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Requiring my kids stick with a club or sport but not that they do one

The other day, Lexie called me from the school before her robotics club met. She announced she wanted to quit. This was two weeks before their competition in which she is one of 10 students chosen to compete. I told her no and sent her on to her meeting.

Our rule has always been that once our kids start a sport or activity, they are required to finish out that session, season or semester. In this case, I knew Lexie’s desire to quit might be due to a disagreement she had with her teammates, though on a few other occasions she had mentioned not liking Robotics.

Part of the reason she was in the club was I had encouraged – okay she would say insisted – that she join an activity this school year. I don’t typically require my kids do a sport or activity, but as this is her last year of elementary school, I wanted her involved in some group. The previous year she had been in choir but didn’t like it enough to do it this year.

So, I guess the question is should you require your kids to do a sport or activity? Jase recently was filling out an application for the National Junior Honors Society. They don’t just look for good grades but also consider how much volunteering and extracurricular activities you have done, And while in the past I have encouraged Jase to join a school group if he found one that interested him, he hadn’t done much in middle school and felt a little inadequate about his lack of involvement in activities, even though he was able to list orchestra and karate.

So back to the question at hand. There are always stories of successful people that praise their parents for making them stick with an activity whether it be drum lessons or Girl Scouts. Sometimes parents do know best and can see the benefits that a child, who would rather stay home and play video games, cannot see.

With sports, there is the added benefit of the physical activity. I know my own kids probably don’t get enough exercise. A sport would be an easy way to ensure that. Lexie has done gymnastics and Jase has done karate and soccer.

Team sports offer many benefits. It can build confidence, teach social skills and establish longer term healthy lifestyle habits. Studies have shown that kids who play sports are less likely to be overweight, abuse drugs or alcohol in later years or to perform badly in school.

But my kids are not that interested in playing sports. I’ve let them try different ones – always with the caveat that they finish out the season. Some parents push their kids into sports because they did them in their youth or because they feel that is what the child should be doing or perhaps because their kid is naturally good at it.

And while there is nothing wrong with encouraging a kid to get involved in something that might scare them a bit or takes them away from playing video games, parents shouldn’t force kids to do a sport that they truly do not like. If you want to require a sport or some physical activity, be flexible enough to allow your child to explore what might interest them. If they don’t like team sports, they might be interested in swimming, golf, tennis or martial arts. There are plenty of sports that can help develop great skills and keep children active without the pressure of a team environment.

But some kids just don’t excel at sports. And while I want my kids to be active, I have not required they do a sport. To ensure that all their time isn’t spent playing video games, I encourage them to look at camps in the summer and the activities offered through school. If they show an interest in something not offered at the school, we look into activities or classes outside of school. And when they do pick something, I do require them to follow through with that activity through the season, set of lessons/classes or semester. So for now, Lexie is sticking with Robotics, at least through the competition which is this weekend. As for next year, I don’t think she will want to return to Robotics, but she will be at the middle school and have a whole new group of clubs and organizations to consider joining.

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