Is quitting educational?

My younger son has been bugging me about skateboarding for a year. I’m not a big fan. I think it’s a roadmap to a concussion and also, what are we going to do about cello if he can’t play for six weeks because of a broken wrist?

But he was relentless, so I decided that if he’s so curious about something, I should say yes. He loved it, and also he loved the other kids at the skate park. Finally we found a group of kids for him. It’s too bad that they can’t skate until after school, but he practices a lot while they are in school.

My older son saw how well things were working out for my younger son, so he wanted to do it, too. I was surprised. He has lousy balance and also a big part of skateboarding is knowing where the other kids are and what they are likely to do next so you don’t run into each other. This is very very hard for a kid with Asperger’s. But I told myself that things that are hard for him are good for him.

I told him he had to take five lessons before I’d buy him the $200 skateboard and $50 skate shoes and $40 helmet. And then the week after we bought all that stuff, he announced that he doesn’t like skateboarding any more.

My first thought was: “Great, because the only kids who were crashing into each other at the skatepark were my two sons, with intent to harm, so I’d just as soon get out of there.”

But then I thought how it’s not good to let him stop just as it gets difficult. And I already spent a lot of money.

Then I thought I should let him direct his own learning. I don’t want him to be the type who stays in a job that he hates. So maybe what he’s learning is how to quit.



19 replies
  1. todd
    todd says:

    No reason to force him to do something he hates, but as I’m sure you know, overcoming adversity can be one of the most fulfilling experiences available. If he doesn’t want to do it because he’s lost interest and got a whole slew of other things lined up that are more enticing, I say no big deal, but if he wants to quit just because he’s not good at it right now, I say encourage him to stick with it at least long enough to learn whatever basic skill is currently eluding him. If he gets it & then wants to quit, no big deal. If he spends a month and can’t get it, definitely better to look for something else, but if he get’s it after a week & discovers that maybe it’s not such a bad past-time after all, even better.

  2. TR
    TR says:

    That is a good point. Learning when to quit (or pivot) is a good skill to have. That being said, I really cringe at all the money you paid on the gear. Maybe it would also be a good time to teach a lesson in economics and see if he can’t work on recouping some of the value by seeing how much he can get for them on eBay.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I really like the idea of having him sell the board on eBay. I hadn’t thought of that.

      Although here’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately: I don’t find that I have a shortage of great ideas for ways to teach the kids new stuff. I find I have a shortage of energy to make it happen. Like that eBay idea. It would take about three hours of my time. And it’s doing stuff I really hate — the details of setting up a shop, dealing with shipping, and random customer emails, all of that makes me want to just go to sleep.


      • Jana Miller
        Jana Miller says:

        Craigslist is much eaiser but I bet your son could set up an ebay account very quickly without your help.

        He’s 11 right? It would have to be in your name but it’s easy to figure out. You could reward him by giving him 10% of whatever he makes on the board (as long as he can show you the expenses of ebay fees etc.)

        Ask around…I’m sure there would be someone else willing to show him. Maybe an older teen in one of the homeschool groups you have visited.

        • BladeDoc
          BladeDoc says:

          Why should he get a percentage of a percentage of a $200 dollar toy that he essentially forced his mom to buy and then take a loss on?

          A more realistic lesson would be to work a deal where he gets a percentage of anything he makes above $200 (which he won’t) and loses a percentage of any losses incurred (much more likely) and has to work it off in some way.

  3. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    Childhood is the perfect time to figure out what we like. Good job mom….maybe you can sell the gear to another mom on Craigslist and he can learn about selling items second hand.

    Usually when my son tries a new sport her buys used equipment because he’s spent his own money too many times on new equipment and then ended up quitting the activity. He learned not to buy new unless he was convinced it was his passion.

    He recently bought a barely used professional level camera for $2000 under msr. He’s learning that his money goes further when he is able to wait for things.

    Not saying you should have done this with your son. We live in an population dense area with many options for purchasing used items.

  4. Lori
    Lori says:

    it’s stupid to not let kids quit. i hate when adults blah blah blah about how kids should be forced to finish the team sport, finish the music lessons, etc. etc. they always want to make it a character issue.

    1, why try anything new if you know you have to keep on doing it whether you enjoy it or not? if you ban quitting, you’re squelching your kid’s willingness to do new things by grafting on a fear that they’ll have to do them forever. (and don’t say it’s not forever, because it feels like forever to a kid – their time sense is different from yours.) would i do that to myself? NO. i’m allowed to quit, so my kid is too.

    2, there are many good reasons to quit. maybe you enjoy the activity but hate the teacher/other kids. maybe you like the other kids but the activity is boring. maybe it’s just not what you thought it was going to be. it’s possible to minimize the effects of quitting. instead of joining a team, take homeschool P.E. or a park district class in that sport. buy used equipment or rent. if you buy used, you can almost always let go of it for pretty much exactly what you paid. we’ve tried and quit skateboarding and violin and did catch-and-release with the materials for both.

    3, if you’re looking for your passion in life, it’s stupid to waste time with something you’ve just realized is NOT IT. to get where you should be, you have to be free to dabble and try things and home in on what you really enjoy. maybe adults who have this whole “can’t quit” attitude have wasted so much time over the years they will only find their passion – if they ever find it – when it’s too late. optimize your available time on this earth and let yourself quit.

    • Jana Miller
      Jana Miller says:

      I agree …it is stupid to let them quit unless they are really close to their goal and they just need encouragement.

      If a kid has worked towards a black belt for 4 years and enjoyed it most of the time but then wants to quit in the last 3 months-I think that’s when they need encouragement to finish. And then they can quit.

      I want kids who find the passion in life but I also want kids who will stick with a marriage during rough patches knowing that life is always easy. I don’t want them dropping out at the first sign of a difficult situation.

      • MM
        MM says:

        Yep, if a parent never lets a child quit anything, the child learns that life is miserable endurance of bad situations, and eventually will tend to stick in bad jobs because he/she has never seen anything but miserable endurance of bad situations. Though I’ll agree that if the child is almost at a goal point but discouraged, some positive encouragement and pressure is healthy. It’s the forcing them to never, ever, quit anything that is silly – yet so many parents seem to be afraid of losing opportunities (but how many opportunities are going to come to a miserable, berated kid doing something he/she hates?).

  5. KateNonymous
    KateNonymous says:

    I think it’s important to find out (if you haven’t already) why he wants to quit. While I don’t think kids should have to do something they hate, I am also thinking about “the dip” in entrepreneurship–which you’ve written about more than once. If it’s just hard, but persisting would help him build skills that he’d enjoy, then maybe it’s worth encouraging him to stick with it a little longer. But if there are things he truly dislikes, that’s a different story.

    Knowing the answer to this can help both of you as he makes future choices. So I think whether you let him quit is ultimately less important than how much the two of you learn by discussing it.

  6. Heather
    Heather says:

    Please invest in some wristguards for your boy(s). My husband, a big skater, saw a young boy without wristguards fall and have his bone come through the skin there. ow! Husband wears the full gear and our daughters don’t go out without wristguards, kneeguards, elbowguards etc. Me? I prefer to rollerblade. Maybe your son would like that?

  7. karelys
    karelys says:

    maybe it’s easier (on your energy and time) to have him examine the reasons why he wants to quit. if he’s scared (someone was mean etc) he’s gotta push through it. if it bores him because he just doesn’t care for it then he can quit and do something better. but this will take him a few tries.

    i didn’t quit my job for a while because i was afraid i was running away from an opportunity to improve myself. once i tried changing my attitude and many other things i realize the situation wasn’t improving in other ways so i found another place to work. and i like this place.

    but i like it more not because of what i do but because of the work environment. which has a lot to do with myself (and that i learned while trying to improve myself/the situation in the other job).

  8. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I struggle with this one. My 6 year old is notorious for wanting to quit things after lesson/practice/etc. Number 4. It’s like clockwork and very frustrating. On the one hand, I don’t want to force her to do “fun” activities. On the other hand, I really value commitment in people. When she commits to a session/season/team etc. I want her to learn to honor those commitments. It’s very frustrating! Glad to hear I’m not alone in this dilemma.

    • KateNonymous
      KateNonymous says:

      My mother let us change activities regularly, but we had to finish whatever had been paid for. The result was that we understood that there were costs to our decisions, but we got a wide range of different experiences.

  9. kevin
    kevin says:

    There is no “finish” to skateboarding. There is no season, no teammates counting on you, no finish line.

  10. Mark K
    Mark K says:

    Wow, great post Penelope and some really thoughtful comments!

    I’d just add that as Jana and Lori highlighted so well, there can be excellent reasons to quit, and there can be excellent reasons to stick it out. It would be great if you can take the opportunity, as some other commenters mentioned, to discuss the issue in some depth with your son.

    Children have the luxury of having parents as a sort of out-of-bounds indicator. They can wing it on a decision and reasonably expect their parents to catch them if they are making a big mistake. So they do not always have to think a lot about a decision like this. They also do not have to wrestle with emotions and take the time to get a clear sense of how they really feel. Is it a passing thing like a fear, or is it something deeper?

    This decision offers an opportunity to dwell a little while on the process of weighing different factors. Learning this might seem a little ‘meta’ for younger kids, but it is one of those opportunities that homeschooling offers to learn something that can impact a lifetime: how to make thoughtful decisions instead of impulse based ones.

    As your kids grow into greater roles as directors of their own curriculum, having learned that approach to decision making will serve them well.

  11. Will King
    Will King says:

    I feel that the course Penelope took was a good one. In business, you have to invest, and in some cases, you have to abandon that investment simply because it isn’t paying off.
    With the children, it’s much the same; You have to be willing to risk some in order for them to discover themselves. – If it is something they enjoy – like the violin lessons – all the work they put into it doesn’t feel like work, anyhow.
    In this case, the skateboard is a sunk cost – the ebay idea is a good one, but it represents an investment of time on Penelope’s part. The lesson that could be derived from it may not be worth it, and it’s certainly not worth throwing good money after bad.
    If you look at it from a life-lesson sense, though – this reflects life fairly accurately. There are far more failures than successes. Encourage your kid to look at himself and what he did or did not like about skateboarding, so that maybe he will get a better idea of what he would like to do as a result.
    In the end, they’re kids, not adults – they haven’t a fraction of the self-awareness you develop from experience, and the same sense of wonder they have about the world creates this desire to try everything that looks cool (and that immediate loss of interest when something else cool comes along).

  12. karelys
    karelys says:

    i’m settling to read The Dip, a book by Godin on quitting.

    made me think of this.

    and i think yes, quitting is highly educational.

    the hard part is knowing when quitting is right or wrong. but i don’t think you can find out without doing both.

Comments are closed.