What to Do When Teen Wants to Quit Activities that Become Difficult

Some teens seem to find a hobby or sport that they really love and stick with it. Other teens seem to flit from activity to activity, often losing interest as soon as the hobby gets a bit challenging. As a parent, it’s hard to know whether it’s important to let your teen have control over what activities they pursue or to teach your teen perseverance by pushing through the difficulty. Is it best to let them try something new all the time or encourage them to put in more effort to master the first activity?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer here, and it honestly depends a lot on your child’s personality and age. However, there are some rules of thumb that can help you navigate this issue:

Ask open-ended questions. It’s important to understand why your teen wants to quit an activity. Don’t assume you know! Teens might want to stop an activity because it becomes boring or overwhelming, it takes too long or it’s not what they expected. They might be facing unrealistic expectations from others, aren’t having fun anymore, or are not performing as well as their peers. There are a wide range of reasons they might not want to continue, and many of them could be really legitimate motives.

Validate feelings. Once you understand your teen’s point of view, acknowledge that their feelings are normal, regardless of what you think they should do. For example, if your teen has started a new activity, but is frustrated that everyone else is better at it then them, you might say, “It’s sucks to feel like you can’t ______. Everyone feels like that sometime.” Affirming your teen’s emotions and listening is one of the most effective ways to reach them.

Explore pros and cons. Encourage your teenager not to quit before taking the time to learn what leaving has to teach them. Your teen should answer a few questions as they consider the decision: What do they hope to gain by quitting? What will they be giving up or missing by quitting? Do they think they will later regret either quitting or trying to stick it out? Quitting can relieve pressure and open up your schedule for new things, but it can also cause regret, sacrifice past investment or start a habit of giving up when things get tough. They need to take time to reflect on both sides of the decision.

Discuss when quitting is the best option. Our culture values perseverance over quitting, but there are definitely times when quitting is the better option, so be sure to discuss these moments. It’s definitely best to quit when:

  • injured or traumatized.
  • continuing to follow the group starts feeling wrong for your teenager.
  • growing up or maturing requires changes.
  • a habit becomes self-defeating or self-destructive.
  • something now must be sacrificed for something more worthwhile later on.
  • a relationship becomes destructive.

Discuss when perseverance is the best option. If your teen tends to quit everything simply because the activity requires a little more effort, then you might want to work with them to strengthen their resilience. Problem-solve with your teen around what may help them stick with something longer. For example, you might suggest that they talk to the coach, work with another expert, download an app, watch some YouTube for tips, practice more with friends or family members, use different equipment or any number of other ideas.

Highlight strengths. Point out your teen’s strengths, so that you’re building their confidence regardless of their decision. Your teen may really just enjoy trying lots of different things. Willingness to try new activities is a wonderful quality that can be a really helpful skill later in life!

Final Thoughts…

Adolescence is a time of discovering new identities, so don’t be too concerned if your teen isn’t sticking with one or two activities. Promote thoughtful consideration, help them find their own voice, and point out their strengths. Ultimately, we want our teens to grow into young adults who know their own mind, and exploration of a variety of activities is one way to do that.

Leave a Reply