school. My mom paid the money for them and it cannot be refund. Today was the first lesson, and it was really really super boring. And there were younger kids, who were total beginners. Around my age there’s only a friend joining. I really hate this badminton lesson but my mom paid for me to continue for more lessons! HOW? I dont want to waste the money but at the same time I dont feel like continuing. When we are warming down, my friends who werent joining laughed at me. The feeling sucked& im the only girl

  3. if he’s been doing the art classes since last summer…let’s say at least 6 months, and he’s complained at least half the time that they’re boring, i would let him drop the class.

    my parents gave us seasonal choices when we were small. Ie. In the fall you can do girl scouts, soccer, ballet or french? which two would you like to do?

    we would have to see those choices through until the next season, even if we decided we hated it halfway through.

    in this way they were making us participate in things that would make us well-rounded and possibly skilled or generally active, my brother and i felt we had some control over what activities we were doing or going to try and it taught us that if you make a commitment to do something you have to follow through.

    • That’s pretty much the same thing my parents did. I’ve participated in just about every activity imaginable and when I was 10ish we started soccer. That’s what stuck.

      I’m thankful I was able to try so many things, though looking back, I do wish they would have pushed a little bit harder with any of the music lessons.

  4. I have a 7 year old. He likes to try things, but does get bored with them after a while.
    My rule is, finish what you start. If he starts a season of soccer, he has to finish. He doesn’t ever have to do soccer again after that season, but he is not allowed to quit.

    I am open to him trying new things to find the right fit for him. He has tried soccer, wrestling, piano, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, along with painting and drawing with me in my studio on a regular basis, but that is together time, not LESSONS. SO far, BJJ is the winner, but he isn’t going right this minute. (school takes precedence to extra-curriculars, and we always make time for family time and general chill time before any extras.)

    I think you can find a balance between letting your child choose what they like, and making them stick to their decisions and see them to the end (of the season, so to speak).

    I think that as Eli gets older, he will find what he is passionate about and want to stick with that.

  5. no, no, and NO!

    two situations
    1. your kid comes to you and says that they want to do this, but after awhile, they want to quit… I think its important for them to stay in this scenario b/c they need to understand their consequences have actions and they need to learn responsibility and you cant just quit everything you dont like

    2. they have no interest, but you think it will make them a better person in the end… no, no, no, no, no… it doesnt matter how many piano exercises and drills they do, if they arent enjoying it, then they arent going to learn from it, if nothing else, it will leave them with a bad taste in their mouth for whatever you are making them do – maybe even rebel against it… my mom put my in piano when I was a child, but it was such a waste of her money and my time b/c I didnt want to be there, I couldnt play anything even after all the lessons b/c I simply didnt want to learn it, and practice every day was torture… it doesnt help that I am not musically talented at all… wish they had just let me do what I was interested in

    • I don’t know, I feel like it’s a little bit different when it comes to music. Small children don’t have the patience or discipline to practice each day without some parental encouragement, or even a little bit of force. I can’t name how many times during my childhood I wanted to quit my piano and other instrumental lessons, but my mother made me stick with it. I’m finishing up my junior year at a conservatory this year, and I couldn’t be happier or love what I do more. Piano lessons may sometimes make for a miserable nine-year-old, but that could change in week, a month, or a year.

      • Just to provide balance to your post, I took piano for several years when I was young, and then, I got bored and decided I didn’t want to do it anymore. My parents let me drop it, and I am SO thankful they let me do that.

        Then in high school, for some reason I kept up volley ball for years even though I hated it. And I really regret wasting my time on that. It makes me appreciate even more the fact that I was able to drop piano when I wanted to instead of develop such a hatred of it like I did with volley ball.

        Now I’m taking up the fiddle, and it’s a lot more fun than the piano, because I actually want to learn it. It’s never too late to take something up, in my opinion.

        All that to say, adults won’t necessarily regret having dropped music classes when they were young! It’s so hard to predict.

        • When I was two years old, I completed a coloring sheet of angels playing the harp, and told my mother that I wanted to play that instrument.

          I didn’t have an opportunity to start playing until I was 10, so until then I took voice and piano lessons. I loved the harp so much, initially, that I saved up a thousand dollars to buy a kit to build one. (A lot of money for a kid!)

          But by the time I was 16, I was so wretched weary of the constant lessons and performing and stress that I could barely stand it. The trouble is, my parents and extended family were so invested in the idea of me as a harpist that I couldn’t just quit. Every time someone said, “We just love to hear you play! It’s like angels! It’s so relaxing! I hope you keep it up!”, I heard “If you stop playing we will be so devastated!” It was a constant source of stress and misery–most of my conflict with my mother as a teenager was about practicing various instruments. I wanted to be a writer, and have friends. This conflicted with being a professional-level musician. As soon as I had graduated, though, I dropped the academic study of the instrument in a hot minute.

          I still have nightmares about harp teachers.

          I guess my point is that being taught responsibility and commitment is good, but there are lots of ways to teach that, and I don’t feel that forcing a child to do something they dislike will teach them that. In my case, it has had almost the opposite impact–the lesson I learned was “I can never quit things that I hate, so don’t get involved with things”. I also learned the lesson, “My parents don’t care about what I want.” I just wanted a full night’s sleep and a Christmas season in which I wasn’t performing every day.

          The other part of my point is that if a child really enjoys it, they will want to continue doing it. By the time I stopped loving it, I was a very respectable musician. I just wish that someone had let me stop then, when it was still a source of joy and comfort to me.

      • Another counterpoint to your post – I showed aptitude for music at a very young age. My mother went to a pianist friend and said, “Should we sign her up for music lessons?” And bless Ben, because he said, “No. Surround her with music and give her the opportunity to come to you.”

        And that’s what she did. We already were destined to live in a house of song (with my chorus-singing mother and my tone-deaf-but-music-loving father), but my mother made sure to give my brother and I musical instruments to play with and a wide range of interesting music to listen to.

        When I was 10, I started playing the flute in school band. This blossomed to me joining the local youth symphony at 11 and starting private flute lessons at 12 (because I went to Mom and asked for them, not because she told me to). By the time I graduated high school, I was first chair in school band, in the chamber symphony (top of the crop) at the local youth symphony and second alternate to the State solo competition in a district with very, very, VERY strict competition amongst flute players. I didn’t choose to pursue music as a profession, but it is still something I love.

        I think with young kids, music lessons are kind of a wash. The real drive to succeed doesn’t come along until late elementary or junior high school at least – that is, when a kid is ready to ask for lessons. Just like I was. πŸ™‚

    • I also want to add, that most kids don’t have the vocabulary to use a more precise term, or understanding of social dynamics to realize why they think something is boring. For instance, I took piano lessons as a kid. I told my Mom I didn’t like it anymore and she let me quit (after a short time period to see if I was truly not liking it). Now, I realize I really liked the piano; I just didn’t really enjoy the interactions I had with my teacher. We just didn’t click. But I didn’t understand those dynamics then so I couldn’t explain what was going on with more appropriate words. I wish I had. Because I am sure if I had found a more suitable teacher for me I would have enjoyed the piano for years and still be playing now.

      So – I think the “why” he finds it boring needs to be explored and not just assume that he really doesn’t like it.

      • I totally understand and agree with this. I took “keyboard” lessons around the age of 7 or 8… not really piano lessons, but playing on an electric keyboard. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to play the piano that was right next to the piano. My teacher was a retired lady who was probably really nice, but just couldn’t relate with an 8 year old. Eventually my mom let me stop lessons.

        Fast forward to age 12: starting saxophone in band, seeing and hearing neat music. I wanted to get back into piano lessons, so my mom found a different teacher. I was a little older, she was a little younger than my last teacher. She taught me rep from the royal conservatory, and I was also allowed to learn music from the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean movies etc. Which made practicing much more fun. Now I’m graduating with a degree in jazz performance.

        The point? Kids need to be able to learn music THEY want to learn, and be inspired by what they see and hear.

  6. This is always such a toughie. My kids are 10 & 13 and I’ve definitely been in this same position, especially with my son.
    He was in soccer -wanted to quit after one season.
    He was in karate – wanted to quit after a year (despite being wonderful at it and kind of a natural)
    This year he wanted to join orchestra and play the bass (a $1800 instrument!-EEEK). I was reluctant, but found a company that lets us rent it monthly. He’s played all school year, loves it, and wants to continue playing. So, it took a few tries of other things before he found what he enjoyed.

    There’s this battle to make them stick something through, but not at the risk of making them genuinely unhappy, especially if the activity is costing you money. I’d say at 8, he’s likely old enough to realize he honestly doesn’t like the classes and I would allow him to quit and explore something else. How long has he been doing it, by the way? Also, has your son been made of fun for being in “art” – I know kids are mean, especially those boys are boys kids (sports kids) and they’ll ridicule at the drop of a hat. Could it be that he’s not enjoying the teacher and maybe a different one would work better?
    I’d definitely make sure something else isn’t going on before making a decision, but then yes, if he tells you it’s strictly the lessons and he doesn’t like them, let him pick something else. I think if we can offer variety to our kids, it’s a great thing. Also keep in mind, you can still do art with him at home to keep instilling the wonderful values that stem from that.


  7. Here’s the thing. If the kid just gets an out because it’s become boring, then that sort of sets a precedence that it’s okay to quit boring stuff.
    Does that mean that said kid has to stay in a class that he hates? No way. Talk to him about WHY it’s boring. Maybe he’s doing really well in the class and not feeling challenged, or maybe he’s not doing as well as he’d like and isn’t getting any help to improve. Or maybe he just really hates art and is more interested in doing something else.
    The important thing to convey is that he’s not getting “off the hook” by quitting–it’s important to move onto a new class or sport that will cultivate his interests and skills. If those interests and skills don’t happen to include art, consider new ways to expose him to art. Crafts and whatnot?

    And protip? I’m a 25 year-old woman who LOVES art and loves making art… but I’ve ALWAYS hated art classes, even when they were 100% my choice to take. A kid leaving an art class doesn’t mean he or she will hate the arts forever.

  8. I usually ask them to stick it out through whatever session we’ve signed up/paid for, then find out what it was about it that they liked/didn’t, and help them scout out new things to try. It’s kind of like dating–it may take a few tries to find the one that’s most compatible, but once they find it, it can mean a lifelong love and something that brings them joy. πŸ˜‰

  9. good question. my daughter takes gymnastics. she want to learn how to flip and do cart wheels but she doesn’t want to do the work to learn how to get there. i told her if she wants to get there she needs to do the boring small stuff and i made her stick it out. i want her to learn hard work and dedication to achieve something that i know she will like and wants to do.

    BUT on the flip side, i know she likes it. she has fun. i put her in a class with her friend so she isn’t lonely. she listens to the teacher and does really well. so i think she is just disappointed in her idea that in five minutes she would be a great gymnast… and she didn’t know that it is something you learn and work at and that it doesn’t happen over night, in one week, or even a month. if she didn’t really like it and showed no interest in it and was not getting anything out of it, i would stop taking her. i would ask her if she wanted to try something else instead.

    you have a million options and a million things to try and a million different ways to go about it. he isn’t you. he is him. he has to find his own path on what he likes. taking an art class is not going to make him appreciate art. it isn’t even going to make him like it. i would find a different way to show him art if he truly doesn’t like the class. there are other types of art classes. you could have him in a mini play or something…

    i am all for forcing a kid to do piano lessons. heck, no kid likes them but they love knowing how to play the piano as in adult. i think that is good for kids. other stuff? nah, let them decide. don’t force them to do anything they don’t really want to do. let them pick something, if they don’t like it, it doesn’t hurt them to quit. just make sure you make them give it a long enough shot to figure that out or till the end of the session. some times kids want to quit because they expected it to be something different (like being a perfect gymnast right away) and want to quit because it isn’t what they thought it would be.

    • I really don’t understand this idea that learning the piano is different from anything else: it should be kept up but anything else can be dropped if it gets boring. Adults can learn the piano too! Why is it so important for children to learn it if they hate it? It’s not your only chance in life to learn music. I just don’t get it.

      As I said in an earlier comment, I dropped the piano when I was young, and I’m so thankful. I hated it. Now I’m taking up the fiddle and I love it, and dropping the piano is not impeding my learning in any way.

      • I don’t get it either. As I pointed out, I learned to play the flute just fine starting at 10 when it was my choice – not quite sure why a keyboard instrument would be that much different than a woodwind! πŸ˜‰

    • Please please NO don’t force kids to do piano! I was forced and my mother and I had -huge- fights over it. I played from age 5 to 18, when she finally couldn’t make me play anymore. Now at 24 I’m interested in playing again but I’ve got this huge drama…fight…-thing- in my psychology that’s being a real stumbling block.

      Yes, it was good that I learned. But it was -NOT- good that I was forced to continue when I wanted to stop. I really really wish she hadn’t done that. πŸ™

  10. As an adult, I now wish my parents had been a little more … stick-with-it. I stopped taking piano lessons and now wish I knew how to play. I didn’t get involved in sports until very late in high school and by that time my age group was much farther advanced than myself. Overall, I find I’m a contented, well-adjusted person so I don’t feel there’s any long-lasting effect to not being forced into extracurricular activities but I’m a little wistful all the same.

    • I agree with this. I wish my parents had made me stick with something. Not only do I wish I could play piano and that I had completed that lifegaurding class, I also find that as an adult, I have a tendency to drop projects/hobbies after a few weeks. I’ve got a million half finished projects (oh hello, empty Etsy store and sad, abandoned blog.) I feel like if I had been made to stick with something, I might be less flighty with my hobbies. Obviously, there’s no guarantee with anything, but I don’t think it would have hurt to be challenged to stick with something, even if it was a little boring.

      • Chris and Jessica: it’s never to late to learn the piano. Do you actually want to play it or do you just think it would be a nice idea? Because honestly, piano lessons are not hard to find. You might even find that you learn a lot faster than you did when you were young and didn’t want to be taking the piano.

      • also as someone who was forced to stick with things, see them through to the end, finish what you started etc as a child, as an adult (without someone forcing me to) I find it just as difficult to stick with things, except those that I love, such as science and philosophy. It’s normal to start things and not continue them, and being forced to see things through as a child won’t help you with seeing things through as an adult (when you’re an adult there’s no parent bribing/chauferring/paying/supporting so sooner or later you have to figure out what motivates you internally, not externally, anyway).

    • I don’t mean to be rude, but I’ve never really understood this point of view and I hope you can explain it to me better. If as an adult you wish you knew how to play the piano, why don’t you learn now?

      I guess a lot of times I wish I knew how to do something, but don’t actually have any interest in the learning process… I want to skip that and get to the good stuff. πŸ™‚ But I don’t think that’s any different as a child than as an adult. Yeah, if you’d been pushed to go through the learning process early you’d be done with it now. But if you start the learning process now you’ll be done with it in the future!

      • I totally agree! Just because you didn’t learn something as a child is no excuse for not learning it as an adult, if you have an interest to.

      • Also, piano teachers who have to teach 1st and 2nd graders all day will really appreciate the maturity you have – and the fact that you want to be there!

        They even have beginning piano books for adults so it won’t be so tedious.

        (My mother is a piano teacher)

      • I think its that as a kid these things stick a little better… like learning a language. Our brains develop during a certain age (I believe its around preschool age) for language, which makes it SO much easier for kids to learn then adults. I’m not sure about piano, but I know I wish I would have learned a language earlier so that as an adult, it would be second nature. I think THAT’s what the piano-lovers are wistful about. I agree you can always take lessons now as an adult, but there are certain ages that are just BETTER to learn certain things.

          • I’m really curious about this! The idea that children learn music faster has come up a few times in this discussion, and I know it’s a common assumption. But I can’t find any academic research about it. Does anyone know anything more about this idea?

        • Just thought I would add what expertise I have here: I can’t speak for music, but the human brain’s peak ability to learn a language ends in the early to mid-teens. However, I am double majoring in German and Japanese, both of which I began studying after the time at which my brain’s plasticity has lessened. Nevertheless, I have maintained a 3.9 GPA in both departments and am progressing well to fluency, so it isn’t as if “more difficult to learn” means “impossible to learn” after a certain age, whether it is in regards to music, language, or what-have-you. It just means that yes, it may take a little more work and a longer attention span, which fortunately *does* improve as you age. Take heart! It can be done! πŸ˜€

      • I no longer have the time or readily available funds to take piano lessons now that I’m an adult. I had tons of time as a kid, but now I work a 9-5 and spend nearly 3 hours a day commuting. πŸ™

        I do however have the piano my parents bought me as a kid….about two months before I decided I no longer enjoyed lessons and quit. I’d like to pick it back up and see if I can teach myself- using fun music I enjoy listening to, not the boring music my teachers had me play. πŸ™‚

    • Sometimes I have to distinguish that just because I wish to already have a skill under my belt (in my case, Spanish), that’s not something I really would have wanted my parents to force me to do. Now, if I want to make life easier for my someday kids, I can work on gaining the skill myself so that they can gain something just by being around me (like if I am bilingual, they can pick it up, or if I learned to play guitar, then I could play with them and make it a casual, fun thing that happens in our family, rather than forcing them to sit for an hour at a lesson with some teacher).

  11. I think it’s okay to demand one or two activities (or types of activities), as long as you let the kid explore his or her own interests otherwise. (I also favor sticking it out once they pick something.) When I grew up, swim lessons were non-negotiable — and I HAAAAATED them. Still don’t like to swim. But being able to swim is a life-saving skill to have.

    My kids will probably have mandatory swim class until they’re competent swimmers, and “some form of music” but they can pick the form as long as they stick with it. (It’s something important to our family and, as someone above said, music is a good skill to have at an amateur level regardless of whether you ever do anything with it.) Otherwise if they want to try stilt walking for a season, more power to them.

    Of course we “force” them to learn to read and do long division and so on; some things are just basic to being an educated, functional adult in society. I feel that basic swimming skills and at least basic musical competence fall into that realm. Along with some form of physical activity, ideally that one can continue into adulthood, and at least basic art appreciation. Etc. (Actually, all these things are “things wealthy schools teach but poor schools can’t afford.”)

  12. As a ice skating instructor (with students starting at age 3), there’s nothing worse than having a student who just doesn’t want to be there. In the beginner levels, we play a lot of games to learn the basics so that it’s not just about learning the manuevers. We really try hard to engage the skaters even if they are having a hard time with things. My advice is when selecting a class where you’re just not sure if they are going to like it, ask the organization if your child can try it out first for a class or two before signing up for a whole session. I wish more parents would bring their kids to just one public session first before signing them up for a 10 week class when they’ve never been on skates before. Also, “boring” can be a cover for when the child is having problems with the activity. It’s easier to say it’s boring than admitting they need help to be better if they feel like they aren’t doing well in the class/sport/musical instrument/etc.

    • It can also be a cover for other problems, like being picked on. I hated going to Sunday school and midweek Hebrew lessons. I didn’t actually have any objections to learning Hebrew, but I did hate having to see the two boys who picked on me at school AGAIN on another day.

      But no kid really wants to tell their parents “I don’t want to go because I’m unpopular and everyone makes fun of me.” So they say things like “I just don’t like it” or “I just don’t want to go.”

  13. When I was a kid, my parents made me do piano and tae kwon do. LONG TERM. I played piano until high school and they basically forced me to stick with TKD, which I hated, until I got my black belt. I hated both, but while I merely found piano boring, I actually dreaded going to TKD every week — it just wasn’t my kind of activity. My parents forced me through each one because they felt I wasn’t going to choose another activity otherwise (we never would’ve known, though), but even as an adult, I wish they would’ve let TKD go… I’d probably have a better attitude towards fitness, sports, and physical activity if they did. But I am kind of glad they made me stick through piano — if I HAD to have a forced activity…

    As a mom, I don’t think “it’s boring” is a good enough excuse to quit midway. And getting your kid to stick with something for a season isn’t going to harm them. I love the “seasons of activities” idea that another person posted — I think it’s a great way of exposing your child to different activities… but if your kid really hates it, then yeah, it’s okay to take something else on (a different art form or type of art class, if we’re talking arts) when the series of classes is over. Also, I agree that you should talk to your son and try to see if there are any other reasons why he doesn’t like the class that he’s not being open about. It could very well be the teacher, the style of art, other kids in the class, or another person making him feel uncomfortable about being in the class — something that needs to be handled outside of the activity itself?

    Good luck!

  14. From the “final” product perspective, I was a kid that quit everything. I was always required to make good on my promises, so if I promised to be in a recital or a meet, I had to do it. But if I decided afterward that I didn’t want to do it anymore, I was never forced to.

    On one hand, this was terrible for me. I had one bad swim meet and I quit. I quit ballet because I hated having my hair yanked into a bun. I quit Taekwondo when I was one step away from being a black belt. I learned absolutely ZERO about pushing through something that’s tough. Also, I’m not really good at anything.

    On the other hand, it makes me kind of an interesting person to talk to. Want to talk about horseback riding? Been there. Golf? Done that. Flute, clarinet, guitar, harmonica? Sure, as long as you don’t make me play any of them.

    There’s got to be a middle ground. A kid has to be able to explore to find his/her passion. But they also have to learn that anything worth doing is going to be boring sometimes, hard sometimes and frustrating sometimes.

    One possible solution is to make them responsible for paying for the lessons or the instrument so they have ownership in the activity. Or, you could sit down and identify goals and milestones that the child should accomplish before they can make an educated decision that the activity just isn’t for them (of course, this concept might need to be simplified to be age appropriate).

    I’ve seen parents struggle with this issue so much. It also lends itself to a related, but separate issue of how much is too much when it comes to activities vs. spending time at home with family. It’s a tough one.

    • When I started getting an allowance, a portion of it went towards the lessons/sports/whatever I wanted to do. That was a good way to make sure I was invested!

  15. I’m kind of torn on this! I don’t have kids yet but soon.
    When I was younger, I did gymnastics for about 3 years and I loved it. And then I took horseback riding lessons for 1 session and stopped. I don’t know if we didn’t have the money or if I just didn’t seem interested? But I never went back to any kind of classes. And I wish I had, or I wish my mom had pushed me a little more.
    My sister went to all kinds of things, she was never in anything long. Ballet for a few weeks, karate for maybe a month or two. She was in horseback riding maybe 1 year. But I know she’s told me before that she wishes my mom had kept her in something for longer, or pushed her to take classes.

    So I know I wanted to be pushed more but I don’t want to force my kids to do anything. I feel like they should be in some kind of class or after school activity but you shouldn’t pick for them and you shouldn’t have them doing 5 things at once.
    It’s a tough call.

  16. My parents never forced me to take any sort of lessons. I took flute lessons and then voice lessons for a year when I was a kid before losing interest, and signed myself up for 6 weeks of ballet classes when I was 17, but that’s it. As an adult, I often find myself wishing that I knew how to play the piano or the guitar, and that I had been maybe not forced, but more encouraged strongly to stick to things. Like one of the posters above, I think it might help me be more stick-to-itive as a grown-up if I had practiced that skills as a kid. Still, I don’t like the idea of forcing a child to do something they don’t like.

  17. When I was young, my mom made me take taekwondo (she was the teacher, it seemed only natural). Once I was finally allowed to quit, I have never looked back. Through my own devices, I found swimming (still harbor a great love of it to this day) and the cello (but only after a horrible few months of trying the violin).

    My best advice – talk with your kid. Whenever I wanted to quit something, my parents encouraged me to really think about it – give it a month or two, see if it’s really something you’re not interested. Aside from the taekwondo (my mom REALLY wanted me to have that in common with her). And I did put thought into it, found hobbies I really enjoy, and that lesson has related to how I go about work – do I really want to quit or is this just a small setback that I can get over? I’ve been employed since the age of 16 and thinking about quitting has given me the opportunity to find another job, so I’ve never been unemployed.

  18. My mother enrolled me in dance class as a kid, I loved it at first but it only took two years for me to get bored. I was in tap and ballet, but I REALLY wanted to be in the Jazz class. Since it was more expensive, I wasn’t able to and my mom just ended up taking me out of dance class all together. Then, in my early 20’s I realized I should’ve been a dancer. =0P

  19. I think you have to pick and choose what you’re going to force your child to learn. Reading? Absolutely. Playing a musical instrument? Not so much. And I’m saying this as somebody who plays piano! It would be disappointing if my child didn’t share my interest but that’s my cross to bear.

    I also do think though there’s value in trying again later. Kid doesn’t want to take piano when he’s 8? Introduce it again at 10. Still no interest? Try at 11 or 12. Kids change their minds about activities just like they change their minds about food.

  20. If he doesn’t like that particular kid of art, why not try another art? If he’s doing a painting/drawing thing then try music or drama instead. Or perhaps sculpture? There are a lot of ways to achieve art.

  21. I took an art class as a kid that was great for a little while, then sooooo boring. It was very realism-oriented, so the teacher would set up a still life at the front of the classroom and draw it, and we’d copy every stroke the teacher made. I enjoyed it at first, because it was really cool to see that I could make these realistic drawings. But after a while it got old–I wasn’t learning how to draw, I was learning how to copy the teacher. There was no thinking involved. I can’t see how there would have been any benefit for me in sticking with a class like that.

    Like other people have said, “boring” isn’t a good enough explanation. What did he like at first? What does he dislike now? Is he still interested in art, or is he really fascinated by dance now? Would he like it better if he could draw more dinosaurs and fewer flowers? Is there a comic book drawing class?

    I think we also have this idea that if kids don’t learn something RIGHT NOW, they’ll never learn it. He has the next 80 years to learn to love art. It doesn’t have to happen this month or this year.

  22. No. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t encourage your kid to be artistic on his/her own. I’m a self taught artist, all my mom did was provide me with the supplies and books I needed and let me go apeshit.
    Music is a bit different, but I’d say if a kid can read sheet music, and understands the fundementals of playing a particular instrument, but just hates it, maybe switch to a different instrument. Maybe your kid prefers the banjo to piano, or something. Or maybe ask the teacher if your kid could play his/her choice of songs, or even switch instructors. If it comes down to it though,some kids aren’t going to be musically/artistically inclined, and I wouldn’t force it too hard.

  23. 1) Does it teach a skill that you really want him to know as an adult? For example, my husband is a non-native English speaker and the future kids are going to take classes on his language whether or not they want to. It’s not that I don’t want them to enjoy speaking and writing a foreign language (I do). However, having the opportunity to spend summers with extended family and connect with their culture is more important than whether or not they want to learn something. If the art classes teach him a skill or provide him with opportunities you want him to have as an adult then make him stick with it.

    2) does he (or are you certain he would) enjoy the moments of glory? No kid enjoys mastering a skill. It’s hard, thankless, and requires tons of practice. However, if your child does not enjoy the praise, the recitals, or does not get a rush of accomplishment, then it is a good sign that it’s just not his passion and he should be free to find something else.

    • I am not sure that the metric of enjoying the moments of glory is a judge of whether something is a passion–quite the opposite, in fact. It’s easy to love something when everyone is cheering for you. It’s easy to love something when that is why everyone is paying attention to you, what they praise you for. It’s easy to be passionate about something when you are flushed with success.

      But if you’re not enjoying the physical practice of it, the daily practicing, the rehearsals, etc, then I would say it’s probably not a passion at all. You have to love that part to stick with something. Momentary frustration is understandable, but if you dread everything associated with something, maybe it isn’t something you want to spend time on.

      In my case, I loved the moments of triumph. I loved the attention. At least in the beginning. By the end, I hated everything related to the harp so much that every time someone praised me I wanted to scream at them. Now, seven years later, if I play (and I play rarely) and someone compliments me, I want to shout at them that this time, I’m not doing it for their benefit.

      • Point taken. I was just repeating advice from my husband who had to take years of piano and hated every minute of it – even the recitals. I guess a better point is, if they don’t even like the moments of glory then they *really* hate it.

  24. Does he leave the class just as upset about it as when he goes in? When I took dance as a kid, I begged and begged my mom not to make me go, but she did and (almost) every week I ended up enjoying it. If that’s the case I say make him stick to it.

    Regardless, if there is a “session” or something, I personally would make him finish it out and then decide. And if he does decide to quit, then by all means let him explore something else! I’m not a parent yet, but my plan is to tell my kids they have to do at least one activity, but they can choose what it is. Considering my husband and I are both swing dancers and he’s a tae kwon do instructor, we have hopes as to what they will choose, but if they want to go out for football, we’ll deal.

    That being said, they probably will be forced to at least *try* swing dancing and martial arts. But we’ve already decided that we won’t force it on them if they don’t like it. (But I reeeeally hope they like dancing!)

  25. My mom always used what we call the “one more year” trick. When I wanted to quit clarinet half way thorough 6th grade I heard. “Stay in band through the end of the school year and if you still hate it you can quit.” I played through high school and beyond. My brother wanted to quit karate. I think he was just frustrated with something that was difficult for him. He got the one more year answer too. He ended up liking it more by sticking with it and improving his skills, but ended up quitting it to try baseball after that “one more year.”

    • I don’t know if I’d go for a whole year (as a kid, a year is an eternity), but I agree with this approach. I think the best way would be to agree together on a fair amount of time to keep trying (3 lessons? 5?) before the child is allowed to quit. Also, after the age of 7 or 8, make your child do the quitting (ie, explain to the instructor why s/he’s no longer interested in continuing).

      But not quitting activities at a young age is not a bad thing. I say this as an experienced quitter; I quit almost everything I started as a small child, from pottery classes to swimming lessons to soccer (and there are more!). I turned out to be a happy, creative, educated person. It might not be time for music/sports/whatever yet for your child, and trust me, they can still pick up instruments/arts/sports in their teens, when they make the decision to do so. (The only lessons I stuck with long-term were guitar lessons and german lessons, both of which I begged for in my teens but would have quit right away as a younger child.)

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