Tuesday, July 27, 2010

SpongeSydney QuitterPants

So, last night was interesting - to say the least. You see, yesterday evening was team resigning. This was the day that the kiddos got to recommit to the team for another 6 months. It is a great exercise. It helps the kids keep the perspective of what all of this Tae Kwon Do stuff is about. Master Adrian sat down with each one of the kids and talked about commitment - commitment to the team, commitment to being good humans - commitment to trying their very best. In the end, they each signed a document stating that they would continue to strive hard for another 6 months and seek excellence in whatever they do.

Graham was the first up. He could not have been more excited. He politely listened to Master Adrian and responded with "Yes Mams" wherever appropriate. He understood the gravity of what he was signing and their was no doubt that he was going to do everything he could over the next six months to be as good as he could - both in Tae Kwon Do and out. It was heartfelt and their is no doubt in my mind that Graham will live up to his word and strive everyday to be his best.

Sydney, on the other hand, was a completely and utterly different story. Frankly, she said she wanted to quit. When asked why, she stated that she did not want to work hard. She would rather spend her afternoons playing.

Disappointing, to say the least. This was not one of those proud Mommy and Daddy moments.

Don't get me wrong, I am not frustrated or angry because she does not want to be on team. I am thoroughly disappointed in her though. This is exactly how it goes with Sydney. If she is not the best at something, she simply quits. It isn't that this is Tae Kwon Do. It is with everything and it has always been that way. She is a quitter and we have had a horrible time finding anything that she would not quit.

It is this mentality that is the whole reason we started Tae Kwwon Do in the first place. We thought that there would be enough successes that it would keep her motivated and interested. I am guessing that after not experiencing success at the national level she doesn't view herself as a winner and, because of that, she is not motivated to continue. Although she did extremely well locally and regionally, she just doesn't remember how good she really is and now she sees herself as a loser.

As a parent, I am a little on the fence. While part of me wants her to be happy, I also know that letting her quit will not accomplish anything. She will just continue to quit. She will do something else for awhile and then the same thing will happen. She will learn nothing from the experience and not get out of it the valuable life lessons that were the whole reason we put her in the sport in the first place.

She needs to experience success. She needs to learn that hard work pays off. One of the greatest lessons that I learned through sports was that if I put in hard work and I tried my very hardest I could accomplish anything I wanted.

I want her to have that feeling. I want her to feel as though she can conquer the world.

I want her to believe in herself.

Right now, she doesn't and I guess that is what I am most disappointed in. I need a plan. I need to figure out how we are going to teach her that lesson. Unfortunately, right now, I just know that quitting will not accomplish anything.

It is time for a heart to heart.

It is time for some serious purpose.


Anonymous said...

I remember quitting a few things, too. We always made our children "play out" the season and then they had a choice to play or not the next. They each finally found their "thing" (after trying quite a few things) and stuck with it, as I did as a kid. Maybe this just isn't her "thing". Just an opinion. :)

Gayle in AL

Anonymous said...

She stuck with it through several years of cancer treatment and continues to put up with frequent doctor visits, scans, etc. She's worked her way through a few early difficulties in school and is now doing well. Seems to me that when she really needs to, she'll persevere through just about anything. Relax and let her be a kid enjoying a summer off.

Anonymous said...

Tough issue -- because there are two very divergent possibilities, and it is nearly impossible to know which one you have (a history of perfectionism/quitting is relevant, but not conclusive - as competitive drive is "born" in some kids but only develops with time and patience in others). I have four children - the youngest is 17. Here is what we found (by trial and error).
First -- if she is a perfectionist, or if she is not someone who is not naturally competitive (i.e. just driven to excel/win at whatever she does, regardless), making her stick with something that she is not truly interested in will never work. We tried to keep my youngest in karate after he had lost interest, and it was horrible - and a mistake on our part. The sport had ceased after a year or two to interest him; the instructors (I loved them) did not inspire him, and at least some of their teaching methods discouraged, rather than encouraged, him -- though other kids loved it. Forcing him to stay with it depressed him, made him feel as though his opinions did not matter, made him feel like a failure (even if he was doing ok in katas, etc., he was failing in "loving it"), and encouraged bad habits (showing up and half heartedly going through the motions). At the same time, he joined a highly competitive musical organization, and while he is not one of their "stars," he is the hardest working, most diligent guy there -- and he knows it and values his dedication and hard work. He loves it. He owns it. We NEVER have to remind him to practice, or worry about whether he is prepared. He constantly gets beat out for solos (by better singers) but he NEVER stops trying -- and he aims, each time, to make it as hard as possible for the director to NOT pick him. In hindsight, we were wrong to try to force karate for so long (he DID fall "out of shape" over time -- and is now taking crossfit classes and swimming to rectify that -- but even then, what gratifies him most is that it helps with the big, group choreographed numbers for singing.)
Maybe Sydney needs to find something that SHE (not you) chooses to do, and then she needs to be taught (by you) how to "coach herself" through the hard parts -- how to deal with boring practice, how to handle frustration when effort is not rewarded (immediately) by the level of excellence she has attained; how to deal with people in the activity/sport who are naturally more talented. But at the foundation (for any child other than a competition junkie) is starting with something she loves. (contd)

Anonymous said...

(Continued) On the other hand, we have cousins whose daughter went through ballet, flute lessons, piano lessons, harpsichord lessons, rowing, drama, -- constantly critiqued by her parents, never measuring up to what they considered to be her "potential" -- everything became a way for them to remind her (incessantly) that she had more potential than she was displaying and that she was failing to "be as good as she could be." In the end, she stuck with nothing (including school - seriously, she dropped out her junior year - as she was failing some of her courses -- she had B's in others, but nothing but "A's" were satisfactory to her parents, and she finally threw up her hands and just refused to continue). This parent ranks about 3 on a 1 - to - 10 scale, whereas you and Lynley are up on the 10 end -- so I am not trying to draw a parent comparison here at all, but this was a girl with a bad combination of (1) perfection issues, (2) a low frustration level, (3) a low physical energy level, and (4) probably a late-developing competition drive, in any case, nowhere NEAR her dad's and mom's competitive drive -- and every interest the child ever expressed was immediately built into a mountain of effort and expectation that she lacked the drive, energy, and perseverence skills to climb. Frankly, she would have done better painting and selling rocks (my Harvard-bound nephew did this for two summers), or running a lemonade stand that she built herself, or running a pet sitting service that she dreamed up on her own -- ANYTHING that nurtured her own sense of power and accomplishment - AND she may need to start with smaller "hills" than a nationally competitive tae kwando team.
Two "finallys" -- first, if this is something that is really lighting Graham's fire -- maybe she needs something else, so she is not directly competing with Graham in terms of how "good" she is at it or how hard she is working, especially as he seems like a pretty stout-hearted warrior himself. If she is going to "flag" from time to time -- she should be focusing on what motivates her, not on whether she is being outshone by a younger sibling with more drive than she has.
And second - when you think about it, I don't think she is a quitter. She did the first six months -- showed up; worked hard; went to nationals and did reasonably well -- and hopefully learned a lot about herself in the process (what motivates her, what doesn't, what she needs/wants to work on the NEXT time she joins something). And -- it was at the "re-up" part of it that she simply exercised her "choice" not to do the next round. If she were a soldier and had served her 4 years and didn't re-up, we wouldn't call her a quitter. She didn't go AWOL, or lay down on the job during her term of enlistment. When you and she talk -- ask her what she liked, what she didn't like, what she learned that she can carry forward into the next commitment she makes -- what she thinks she needs to "learn" next.

Anonymous said...

I think she has had enough forced on her - let her decide if she wants to continue. There are lots of things for her to try to see where she fits best. I have a good friend who forced skating on her daughter and it is horrible when a child wants one thing and a parent something else and in the end the child really has no choice in the matter. Let her choose!!!

Anonymous said...

Let her be a kid! Just because she wants to stop an activity doesn't mean she's a quitter and always will be. She's at the perfect age to try out many different things and see what she likes. I think it speaks volumes when she tells you she just wants to play. That usually signals an over-scheduled/over-pressured kid.

Anonymous said...

I so hope your daughter never reads your blog, I remember as a child feeling awful when my parents disparaged me in front of their friends. If you saw the title of this post with your name where hers is, written by your dad, how would you feel? What is so important about this tao kwon do? Seems to me she has stuck at it admirably, to say nothing of sticking out the cancer treatment. So she wants to play all summer? How lovely, and maybe as she plays with her friends and on her own she will discover more about herself and what she wants to do with her life, and if not, well she can have a lovely summer having fun before getting down to school starting. Sounds good to me!

Anonymous said...

Remember that a child's play is also their "work". It's a major part of how they figure out the world and their place in it. Right now that's what Sydney, Graham and Ainsley should be focusing on. If they express an interest in a sport or other activity, then by all means expose them to it. Otherwise, just be glad they're happy and healthy and enjoy their childhood days. You tend to over-think the parenting thing.