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My child wants to quit! Now what?

Marisca Uitenweerde
Marisca Uitenweerde

It’s that time of the day, and you’re trying to get your child ready for her karate class when they say, “I don’t want to go back – I don’t like karate anymore.” Gulp, what do you do, how do you respond?

Some of you are not going to like my answer…

Why did you sign your child up for martial arts training in the first place? Was it just because her best friend was training, or because he saw a re-run of Cobra Kai? If your reasons for signing your daughter or son up for karate fell along these lines, then begrudgingly I’d agree that terminating the program may be in order.

I’ll bet that your reasons for seeking out a martial arts school were a little more substantial than the ones given above. You probably thought that the discipline provided by the training, along with the physical activity, not to mention the very useful skill of self defense would enhance your child as she encountered a world which is not as kind, not as safe, and not as well-mannered as it once was.

So the first question is not one I need to answer, the first question is for you. What has changed in the world, as it relates to your child that would make you reconsider your original decision? Is the world safer, more kind, did six weeks of training instill the virtues of discipline and work-ethic as you had hoped? Probably not.

This cannot be overstated – you made a decision to provide your son or daughter with an educational perspective that cannot be attained anywhere else. As the parent, you (probably) did not sign up your child for frivolous reasons, and you shouldn’t cancel the program for frivolous reasons either.

Let me give you a couple of perspectives and see how they resonate with you. What if your child said, “I don’t want to go to school anymore,” or “I don’t want to go to church/temple anymore.” Would you for one moment even consider this statement at face value? Likely, you would probe the cause of the statement, and maybe, maybe, maybe take some action to address a problem. More likely than not, you’d explain that school is a part of your child’s life, it is required, and tomorrow morning they need to take the math test.

Do you like music? Because, it takes a long time to develop the skills necessary to understand, appreciate, and perform a musical instrument. Martial arts are no different in this regard. If we left the decision up to our children, we would never have another musician. Ever. No child would ever voluntarily practice the piano with the necessary dissicpline it takes to build proficiency. Most children would never attend required athletic practice sessions if they thought for one moment missing practice was an option.

You are the parent, and you have to be the stable force in your child’s life. The whims of your children will come and go as easily as daydreams and dandelions. If you are likely to allow their mighty thoughts of fancy to sway your decisions relative to their safety, self-esteem, and discipline, then what next? “Mom, I don’t like wearing a bike helmet.” “Dad, why do I need to study history, I’ll never use this stuff.” The list of “I don’t see the point” topics is never ending and you’re going to have to draw the lines somewhere. Safety, self-esteem, and physical control seem to be a pretty good place to start.

With only one exception, the child who says, “I don’t want to continue with karate” should be met with the same love, kindness and compassion that they would have received if they expressed a desire to never see the dentist, history class, or religious studies. These are important parts of life and full appreciation will not come in a month or even a year.

Of course, if you’ve found the particular martial arts school to be lacking, then by all means seek another school or instructor. Be the stable, guiding force in your child’s life. They really will thank you for it.


ATTENDANCE: The Sensei will notice the moment it’s time to do something different in class to keep the interest alive. The problem is that parents then let their children stay at home for one or two lessons and those are the lessons that the Sensei prepared for their child. Then when the child return to class they are back to the stuff that made the child stay at home in the first place. Attendance are very important, don’t assume that they will be bored if they attend class tonight, it might just be the class they were waiting for.

Some tips to keep their interest peaked:

1. Do it with them. Kids more than anything at that age want to do what their parents or siblings are doing… Because they want to be with you and share in activities you enjoy.

2. Respect their age and condition. While they want to do what you do, they physically and mentally and emotionally aren’t at your level. So come down a little from where you are at when you’re with them… Help them grow by giving them a challenge but not an insurmountable obstacle.

3. Praise them for good work. Kids want to do things that come with positive reactions. As do all people, I suppose.

4. Talk about it and practice outside of the dojo. Martial arts is less a skill and more of a way of living and thinking (not a religion or meant to replace a religion). It is meant to be a life experience. The outside reinforcement will ensure they understand its important to you, to them, and to life.


More on this topic:

Many parents like to believe that their child will never be “one of those kids” who always wants to quit. Here’s a little secret: Odds are they will! A child’s mind is a wonderful thing. As it grows and develops, they slowly learn the importance of long-term commitments, keeping promises, and sticking with an activity in order to gain the full value of the experience. Unfortunately, it takes some time before they adapt this mature outlook on life. Until then, they are very much focused on the here and now. Your little one is really only concerned with the present. They don’t worry themselves with the future (unless it involves a sweet treat!) and can’t yet grasp the concept of a “big picture” when it comes to the endeavors they pursue. This is why so many students express a desire to quit at some point in their athletic or extracurricular activities. If you’re caught up in a battle with your child over whether or not they should be permitted to karate, don’t give up! It’s important to remind your little one of the beneBts of sticking to what they commit to. Whining and complaining about wanting to quit is totally normal. However, allowing them to quit at the Brst sign of disinterest demonstrates to your child that it is okay to give up on something that you have committed yourself and your time to. This has the potential to hurt them later in life. It’s up to us, as parents, to ensure that what our children do will always be what is best for them. Raising a child who understands persistence and commitment, even at that moment when they want to quit the most, will pay off tenfold in the end. Your child will surprise themselves by their perseverance, and may even exceed their own expectations. There isn’t much that feels better than excelling at something you thought you would fail at! Help your child understand that Bghting through di`cult times and pushing through challenges is what will make them great! These are life lessons they’ll carry with them forever. Twenty years down the road, they’ll be thanking you for teaching them such a valuable trait so early in life. “