Quitting Time for Kids' Activities

No parent wants her kid to be a quitter, but sometimes quitting is for the best.

Kids playing rugby outside
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Just the other day, one of my kids mentioned dropping a sport to which we, as a family, have devoted a ton of time and resources. After I yanked my jaw back to its rightful position, I stopped to think about it. How do we, as parents, know when it's time to quit one of these kid activities? Especially once they have become part of our child's identity, and our family's? We're still wrestling with it, but there are circumstances in which quitting is the right decision.

Like these 6:


Sports injuries usually just mean a temporary hiatus from play. But sometimes, a pre-participation sports physical reveals a heart condition that prevents an athlete from playing (read a fictionalized account of that situation). Or, if a child has had repeated concussions or other complications, it may not be safe for her to continue to play. Weighing these risks is tough—I strongly recommend discussing them with your family doctor—but quitting may be the best choice for your child's safety and health.

Suffering Schoolwork

My daughter misses several days of school each year due to competitions for her sport. So far, she has been able to handle the absences and keep her grades up. If that ever changes, the consequence would likely be quitting the team. I'm not expecting her to maintain a straight-A average, since I believe she learns a lot from being on the team. But nose-diving grades would be a signal that she's no longer able to balance her academic commitments with her athletic ones.


If your child's behavior is distracting or disturbing other kids, think seriously about removing him from the situation. It can be hard to admit this, but it happens. About's Twins and Multiples expert, Pamela Prindle Fierro, faced this when her 10-year-old daughters joined the same volleyball team.

"Every time they got on the court together, they would argue about everything. One tried to tell the other one what to do and where to stand, and the other didn’t appreciate the coaching," Fierro explains.

"I told them that they would have to quit the team. It was too distracting for the other players, and the coach was spending too much time settling their squabbles," Fierro says. "One twin said, 'Fine! You play volleyball and I will find something else!' So she quit, and her sister kept playing."


If you suspect your child is being bullied by a teammate or coach (or even is being exposed to bullying at practices or other events), take it seriously. Discuss the matter with the coach and/or league administrators. If they can't or won't help, remove your child from the environment. Sticking with the sport isn't worth it if your child is suffering.


Sometimes, kid activities just don't live up to their advertising. Maybe the coach or instructor isn't teaching the skills you thought your child would be learning, or maybe your child expected a lot more playing time than she's getting. Tread carefully here, because it's important to respect the coach and her decisions.

But there are times when cutting your losses is best for everyone.

That's what happened to Fierro's daughter, the volleyball player, who continued playing after her sister moved on. "Volleyball became her passion. She would play in 100-degree heat on the beach or with frozen fingers in an unheated gym in the wintertime. She played even when she didn’t particularly care for the coach, and when she didn’t get along with other girls on the team." Fierro says. In her senior year of high school, Fierro's daughter joined a club team after being heavily recruited and promised a starting position. But when the season began, Fierro's daughter sat on the bench.

"This was the beginning of the downslide. There were numerous incidents that just built on her growing unhappiness with the team situation," says Fierro. "It was quickly becoming a toxic situation for her, and I begged her to quit." When she finally did, after months of trying to make it work, "she was a different kid. A huge weight was lifted," Fierro says.

Time to Move On

Especially when kids are small, we need to give them the opportunity to try many activities so they can find the ones they like. But this also means allowing them to let go of the ones they don't like. A friend told me about her young daughters' experience with tae kwon do. "For a full year, they really liked it, and my husband and I thought the instructors and owner were fantastic. But eventually, my older daughter stopped wanting to go," and her younger sister followed suit. Since it had been a year, the girls' parents agreed they could stop lessons. It became difficult to keep this promise when the school's owner asked the girls to reconsider. But their mother held fast when she realized she was "trying to have them stick it out to spare his feelings."

When you face a situation like that, and/or when you've laid out substantial funds for classes or fees, making the decision to quit is difficult. If possible, have your child fulfill his obligation (to a class term, a season, etc.). Then move on to a new activity without regrets.

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