After playing both spring and fall softball for the past four years, your daughter suddenly announces that she no longer wants to play. This has been a huge part of your family's life: two practices a week, one to two games each weekend, traveling to various tournaments, not to mention all of her best friends are on the same softball team. You want to support your child, but is she making the right decision? And how do you, as a parent, help your child through this?
Talk with your child about quitting sports
When your child first approaches you announcing she wants to quit a sport, use my Empathic Process, an approach I developed for parents and children to communicate in a safe and open space. The Empathic Process teaches children how to talk to their parents about their feelings, while parents actively listen without defense. Then parents get a chance to speak. Ultimately, parents and children speak together solving their problem, by investing each participant in the solution. This undefended experience creates a safe space in which parent and child can return when needed. During this process, you can learn more about why your child wants to quit.
The advantages of quitting sports
Allowing your child to test herself against her environment, to experiment with different forms of expression and to find her gift is an important part of parenting. When your child wants to quit a sport, it is important to let her do so. Sports are supposed to fun, not a trial by fire. Team sports in particular, but sports in general, teach your child how to push past her effort, find her inner resource, her motivation, teaching her about leadership and how to work well with others. This all adds up to a child's sense of self, security and good self-esteem. If your child wants to try other sports, let her. If she decides sports are not for her, let her try other interests from which she may discover her gift.
The disadvantages of quitting sports
Some of the disadvantages of quitting a sport may derive from social rather than emotional experiences. Your child may not get along with a teammate, or feel embarrassed or humiliated by a coach... in which case, parental involvement can often remediate the problem. If she truly loves the sport and is just going through a temporary tough time, quitting may not be the best option. Other than that, if your child wants to quit for reasons that cannot be remediated by parental involvement -- because she no longer enjoys the sport, or because she finds the schedule too hectic or it interferes with school and other true interests -- let her quit. Sports are games to be played, not endured.
Remember: you are your child's advocate
In the final analysis, though sports may teach many good and important lessons, the most important lesson is to advocate for your child, so that she knows she can count on you to be in her court, right or wrong. Support your child's decisions, and be there for her. Let her know that whatever activity she chooses to pursue to find her gift, you will be there, cheering her on.