May 31, 2012

Should You Make Your Child "Finish What They Started"?

So your kid gets excited about starting a new hobby or sport and she begs you to sign her up for classes. Proper attire or equipment has been bought and lessons have been paid for. But a few sessions in, she tells you that she doesn't want to do it anymore.

You're now at a crossroad - do you "let" your child quit and lose out on the money, not to mention the apparent opportunity to teach them a lesson in making commitments? Or, do you accept the fact that she is no longer interested and don't want to force her into doing something unwillingly?

Your needs:

  1. To teach your child the importance of commitments
  2. To not lose out on money that has already been spent and could have possibly been used for something else 

Here's where most parents would tell their kids something along the lines of:
"I already paid for it and I don't want my money going down the drain. You've got to finish what you started!"
The question is, how do you deal with this situation to get yours and your child's needs met?

A Quick Lesson in Discipline:

When motivation in doing something comes in an external form (like the parent forcing a child to do something), they usually will simply do the bare minimum to finish the job at hand. When problems are resolved this way, parents often have to nag, remind and constantly check in on their child. One of the most important factors in place here is that children do not learn discipline and the consequences of real-life decisions in external forms. You might be able to "make" your child eat broccoli, but that doesn't mean that you are making them actually enjoy it. You might scare your child into not giving up on something that they started, but what you're really doing is just making the child scared of you -- not scare them about how the real-life consequences on giving-up may affect them. Your forcing her won't make her interested. Almost always, when the parents needs "win" over the child, the child will bear hate and resentment.

Three "Gordon Model" Methods To Use:

Preventive I-Message - Tell your child ahead of time that the money spent on their activities is something that you cannot get back whether they decide to continue or not and how losing that money could affect you. Explain to your children (as an informant, not a disciplinarian) the importance of making commitments and how they affect other people that are involved in the commitment.

Modify The Environment - Here's an easy one! Don't sign your child up for classes that are non-refundable. Wait to purchase necessary materials and see if you can have your child sit in and participate in a few classes before they make the commitment. Or find a place where you can pay per session, instead of for a whole month, for example.

Method III - In this situation, we are in the area of both people owning a problem (you and your child). Go through the six-step process and begin by finding out what your child's needs are in this situation and what the underlying reason is behind his or her feelings. Maybe she isn't comfortable taking karate in the same class as boys or maybe her skill level is more advanced than the rest of the kids, leaving her un-stimulated.

Before jumping to the first conclusion you can think of in these types of situations, consider the option that both you and your child can get your needs met and resolve conflicts in a respectful and effective way.

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