Your child begs and pleads to be allowed to learn how to play the piano
or to take up a new sport, and you happily indulge their enthusiasm, shelling out a small fortune for all the necessary kit, only for your budding Olympian or concert pianist to fall spectacularly out of love with it, begging and pleading to be allowed to give it up.
It's a heart-sink moment - aside from the money wasted, no parent likes to think that their child might lack commitment, and many of us have tales to tell of the short-lived interests we abandoned as children, but which, as adults, we wish someone had encouraged us to persevere with. But forcing a child to stick with something they don't enjoy veers too closely to the dreaded path of pushy parenting, to most mums and dads.
So what's the right way to respond? Should you accept that hastily-abandoning a costly hobby is an unavoidable part of allowing children to discover where there interests lie, or is there a case to be made for discouraging kids from giving up too easily and becoming little quitters?
My children have always thrown themselves headlong into a wide range of after-school activities, from horse riding and gymnastics to swimming and street dance. But, at five and seven, they've recently begun to protest about having to practice between training sessions, and are starting to ask if they have to keep going to some of their activities.
I've always known this day would come, and I encouraged them to take up a wide range of hobbies
on the understanding that their interests would narrow eventually, and that doing lots of different activities would help them determine where their own talents lie. But what concerns me now is that the things they want to give up are the very activities
at which they most excel. So what to do?
Kids' life coach Naomi Richards
doesn't think it's ever right to 'bully' your child in persisting with a hobby once they've lost interest. Instead, Naomi recommends talking to your child about which aspect of the hobby they don't like, and exploring whether there's anything you or the child could do to make it more enjoyable.
Mother of two, Catherine, learned the hard way that skipping this part and jumping to conclusions about your child's disinterest can prove counter-productive. Catherine's son used to enjoy rollerskating on Saturday mornings but when he suddenly lost interest, Catherine assumed it was because his skates were too small, and promptly purchased another pair to the tune of £60. But he still didn't want to skate.
"I persisted in taking him because I'd bought the skates but after a while I realised all I was doing was winding myself up every Saturday, so I let him stop going," Catherine explains. "I am a bit annoyed about the money spent on the skates but it was partly my fault for ignoring him when he said he wanted to give it up. I just thought he was being lazy."
Catherine doesn't regret letting her son ditch skating but my concern is that my kids might give up things out of a short-sighted laziness, only to regret it later.
Naomi agrees that that should be avoided. "Some children do give up too easily and I think we should encourage them to stick with their interests for a while – it may get better. Explain that everything takes time and that they may grow to enjoy it more – relate it to other things that they have tried and not liked at first but then later enjoyed."
Child psychologist Kitty Hagenbach
agrees, and advises parents to remember that few children really understand that starting a hobby means continuing it on a regular schedule.
"Children are impulsive and live in the moment. I suggest that parents don't rush in to buying expensive equipment and a term's worth of lessons as soon as the child shows an interest. Take some time to see if the interest shown by the child persists, then explain if they take up the hobby they will need to stick with it for whatever period of time, say for one term. Allow the child to stop at the end of the agreed time if they want to. This gives children opportunities to become responsible, to develop commitment and to work their way through some challenges."
Above all, Kitty cautions against criticising a child for losing interest. "It is natural for children to be spontaneous
and to change their mind," she says.
As for my boys - I set them an ultimatum. If they gave up a hobby, they'd have to part company with all the expensive accessories that accompany it, and which they were so desperate to get when they first showed interest. I pointed out the kids who turn up faithfully to training every week but who, unlike my lads, don't have the latest kit or the flashiest boots. That helped reveal which hobbies they really care about, and seemed to put an end to all talk of quitting.
Which is just as well, because I'm still banking on the idea that what I spend on kids' hobbies now will be an investment in my old age - when I'll be looked after by at least one world-famous jockey, golf-pro or Olympic athlete...
More on Parentdish: Encouraging your child to play a musical instrument
- Beat a drum
<p>Learning how to play the drums is both satisfying and healthy. Drumming increases the heart rate, encourages you to use the whole body and helps with co-ordination and muscle control. It's also enormous fun. Choose between lessons or family drumming days and unleash your inner rock star.</p>
- Go walking
<p>Walk to school, walk to the shops, walk to the park and just keep on going. Little ones can handle a fairly steady pace and, if it's quite a hike, take along some water and a healthy snack.</p>
<p>The simple stride has oodles of <a href="http://www.ramblers.org.uk/info/everyone/health.html" target="_blank">health benefits,</a> is easy to do, doesn't need special equipment and it's free.</p>
- Get gaming
<p>A study by a professor of Exercise Science at BYU proved that <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/07/01/why-my-children-dont-need-wii-hab/" target="_blank">exergames</a> (exercise games) burn sufficient calories to form part of a valid exercise regime.</p>
<p>This means that you can enjoy Wii Boxing without feeling guilty. Most fitness and dance games are available for all three consoles (Wii, Xbox 360, Playstation 3) and some of the best include <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Take-2-Nickelodeon-Fit-Wii/dp/B004KJECWO" target="_blank">Nickelodeon Fit,</a><a href="http://www.ubi.com/UK/Games/Info.aspx?pId=9410" target="_blank">Dance Juniors </a>, <a href="http://www.majescoentertainment.com/games/display_game.php?PLTFRM=kinect-for-xbox-360&GN=zumba-fitness" target="_blank">Zumba Fitness </a>, <a href="http://www.ubi.com/US/Games/Info.aspx?pId=9808" target="_blank">Just Dance 3</a> and <a href="http://www.konami.com/games/walk-it-out" target="_blank">Walk it Out</a>.</p>
- Try yoga
<p>Yoga is a brilliant way to keep fit and supple and it is available in all sorts of flavours. You can start out healthy with <a href="http://www.nct.org.uk/courses/antenatal-courses/nct-yoga-pregnancy" target="_blank">pregnancy yoga</a>, follow up with baby yoga, upgrade to classes for kids aged two and up, and even use <a href="http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=yoga+for+kids&tbo=p&tbm=vid&source=vgc&hl=en&aq=f" target="_blank">YouTube</a>.</p>
<p>You’ll find classes in your area through the NCT for pregnant mums and the well known <a href="http://www.yogabugs.com/home.aspx" target="_blank">Yoga Bugs </a> offer courses across the UK.</p>
- Create an obstacle course at home
<p>Whip up an obstacle course <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00gmmv8)" target="_blank">Total Wipeout</a> style and prepare to be amazed at how much fun you all have.</p>
<p>Suck in your gut, sweep your legs back and forth and convert yourself into the Crazy Sweeper while giggling offspring jump over your limbs.</p>
<p>You'll get a whopping workout while they burn off energy. Turn yourself into the Sucker Punch, jump from one cushion to another, or clamber around the room without touching the floor.</p>
- Take a dip
Swimming falls into the category of vigorous exercise and is excellent for buoyant workouts that allow for all levels of fitness.</p>
Whether you hover in the shallow end playing with your water wary children or throw down some lengths, you will be moving muscles and burning fat. And thanks to lovely heated pools you don't have to plunge your shivering body into icy water in winter.</p>
- Skip to my Lou
According to the <a href="http://www.brsa.org.uk/pages/skip-yourself-fit.htm" style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;" target="_blank">British Rope Skipping Foundation</a><span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;"> a ten minute session of skipping has the same health benefits as a 45 minute run.</span></p>
If you can't remember how to skip, your kids will only be too happy to help, and laughing at a parent is a great motivator.</p>
- Don't spare the horses
Horse riding is great for improving posture, burning fat and keeping the body active. If you've never clambered aboard one of these amazing animals before, then one hour of riding will soon see you groaning at the aches and pains in new places. Horse riding can be tackled by anyone at any age except, of course, pregnant mums and newborn babes.</p>
- Try two wheels
Cycling is something that the entire family can enjoy and children love it. Teaching kids to cycle can be a tad challenging, fortunately <a href="http://www.sustrans.org.uk/assets/files/leaflets/sustrans_cyclingwithchildren_March08.pdf" style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;" target="_blank">Sustrans </a><span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">has a handy guide on how to introduce your kids to cycling and tips on keeping safe while on the roads.</span></p>
Then took a look at the <a href="http://www.sustrans.org.uk/what-we-do/national-cycle-network)" target="_blank">National Cycle Network </a> for scenic and traffic-free routes in your area.</p>
- Just roll with it
<p><span style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Scooting is a fantastic way to keep fit, have fun and enjoy the outdoors together (and it’s kinder to your purse - they don’t require pricey petrol!). Check out </span><a href="http://9nl.it/MicroscooterTrixx/" style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;" target="_blank">Micro Scooters</a><span style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;"> for wheels suitable for all ages. The range can help improve your child’s balance and co-ordination skills, plus the products are not just for kids – the brand also has a </span><a href="http://www.micro-scooters.co.uk/mums-fit.php" style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;" target="_blank">Mums' Scooter Club</a><span style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;"> (you know you want to…!). </span></p>
<p><span style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">A recent study by Mirco Scooters also found teachers who scoot to work garner greater respect from their pupils and the pupils' parents. </span></p>