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How Young Is Too Young To Commit?

Eva Amurri Martino's daughter Marlowe plays with a ball in their backyard while her mom ponders commitment

One of the things I like most about myself is that when I say I’m going to do something, I do it.  Perhaps uncharacteristically for a child, I’ve been that way since I was really young– when I commit, I really mean it.  One of my biggest frustrations I’ve encountered along my journey of life thus far is that everyone isn’t necessarily like that.  LOL. I remember I’d make a weekend plan with a friend in Middle School on a Monday, and on Saturday when I’d call her to ask what time we were meeting up, she’d flake.  It would happen so much, with all different types of people, all the way through my childhood and up to adulthood.  I remember thinking, “How can people say they’re going to do something and then just not do it?” I have a serious attachment to “my word”.

I think this has been a blessing and a curse for me in life, since I’ll also tend to OVER-commit, and totally run myself ragged– or leave little in my energy “tank” for my own needs.  But it has made me an excellent team player, of sorts, and it’s no wonder that I married a person who was used to being a part of a team since childhood! It’s one of the things I admire most about Kyle– the way he honors his commitments.  Though at times I did end up rolling my eyes and thinking, “Do you REALLY still have to go to that wedding, out of state, three days after we had a baby?” Ha! In any case, suffice to say that sticking with a commitment is something that’s really important to me as a value, and something that is important to me when leading by example for my kids.  And here I have a dilemma, because I’ve been asking myself recently how young is too young to enforce a commitment?

Eva Amurri Martino's daughter Marlowe and son Major play with a ball in their backyard while her mom ponders commitment

For the past couple of years, we have had a battle of sorts with Marlowe over “Extracurricular Activities”.  It sounds insane to call them that when you’re talking about a preschooler, but for lack of a better term, there it is.  Marlowe is super social, super active, and gets so excited to try new things.  When she wants to try something new, I get excited also– it makes me so happy to watch her growing and learning! But inevitably, every single time I sign her up for something she asks to be signed up for, she “doesn’t like it anymore” about three classes in.  As soon as the shine wears off, she’s out! It. Makes. Me. Crazy.  And yes, of course it’s fully age appropriate to waffle in and out of attention span and interest– but the thing I struggle with is whether it’s too early, at four, to start teaching a child about honoring commitments. 

Eva Amurri Martino's daughter Marlowe plays with a ball in their backyard while her mom ponders commitment

Is it really OK to sign a child up for a $600 ballet class and then just let them skip it every week after the third class? When you’ve done a “trial class” for gymnastics, and she loves it so much that she wants to sign up, and you move around your schedule and hers so that she can get to the specific class with her friends in it each week– what are they really learning about life if two weeks later they just don’t want to do it anymore? I’m not kidding when I say that this one is truly stumping me.  And it’s not just about the money– though I do think it’s never too young for kids to gently understand that money does not grow on trees– but it’s this idea of seeing something through and getting past the tough parts to grow as a person. 

So far we’ve “quit” camps, gymnastics, a town soccer league, and almost Ballet.

Eva Amurri Martino's daughter Marlowe and son Major play with a ball in their backyard while her mom ponders commitment

When Marlowe wanted to quit ballet this past Spring, I sat her down and talked to her about the commitment we made when she signed up for the class.  I told her that there was a recital at the end that marked the culmination of everything they would learn in her session, and that it was really important to show up for her classmates and dance with them in that recital.  I would say about six weeks out of the ten, I had to sit with her in the car before class and explain to her why we couldn’t just quit.  Sometimes she got it, and sometimes she told me I was the worst Mom ever for making her go.  And maybe I was.  I don’t know! But after class she was always happy and telling me about what they did on the ride home.

When I watched her dance in the recital, up on that big stage, in her little costume– I was so proud of her that she stuck it out, and she looked like she was having such a great time up there.  When she was waiting for the recital to finish, I saw her watching all the big girls dancing in their numbers with such awe in her eyes, she was mesmerized.  When she ran out to meet us after the recital and I handed her her bouquet, I gave her a huge hug and said, “Lowie! You were so great up there, I’m so proud of you! So do you think you want to keep dancing?!” And she just smiled and looked at me with the sweetest face and said, “No, I’m done with ballet. Can I throw my costume in the garbage now, Mom?” LOLLLL.

Eva Amurri Martino's daughter Marlowe plays with a ball in their backyard while her mom ponders commitment

So dance is over, apparently, but I do want Marlowe to find something– a team or activity– that she can stick with and a group that she can show up for every week.  I think it’s so important for her to learn how to make a commitment– not only to other people, but to herself as well! She’s signed up for an indoor soccer league now, which hopefully she can continue through the winter. And so far she likes it! But I always ask myself how strict I should be with making her stick with it.

I’m curious to hear if you have problems with your kids wanting to quit every activity, and how you handle it if so!

Eva Amurri Martino's daughter Marlowe plays with a ball in their backyard while her mom ponders commitment

Eva Amurri Martino's daughter Marlowe plays with a ball in their backyard while her mom ponders commitment

Eva Amurri Martino's daughter Marlowe plays with a ball in their backyard while her mom ponders commitment

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Photographs by Julia Dags.

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64 Comments

  1. Kate says:

    This post makes me feel so much better! I am going through the same thing with my 4-year old son. It boggles my mind because he is in full-time childcare — where herd mentality reigns supreme — super social, and high energy, but put him on any extracurricular “team” and he’s the kid in the corner looking for sticks and begging to go home. We recently finished a soccer session and I was just thrilled we got him to the field each week. Not gonna lie, I was relieved when the session ended. My husband and I also struggle with how much to “push.” For now, we are just going to keep encouraging him to try new things and hopefully find something that excites him. It’s a parenting issue I did not foresee coming at all, and definitely a work in progress! Glad to know it’s not just us.

    10.08.18Reply
  2. emily basilica says:

    OMG!!!! I have been going through this with my 2 year old for the past month, not really sure what to do. I know, your saying 2 years old, shes too young (hey Beyonce started dancing at 2 lol!!!) But she is a very smart 2 year old and loves to dance, so I thought ok lets try the mommy and me dance class for 2-3 year olds. Well, I think it is safe to say I should have waited another year before enrolling. My biggest question is what is the right age to start something like that, and yes when do you throw in the towel and say we will try again next year? I am not a quitter and like you are saying I do not want to teach my daughter that when things get tough we just don’t show up. And yes it isn’t just about the money that has been spent on lessons, and attire, and changing schedules around to make it work, but did I really just pay money to stress my self out!!!??? I fell ya on this one girl!!!

    10.08.18Reply
    • Let me tell ya, throwing her $90 ballet costume in the trash was not something I did with gusto. I just kept thinking I could have bought myself a new top! LOL

      10.11.18Reply
  3. Kara says:

    Hey! I think if she wants to sign up for a class you let her know that she has to finish out the semester. Then if she really doesn’t like it you don’t sign up again, but I agree and I think you have her finish it out! And maybe she’s just tired or wants to do her own thing without being in a structured activity after being in pre school! Since she is only 4 and btw she is so cute and seems to be very active, maybe she just needs a few weeks off. In the summer my two kids I watch, we do nothing! We just go to the pool or beach and keep it very low key so by the time fall comes around they are ready for activities again! Maybe give that a try! Best of luck!

    10.08.18Reply
    • Samantha says:

      I agree! Down time in the summer is important, too! Not having a schedule is a nice break for them. I also find that if they are over scheduled, they often struggle at just being home and playing on their own. It’s important to find ways to curb boredom on your own.

      10.08.18Reply
    • Sheila Martin Gay says:

      Eva, I so agree with your decision to have Lowie follow through on her commitments. I too agree with the importance of commitment. No age is too young. I see so many people doing their kids such a disservice by not making them commit or holding them accountable. I think that is a serious problem these days. You were so right in explaining the importance to Marlowe about being a part of a team and that there are others counting on her. That is so important for them to learn. It also teaches them the importance of commitment and how her decision not only affects and reflects on her. This is a life long, very important lesson. I made my kids, son and daughter, both follow through on everything they did. Unless there were serious consequences that was a deciding factor. I never let them quit cuz they didn’t like it. I made them finish. My daughter started tap n jazz at 6 and then added hip hop and danced every year till high school . She loved it. Can honestly say from a young age, she had no desire to do ballet as it didn’t hold her attention, but the tap, jazz, and hip hop we’re very busy and she loved it. I think what you are doing is very admirable and will be such an important, satisfying, life lesson for Lowie and Bubba! Girl Scouts is a great organization for the young girls to help learn commitment. Good Luck, we need more parents like you to get children ready for their lives in society!🍀
      PS After my daughter 1st recital, I was so proud as well. I handed her her flowers and she looked at me and told me that it was the Best night of her whole life! It warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes.💕
      Wait till all the Lil boys activities start, lol. They are so different than the girls! Enjoy.

      10.08.18Reply
      • I actually have been thinking a lot about girl scouts! I think Marlowe would love it

        10.11.18Reply
  4. Samantha says:

    This is a really hard part of parenting. So, now that my older two are a little older (6 and 4) the rule is, if we sign up for something for a season or session, we see it through. They are allowed to not do it anymore once it’s over, but until then they need to stick to their commitment. With younger children I tend to have more flexibility. They are often excited at the possibility of something, but in real life, it’s scary etc. I leave more wiggle room until about the age of four. Four/Five seems like the time they can really wrap their arms around having to commit to an activity. Most times, like school, if you can get over that initial transition time, they end up knowing how they really feel about what they are doing.

    10.08.18Reply
    • I think you’re right, four is a tiny bit young

      10.11.18Reply
  5. Elizabeth says:

    This post totally resonated with me, too! My 4 year old daughter is pretty similar; however, I read a fascinating book the other day by Dr Shefali Tsabary called The Conscious Parent and she said she didn’t sign her daughter up for any activities until age 5 or 6 so that she could really develop her own interests and be committed to what SHE decides she wants to do. Thought that was really cool.

    10.08.18Reply
  6. Hello there,
    I don’t have kids, but I remember having the same problem as a kid, so here are my thoughts as a 25 y/o.
    As a child I tried out almost everything and as soon as my mom signed me up for it I quit. And while I feel it is important for a child to try out loads of stuff and experience as much as possible to find what they really like, it‘s also very important to not quit everything as soon as it gets a little „tough“.
    A little example: i signed up for karate and when I learned i had to perform in front of all the other kids & their parents to get the next belt i quit, because I was to shy and scared for that. I didn’t tell anyone about this fear because I was ashamed. What i‘m Saying is sometimes it‘s not just a lack of commitment.
    Nevertheless, I was always allowed to just quit and as an adult of sorts, I truly regret it. Because now, I do find it hard to commit to things and I have to force myself to go through with things sometimes.
    Maybe you could talk to Marlowe and make a deal to commit to one activity for a certain period of time, like half a year and in that period she has to go, but if those 6 months are over she can decide whether she wants to continue or try something else.
    I hope I could help a little
    Love,
    Sina xx

    10.08.18Reply
    • carmen says:

      i would agree 100% with this – as someone who also doesn’t have kids yet but still struggles with commitment! it was so lovely to read about the fact that when you pushed marlowe to follow through with ballet, that it seemed like even though she didn’t ultimately love it and want to keep doing it, that while she was doing it she was happy and found lots of things to
      enjoy. i also struggled as a kid with admitting when i was scared to do something or when i was overwhelmed; this is still the reason i bow out of commitments as an adult. but i think i miss out on so much of life when i do that — just like marlowe would’ve missed out
      on the good things she did get to experience because you encouraged her to push through with ballet. it’s important for us to get over ourselves sometimes because when we do that we open ourselves up to experiences we wouldn’t have had otherwise. this is as true at 4 as it is at 25 or 50. i think it’s just so wonderful that she has amazing parents to encourage her and also be there to support her if something is ever too scary or too much. you are so in tune with her and her needs and that’s a beautiful thing. ❤️

      10.08.18Reply
  7. Christina says:

    My mom always let me quit when I was little. I’d always want to try something new and then I’d cry and scream for her not to make me go! So she didn’t make me go – but I really wish she did. Once I was old enough (upper elementary) I decided to play sports and start doing extra curricular to make friends after we moved, but I was always just in it for the “fun” because I missed valuable YEARS where everyone acquired the proper skills to play. I was too far behind and didn’t have much “natural” talent for softball and often sat the bench. Cheerleading and playing an instrument were much easier, but I was never able to tumble and flip like the others.

    As a preschool teacher, I don’t think it’s too young to start enforcing commitments. If you sign up for a sport or class, you should finish it out! Unless it’s becoming a traumatic experience, which often isn’t the case, kiddos need to learn early on the importance of teamwork, being active, and finding something that interests them.

    10.08.18Reply
  8. Jessica says:

    Totally get where your coming from. But I have the opposite. My son is a pleaser. He will do anything he thinks make others happy. I have been navigating this for a while now. Recently he’s done two sports. Baseball and soccer. I have been watching his cue and excitement for both, as well as his level of commitment. Is he paying attention? Does he understand the game? By doing this I realized how much he does not like baseball. We sat down at talked about it and he still says “no momma I like it.” We had to talk about how it is ok to not like something. My son is 7 now but we started this struggle around 4/5. I don’t think it’s too early to talk to her about. They are always going to have either a good opinion or not and at the end of the day, your doing what you think is best regardless of they like it or not. As moms we can be the worst critic of ourselves and think “am I being to hard?” Your not. Thanks for your blog! Thanks for being so open with your parenting. Makes me feel less alone.

    10.08.18Reply
    • Aww your son sounds so sweet! Isn’t interesting how these little things really give us such a window in to their personalities at such a young age?

      10.11.18Reply
  9. Amie says:

    If we have signed up for something, we make our kids finish it out (usually try to sign up for shortest committment possible). And yes, we have had the same “I don’t want to go!” a few weeks in (eyeroll). We still run into that with our 7 year old son, but our 12 year old now understands and is more selective about the extracurriculars she asks to be involved. She knows we will make her follow through. That being said, we have never forced an activity past the committed time. And sometimes you just have to do what your instincts say is right for your kid and the whole family! 😉

    10.08.18Reply
  10. Lisa Bowman says:

    My kids are 21 and 24, and finding the balance of activities when they were younger was tough. Preschool is a tad early to be over scheduled. Perhaps Marlowe is expressing a desire to have more downtime. That being said, this is the time to set up guidelines for future involvement in activities.

    Our rule was once you signed up for an activity, you HAD to follow through to the end. No other option. That way the time and effort going in to the front of the decision making, was taken more seriously.

    This taught them invaluable skills about decision making that last today! Good luck. This parenting stuff is not easy!

    10.08.18Reply
  11. Nicole says:

    My mom, didn’t really push me to finish dance or anything I signed up for that matter. She would try to encourage me to stick with it, but ultimately never forced me. Because of that, I never felt the need to join anything seriously in school, I didn’t commit to clubs, or sports. As an adult I look back with a little regret. My husband played sports since a kid, and is the most committed person I know. I think, personally; as a mother now, I would make my children choose something and commit. If they don’t want to continue after it’s over that’s fine. But, I think it’s inportant for kids to try our different things and figure out what they like and to commit. I can honestly say it didn’t effect me as a adult, I’m devoted to my word. Piece of me feels like I “missed out” on things my best friends and husbands had in life.

    10.08.18Reply
  12. Jaclyn says:

    My son is 8, going on 18, and this was a problem for me too around Marlow’s age and it drove me NUTS. I was raised that when you start something, you finish it. So when it was time for sports for him, I held onto that. He wanted to quit soccer the first game, he fought me, but at the end I won and he finished his season. He played another 2 seasons, but finally told me he wanted to play basketball instead. As long as he’s active, I don’t care what sport he plays, I’ll find the money if I don’t have it lol.
    I don’t think it’s ever too early to start teaching your kids that when you commit, you finish. At the end of that, if they don’t want to do that anymore, that’s fine. But finishing is key. They’ll carry that with them through life.
    It’s one of the many things I’m most thankful for that my parents taught me. And it’s made my son a better kid too. He knows now to really think before he goes after it cause he knows I’ll make him finish it. Especially if I have to pay for it, money doesn’t grow on trees! lol

    Xoxo

    10.08.18Reply
  13. Milena Mrosovsky says:

    I love this post. Thank you. I feel the same way you do. I am also a hard core believer that most things with kids are a “slippery slope” and that if you let them off the hook once, they’ll expect you to do it again and again in so many aspects of their lives and it only spirals out of control. They should know discipline but also understand that they will have a chance to not continue once they have fulfilled their CURRENT commitment. A lot of times, it’s very subjective too because with my two kids I’ve seen it go both ways… one in which I make them stick to something for the term and they never learn to like/appreciate it and the second in which they get over that “hump” and do learn to like it by the end. There have been times when they haven’t continued an activity past the one term and have asked to go back to it even 2-3 years later. Bottom line, in my opinion, listen to what they want but if they commit to what they say they want and then try to back out, don’t let them out of it till the term is over.

    10.08.18Reply
  14. Amanda says:

    It is a tough one because she is little and their attention span isn’t necessarily long. But honestly I have always stood by if you start if you have to finish it. You don’t have to do it again next year if you end up not liking it but once you begin you have to complete it. But at the end of the day we all know in our gut what is best for our kids as individuals and sometimes there isn’t a straight forward answer to anything . We just have to do what we think is best for them .

    10.08.18Reply
  15. Yvonne lipes says:

    I didn’t start my daughter in any activities until she was 5. My husband and I said let’s check out recreational dance and see if she’s interested and if not karate. If she picked dance, I’d take care of it. If it was karate, he would.
    Guess who was the lucky parent?
    She spent one year in recreational dance doing a ballet, jazz and tap number for recital. During the season, my hubby saw even younger kids doing dance on stage. Just whirling around and everything. He couldn’t understand why parents would spend the money to do bare minimum, and that’s if they wanted to.
    The day we picked up her trophy, she along with a fellow dancer in her group, were invited to join company and compete in a brand new group.
    I had a lot of thinking to do. It was going to require classes after school, traveling, money. My hubs was all for her doing more recreation. But I spoke with her and stressed the importance of being committed to company. Once we started a season we had to finish it. And she had to maintain her grades. It also required a commitment from myself to become a dance mom (the nice one). We went for it and are now in her 4th year dancing competively, 5th year dancing overall.
    It is grueling managing her practices, solo practices and school on top of it. But I ask her every year if she wants to do one more year.
    I think 5 is the perfect age, so you have a little time for Marlowe to fully decide on what she wants to commit to.
    As for my 18 month old son, I think he wants to commit to everything, so I’m scared but hopeful that he takes Karate and baseball so dad can foot the bill. Mama is a little empty on the pockets.
    Ps: my daughter is not a fan of ballet.

    10.08.18Reply
  16. Katelan says:

    I really think you have the right idea ! I wish my mom would have made me stick with more things. I had so many opportunities to learn something well (ballet, gymnastics, piano , guitar ,etc) and I would get nervous about the commitments and not being the best in something and I would quit . Unfortunately , my tendency even now is to “flake” out on every commitment so I really want to instill in my son that he needs to follow through , and I don’t think 4 is too soon to start with Marlowe . I would have her choose 1 activity and stick with it no matter what throughout the season ! Best of luck!

    10.08.18Reply
  17. Brend says:

    Sure wish I had some wise advice, but I was one of those Mothers who wanted so desperately for her children to be happy that I let them quit! But good news is that my grandchildren have learned to be team players, and I marvel at how devoted some of my granddaughters are to their dancing and how good they are! So I guess my children learned from my mistakes and have done better! Can’t that, after all, count as success!

    10.08.18Reply
    • It’s totally success! I think every generation takes what they learned from their own childhoods and applies it to their parenting. To learn from one’s own experiences is the greatest sign of growth there is! xx

      10.11.18Reply
  18. Amy says:

    Ok, so as the mom of a 17 and 12 yo, both of whom have been super active since about age 4, I definitely have some thoughts. First, I agree that if the activity is age-appropriate and the commitment is no more than one or two days a week, a child should absolutely see it through until the end. There’s a huge lesson to be learned here, not just about commitment, but about personal responsibility and respect for others. Kids are never too young to learn those lessons! Second, be mindful of over-scheduling/programming. Even tho she’s only involved in one activity, she also goes to preschool, has play dates, birthday parties, etc. That adds up to a lot for a four year old. I suggest finding activities that only last a few weeks at a time versus “semester-long” or seasonal activities that tend to run for a few months. Also, if she starts an activity and then wants to back out, show her the end date on the calendar so she understands that this isn’t an indefinite commitment. Time is still a relatively abstract concept for most kids and can be overwhelming when they don’t understand the finite boudaries. Perhaps, when she asks to be signed up for baton twirling you can discuss what that would mean in terms of time before you make the commitment. “Ok, there are FIVE sessions of baton…is that something you can do? All five sessions? Let’s look at that on the calendar together…”. And if she gets skittish halfway thru, you have a tangible way to help her through the remaining classes. “I get that you’re tired of baton, but we only have two more classes so let’s stick it out!”
    I hope this is helpful. You’re getting lots of great feedback from your community. And I feel your pain! I don’t envy your generation of parents who have so much external stimulus and pressure to deal with. You’re doing great!!

    10.08.18Reply
  19. Patti Gray-Riley says:

    Sooo frustrating. My “kids” are now 23 & 28 – both boys – and we had this problem continuously when they were little. Daycamp – hated it – both of them. By the 3rd. day both were crying & refused to go so we bailed.
    Soccer- both loved playing & played in our yard with neighbours every night all summer for years but inevitably would get mocked or teased by a superstar stand-out on a team and wouldn’t want to go….made them go in the strength of not letting teammates down.
    Birthday parties – both hated clowns – made them go but didn’t make them interact with “IT”.
    Any music lessons – hated them…both are self-taught in guitar, bass & drums. Let them drop the lessons – a kid not into a one-on-one lesson is torture for the teacher.
    Hockey- LOVED playing hated practise but forced them to go even to the 6a.m. -February-in-Ontario practices often with bribes of a trip to the dollar store.
    Just asked them how they felt about being forced/ vs/ allowed to drop a class…both said they grappled with feeling a huge amount of guilt even at young ages as they knew it cost money & they got the whole letting down the team thing vs ‘whew, no more guitar with the guy with smelly breath’.
    At the end of the day they are loyal to their friends, never let their bosses or co-workers down, if they say they are going to go/do something, even if at the 11th. hour they are not so keen, they will still do it. BUT if they don’t like a party, a vibe, a gathering…they will leave.
    Ergo- no harm, no foul😏

    10.08.18Reply
  20. Katie says:

    My daughter is only 18 months old so I don’t have first hand experience with this, but I’m wondering if having her sign a contract for the activity, just to kind of show that she made a physical promise to commit to the activity. Maybe if you have to sign a contract for anything or make one up for something you have to attend to show her how important it is to keep a promise until the very end! It’s just an idea that came to mind while I was reading your post!
    Real quick idea also maybe giving her a calendar where you can write or draw her activities for the week/month so she knows what’s coming up- not sure if that would make her excited or dread the activity but maybe it will get her excited!
    Good luck and I look forward to hearing the other ideas!

    10.08.18Reply
  21. Lauren says:

    We struggle with commitments with our kids a lot too. They are 5 and 7, and I’ve started to plant the seed discusing what they want to sign up for long before the sign up deadline. This gives them time to think it over, and I’m very clear (and stick to my guns) that once they sign up, they are committed until the season or session is over. I think it’s important that they understand the value of sticking with something, as well as the sacrifices made to have them so that activity (i.e. monetary cost, time, etc.) And then they don’t have to do it again. Another thing is that I learned that they like variety. So I don’t sign them up for ballet that requires a 9 month commitment, or for the same camp all summer. I stick to the 2-3 month sessions and when it comes to summer camp, I don’t commit them the whole summer up front. I wait to see how the first week or two goes with their camps and then ask them what they want to do or sign up for for the rest of the summer. Hope that helps!

    10.08.18Reply
  22. Meaghan says:

    I absolutely believe in the commitment at any age. I would not let my child quit (unless there is some horrific thing happening at the class, etc). I feel that if they can so easily quit things at a young age then they won’t learn the importance of being there for their teammates or friends.

    10.08.18Reply
  23. K says:

    I’ve been hesitant to sign my 4 year old up for too many activities as I think it’s easy to overschedule kids with all of the different options available. So far she’s asked to play hockey (ice skating lessons) and swimming lessons. My rule from the start has been if you start it, you follow through and finish each session. I don’t think 3 or 4 is too young to enforce that and teach them what it means to make a commitment.

    10.08.18Reply
  24. Kelly says:

    I almost said, “Maybe I’m the worst mom in the world” but then I stopped myself — I think there is nothing wrong with holding your children accountable for their commitments as early as they start making commitments! I think there’s much to be said for not overscheduling kids or overstimulating them with beaucoups of organized activities that leave them burned out and exhausted (ESPECIALLY when they’re young), but on the same token, if you choose to do something, you do it. My parents instilled that in me at an early age, too. When my sister’s and my best friends (who were also sisters) quit our joint ballet class a few weeks in, our mom was like, “Oh hell no, you’re not quitting!” Especially like you said — people do not hold true to their word ALL THE TIME now, and it’s so frustrating and confusing and downright rude. It’s rude when you’re throwing a party and people don’t show up that RSVP’d, it’s rude when you make plans and they fall through last minute, it’s rude when you don’t show up for appointments, it’s just kind of a social epidemic. I think collectively as a society we need to honor our commitments and not MAKE commitments we can’t keep. Why do we say “Yes!” to things we have no intentions of following through with, or no desires to do in the first place? It can feel unkind to say no if you’re used to people-pleasing, but it does such a disservice to everyone to not be honest about your limitations and then flake. I think this is a very important lesson to be learned early, and modeled well for our kids!

    10.08.18Reply
    • I totally agree with this. Flakiness makes me CRAZY

      10.11.18Reply
  25. Laura Perez says:

    Hi Eva, I’m not a mom, but I was a “serial quitter child” and I had to work through it by the time I was trying to become an architect 3 years in and almost quit. May be my story helps a little. When I told my parents I wanted to drop out, my mother just yelled out the whole list of activities I had quit since I was 4. My MO was: I would be the best in the class, then hate it , try to quit, my parents wouldn’t let me and then flunk. So I took some time off school to take care of it.

    An exercise my therapist had me do was to write the list my mom yelled out and think about what had made me whant to quit, even the vaguest of memories. For the tennis class when I was 5, was the fact that I was the only left handed child in the class so I had to do exercises by myself and felt pointed out. Ballet was a similar situation to the one you described about Marlowe. The class was fun everthing was fine, but then the recital came and I saw the older girls being so much better I felt that our presentation sucked and wondered how much work It would take to be that good. Then came the camps, I would become friends with everyone loved it it, had fun, but just couldn’t find MY clique. I could go on but I think you get the point.

    Finally after some therapy I was able to identify the “quitting” triggers: being competitive in an anxious way, not coping with frustration properly and I have particular trouble with mechanichal or repetitive work and exercices, they bore me to death even though I know
    it´s the only way to get an end result.

    How I deal with it now, I have chosen to focus my energy in activities that need permanent change and creativity, for example I don´t exactly design for hours, I now coordinate the building strategies and before my current job I developed infographics about urbanism and how to help people talk about what frustrates them about their cities and chart it.

    My therapist says that my parents did everything mostly right, they talked to me, made me talk to them about what was frustrating me but I was not being rational at the moment, it just happens if you are the first child who is “exceptional and alsolutely outstanding”.

    Something she says works for some parents is being very strict about the fact that the child wont quit but doing so without creating an anxious environment. I don’t know how that can be done. Sorry for the long post. I love your blog!
    Laura.

    10.08.18Reply
  26. Alli says:

    This is always so hard and I think you’ve handled it beautifully so far. My niece, who is now 13, has been doing the same thing for years…the one thing that helped is when she made friends and saw those friends outside of class. Then there was more to it than just the activity, it was about the friendship and seeing those friends at a special time. My sister arranged carpools with her friends so they had time to chat and enjoy each other and made the drop off easier.

    10.08.18Reply
  27. Hannah says:

    My mom always told me once I committed to an activity that I had to stick with it until the season/session was over, and if I still didn’t like it after that, I didn’t have to do it ever again. It was helpful as a kid because I had a light at the end of the tunnel and knew that I wouldn’t have to do it forever, and it taught me that sometimes you have to fight through the part that isn’t as fun to get the reward–because half the time, I wanted to quit because it was harder than I expected, or I didn’t think I was good at it, and after a bit I ended up enjoying it and having fun and learning new skills. I plan on taking the same approach with my kiddos!

    10.08.18Reply
  28. Joanna says:

    I’ve been waffling on signing my almost 4yo up for extra cirriculars for awhile. She’s in a few things that her school offers. Is that a possibility? We’ve found, so far, that since all the classes our daughter takes are an extension of her actual school it makes it easier for her to stick it out. It also means we don’t have to shift schedules too much to accommodate her growing interests. But once we put her in gymnastics next year, I have a feeling I’m gonna look this post back up and hope there’s a part 2.

    10.08.18Reply
  29. Amanda says:

    Whew. Been there done that. I started at home with activities. My son said Mom I HAVE to join the baseball team, the soccer team etc. I say ok if you go outside and practice for 30 minutes three times a week for two to three weeks (or whatever is age appropriate) then I will sign you up. Most times he’s over it and doesn’t want to be signed up. Once he committed though I made him power through. He would tell me every week he’s quitting soccer then come Saturday I say ok let’s get going youve got a game and he’d say “I thought I quit!!!” Haha.

    10.08.18Reply
  30. Katie kirby says:

    I’m going the exact same thing with my 5 year old. Over the summer I enrolled her in both tennis and gymnastics both of which she didn’t want to continue even though she is constantly showing guests who come over her tumbles and cartwheels. At the beginning of term I brought her back to ballet after a year’s hiatus and enrolled my 3 year old as well. She ended up wanting to do the class with her sister because that is the one I also participate in but even last week she got emotional mid class. Like you I don’t want to push her too much but I really want her to commit to something. It’s so hard to know what to do

    10.08.18Reply
  31. Glenda says:

    My son was 5 when he started t-ball and mid way he wanted to quit. I told him when we start something we finish it period. He stuck it out. I let him and his sister do one activity per season they wanted to do, but they knew you start and finish period. He tried flag football at 9 and played soccer 5-14. In HS played basketball. At one point my daughter was doing gymnastics and ice skating (10-14) and decided she wanted to quit both, but then took up track and field and volleyball in HS. So always involved and focused. I’m definitely like you… you gotta commitment. At least finish out the season or the year.

    10.08.18Reply
  32. Caroline Hayes says:

    Loved this post! Though I don’t have children yet (my first is due this February), I can remember the same situation in my house growing up – with ME! Early on in childhood, I quit after a short period of time: ballet, tap, softball and basketball. I remember my mother sitting by sister and I down before dance class saying, “If you want to quit, we can, but we will not try again.” That wasn’t a tough decision at that age- we just wanted to continue playing at home! I can say with confidence though, my sister and I, to this day, regret quitting dance and almost wish our mom had made us “stick it out.” Softball and basketball were NOT in my skillset as I have terrible hand/eye coordination so- that wasn’t a major loss. 😂 Our mother did enroll us in activities which we could NOT quit- no matter how much we begged: Piano and children’s choir. I sang in choirs and studied piano with instructors for the better part of 15 years. To this day, I am so grateful pushed (read: forced 😂) us to continue those two activities. They have served me on so many occasions: playing and singing for charity, teaching lessons to children, performing at Carnegie Hall, and even college scholarships. Music is one of my greatest joys, now! I remember asking my mom, years later, “Why didn’t you let me quit?” Her reply: “I recognized your talent and how much fun you had! Once you got there and participated, I could tell you were glad you were there.” She is right. I’m glad I was there. ❤️

    10.08.18Reply
  33. Darienne Trostel says:

    I don’t think it’s too early to teach her about commitment! I think it’s okay to be interested in something and want to try it, only to find out it isn’t for you. But I also believe that if you committed to a certain time frame for that activity, you need to stick it out. Sports only last a season, dance class will be over after a few months, and years go by pretty quickly for art classes or music classes. I think it’s great of you to be encouraging Marlowe to follow her passion and interests, and I think that teaching her the passion and commitment involved on her teachers’ parts as well as the importance of following through will teach her so much about lose and her own limits (leaving enough energy for herself). Whatever you decide I’m sure you’ll rock it!

    10.08.18Reply
  34. Heather H says:

    In all honesty I think it depends on the kids personality. Is she the type of kid who quits other things when she loses interest- reading or building something a little tough, etc. I have 2 boys who couldn’t be more different. My older one is a type A super competitor athletic kid who doesn’t know the meaning of the word quit. But that applies to everything he does, besides just on a field or court or rink. My younger one is my go with the flow kid whose just happy being part of it- he likes sports more for the socialization then the competition. He has other interests that draw him in and he can spend way more time on those. With him, it’s exposing him to other sports with the understanding between 2 of us that he commits for the entire season or session.

    10.08.18Reply
  35. Linda says:

    I don’t have kids yet but I did a lot of activities as a kid and from my experience it’s great to have her stick it out! I started ballett class when I was 3 because I begged my mom to sign me up (my mom also did ballett and I really only wanted a tutu! Hah!) and I loved it as a child! I quit when I was 13 and I so so wish my mom would have made me stick to it – I can’t even remember why I wanted to quit now and while I was in different dance classes after that, I still regret not working on my skills further, same with piano which I quit 3 lessons in because I was too shy to tell my mom that I didn’t like my teacher!! So if she really doesn’t like it, maybe ask her to explain why!

    10.08.18Reply
  36. Sheila Martin Gay says:

    Eva, I so agree with your decision to have Lowie follow through on her commitments. I too agree with the importance of commitment. No age is too young. I see so many people doing their kids such a disservice by not making them commit or holding them accountable. I think that is a serious problem these days. You were so right in explaining the importance to Marlowe about being a part of a team and that there are others counting on her. That is so important for them to learn. It also teaches them the importance of commitment and how her decision not only affects and reflects on her. This is a life long, very important lesson. I made my kids, son and daughter, both follow through on everything they did. Unless there were serious consequences that was a deciding factor. I never let them quit cuz they didn’t like it. I made them finish. My daughter started tap n jazz at 6 and then added hip hop and danced every year till high school . She loved it. Can honestly say from a young age, she had no desire to do ballet as it didn’t hold her attention, but the tap, jazz, and hip hop we’re very busy and she loved it. I think what you are doing is very admirable and will be such an important, satisfying, life lesson for Lowie and Bubba! Girl Scouts is a great organization for the young girls to help learn commitment. Good Luck, we need more parents like you to get children ready for their lives in society!🍀
    PS After my daughter 1st recital, I was so proud as well. I handed her her flowers and she looked at me and told me that it was the Best night of her whole life! It warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes.💕
    Wait till all the Lil boys activities start, lol. They are so different than the girls! Enjoy.

    10.08.18Reply
  37. Nina says:

    For what it’s worth, she might just be too young. My extremely strong willed (!!) son quit on the spot at his first AYSO practice when he was 4 years old. He had a huge meltdown and made a scene and I’m still not sure why but he just wasn’t ready for whatever reason. He’s always loved soccer so it was surprising, but kids are weird and some things can’t be explained! Several people we spoke to thought we risked “sending a message that it’s ok to quit” but we figured pushing him to do something he loved might push him away forever. So we took the opposite approach and kept playing soccer with him in the yard and having friends over for play dates and figured if it was meant to be, he would “rediscover” it on his own. And he did the following year when two of his kindergarten buddies signed up! Not only did he stick with it but one year later he’s playing on a club travel team. I honestly think that, knowing him, he may never have rediscovered it if we spent a whole season pushing/begging him to go every week. Not worth the tears or money. Maybe it’s that strong willed kids need to feel in control? I hope this helps! It’s amazing that she has so many interests and I’m sure she will pursue (and stick with!) so many of them as she gets older! xo

    10.08.18Reply
  38. Donna says:

    I have raised 2 boys. Now 23 & 21.
    At age 4, when they joined Tball we talked about responsibility & commitment. Once i agree to play a sport , u stick it out. There is no quitting
    To this day my boys are committed to their commitments in life! Very proud of them
    My baby , 21 years old, is a US Marine….biggest commitment a young man can make.

    10.08.18Reply
  39. Sheia says:

    Elizabeth, that’s the age my kids started their social activities. 5/6 is perfect age. It worked out great for my kids at that age. From that moment on, with a girl and boy, we had Girl Scouts, tap, jazz, hip hop (6-16), cheerleading (8-17), softball, piano, chorus, small window with flute, karate, tutoring for karate, Art Club, Girls Athletic Council, Track, Soccer was also asked to be a High School Cheering Coach but was in College and was a cheerleader there. My son didn’t want Boyscout, he did Baseball, Basketball, Chess Club, Karate, Wrestling (this was very hard to watch as a mother and a Nurse owwww). Lol. He and his friends did computer tournament games. They took turns at our houses, lol. A room full of boys with their computers and sleep overs lol. After a weekend, I’d open the door and say, open the windows, lol, it smells like a boys locker room, lol and you all need showers and deodorant lol. I love boys!! Haha.
    We did nothing in the summer when they were growing. Summers we’re low key swimming at Pas house and chilling n hanging with friends and family. Nothing joined in summer. Everything my kids did was ALWAYS during school year. They finished all they started. I think that’s very important. Best of luck.

    10.08.18Reply
  40. Jane says:

    My husband and I were just having a conversation about this exact thing the other day! Our son who is almost 4 just started Soccer Shots (which is more like a soccer class) after preschool, but they don’t require you to pay until after the first few classes (which I thought was great). Anwyay, I was telling my husband how I was asking my son if he liked it to decide whether he would keep doing it. And my husband was very much taken aback and was like well whether he liked it or not, he’s obviously not quitting! Wha?????? This was the first time this particular issue had come up for us and it made me realize that we had a difference of opinion on this, ha! His view is he’s almost 4 and that’s old enough to commit to something, he feels that he wouldn’t know whether he liked it unless he stuck it out for the whole class, he didn’t want to set the expectation with our son that he could just sign up for things and quit, and that he would ultimately get more out of learning to stick with something and get through it even if he didn’t love it vs just giving up. Which I get all that and totally agree! But my feelings are that he’s three and this is supposed to be fun, so if it’s not fun, then why make him do it? I didn’t want to force him to stick with something and make him hate it for life when maybe he might like it if tried it a year from now? Plus, given that we hadn’t actually even paid for it yet, if he didn’t like it, then why waste the money? But in the end, it was kind of a pointless conversation because our son actually loves soccer and wants to keep doing it so we sort of got into a big spirited conversation about this for nothing – LOL! (Although, I’m sure it’s an issue we’ll deal with again in the future!)

    10.08.18Reply
  41. Tia Langis says:

    Eva, I totally get where you’re coming from and in my experience limited as it may be it’s never too young to instill good morals. My husband and I help raise my sister’s children and we’re super involved. My oldest niece is seven and we decided to let her choose an activity and she chose playmakers (theatre classes) and she loved it. There were a few times that we had to sit Hadessah down and explain to her about the responsibilities this created for her but she totally got it. I don’t need to tell you how loud her cheering section was when she said her one line in the final play of the year.

    10.08.18Reply
  42. Nicole Roe says:

    I’m pretty sure you wote this about my oldest. He is 5 and wants to quit all things. I let him bail a day early on soccer camp this summer and we never even went to a day of golf camp but he kept with tennis and his kindergarten prep camp. He cries and makes me feel so guilty and literally counts down the days. He has major FOMO with his younger brothers but currently is enjoying baseball with my husband as the assistant coach. I do remember being 18 and after 8 years of volleyball telling my dad I was done and seeing the relief in his face. He let me quit that in a second.

    10.08.18Reply
  43. Nikki Long says:

    I’ve experienced this several times over with my son. He’s 10 now. My husband and I have always told him from the moment we signed him up for t-ball for example, if you start something you need to finish it. He didn’t like t-ball so after finishing the 1st season of it he didn’t sign-up again. I think the lesson of commitment is very important. It teaches the child alot of life lessons..especially the point that others are counting on them to show up and if they don’t it’s a let down.. I think you and Kyle are doing an amazing job at this thing called parenthood!

    10.08.18Reply
  44. Whitney says:

    I have gone through the same experience year over year. Horses and dance are the only two that have stuck and that wasn’t until 7 or 8. But having the same experience you are with an energetic, social go-getter who loved everything the first time but was slowly doing cartwheels and twirling instead of whatever activity we had her signed up for. We did ask the same question you are and at age 5 we started the dialogue. We based the dialogue around our family values and made her see her commitments through from her 5th birthday on. Not always the most popular decision from her perspective but I feel a responsibility to prepare her for the world and at work you can’t quit – so hopefully this instills that.

    10.08.18Reply
  45. Charlotte says:

    My 4 yr old son has been struggling with this recently with his gymnastics class. He is having a hard time with motivation for wanting to go especially since he is the only boy. We discussed that it’s important to keep trying something even when it’s hard and you can always learn something new. Our 9 yr old daughter has been wanting to do girl scouts and I have been hesitant because of her previous waffling attitude when it comes to things. I am the same way when it comes to group things…you are on a team you need to hold your own and participate fully. Good luck with this season of raising little ones.

    10.08.18Reply
  46. Amy Norton says:

    This is a question I have asked myself also. What I find is: let kids be kids. She loves gymnastics but not a structured schedule of it. Then get her together with her friends and find where you can have open gym time and let them play and do gymnastics. Let her play soccer for fun (unstructured), not for sport. Let her dance around with her friends and have ballet tea parties. It just seems like she wants to be a kid and explore and have fun at this stage. I say to let her. It won’t last forever.

    My 6 yr old son has been talking about guitars for well over a year. I waited it out to see if it was just a phase of exploration or a real passion. He never stopped and only became more passionate about music. So I got him $20 ukelele lessons and a cheap ukelele to gauge his aptitude for the discipline music requires. He is doing incredibly well, loves it and never ever complains about it. I am not sure he would have had the concentration a year ago. Also, their bodies and muscle control is still developing so things may be too frustrating because they can’t do what they want with their little bodies.

    Commitment is more important when they are older and understand that they are not the center of the universe. I do not believe you need to rush teaching them the importance of commitment because it may stress them out for fear of disappointing you. They also learn best by the example you set. Which sounds awesome! I suck at commitment because my anxiety gets the best of me.

    10.08.18Reply
  47. Kelly says:

    This would kill me. Classes are not just a commitment for kids but us parents! I haven’t had to deal with this too much with classes as I’ve attempted to limit these where possible to only important ones like swimming lessons. Also I try to get her to do classes while at pre-school, dancing at the moment before we commit further as my fear is forking out heaps of $$$ only to have her hate the class.

    10.08.18Reply
  48. AGN says:

    I never have been forced to see something through, and to this day I don’t always keep my commitments. That said, I have anxiety issues, not necessarily commitment issues. If my parents had recognized and dealt with my anxiety and perfectionism, I probably would not have quit things. But there WERE many things I stuck with.

    Just a different perspective- finding out the underlying reason and dealing with that is more important than forcing a commitment for fear they will never learn the value of commitment.

    BTW – my brother’s kids had the same issues and the therapist told him that if they say they want to quit, tell them they have to do it three more times and THEN see how they feel. That way they are not learning to hate a sport/instrument/language or resent you for not letting them make mistakes or just be a kid.

    Another point is the fact we are all so “organized activity” happy. If your kid loves to dance then have ballet tea parties or go to open gym or play soccer with friends, instructured. Just have fun. Because they are still learning valuable lessons (probably moreso) than just playing a sport.

    10.08.18Reply
  49. Lottie says:

    It think when she finds the thing she’s truly passionate about, that’s the one that will stick! Kids need to take the time to figure out what they do and don’t like, I guess. That experimentation will help her to become such a rounded person in the long run, and she’ll be so glad you let her dabble until she found ‘the one’, rather than making her stick it out just because she said she would.
    Either way she seems like a good kid, and I love how steadfastly she stuck to no longer dancing as soon as the recital was over, haha

    Lottie xx
    http://www.monkeyandthebrain.com

    10.09.18Reply
  50. Mary says:

    Hi Eva, I haven’t reached the point of teaching my son what commitment is yet (except perhaps from making him stick with brushing his teeth every night ! ) as he is 2 years and 7 months old but it’s interesting to learn what’s there down the road.I think that it’s important for kids to realize that if they want to learn something and be good at it they have to put effort and be patient and commit time and sometimes it’s not just about having fun.But they have to like and enjoy their “extracurricular” activities, otherwise what’s the point? It’s normal that they get excited with something and then reject it. I would only like to be sure for my kid that any possible rejection happens because he doesn’t like the particular activity and not because of the behaviour of teachers/coaches/mates or anything else.Have you thought about tennis lessons or drama/music classes for Marlowe ? Perhaps she likes them.

    10.09.18Reply
  51. Trixie A. says:

    Great Post! Does Lowie have awareness of sweat, scent or appearance when being very energetic? Not just of herself but others’? Maybe she would be interested in kid art groups, or the Scouts or something musical/theatrical? When I was a kid I always tried a sport or physical activity and immediately quit or caused a scene so that I could stop. I did not fully understand it then but I didn’t like the smell of myself, anyone else or the typical buildings or fields where they took place. Also, like Lowie, I was extremely allergic to mold and I believe had I been able to go to a different public elementary school that didn’t have a raging mold problem I would not have been such a troubled child! Lowie is an incredibly intuitive, kind and self-aware child and I just adore your family!

    10.09.18Reply
  52. Anya says:

    Such a great topic! My husband and I have always spoken to our kids as if they are adults, wherever we can. We also have a four year old and my baby is 10 months old. I believe that they might not understand exactly what you’re saying right from the start, but it will click eventually. So if commitment is something that’s important to you (and it sounds like it is) the next time Marlowe wants to commit to something I would explain to her what that means and then, as annoying as it may be, repeat it every week when she wants to quit. She’ll learn from you what true commitment is and it might be annoying to have to repeat yourself so often and she might always be a bit flakey about commitments, but over time I think she’ll learn that her commitments affect other people, like her team mates and her family! Especially when there are two of them with different commitments all over the place!! It sounds like you’re already basically doing that, but I just wanted to say don’t give up on what you think is an important lesson! It’s not like you’re forcing her to sign up for things she hates. She expresses an interest at first!

    Good luck!

    10.12.18Reply
  53. Brigit Rotondi says:

    Sounds like she will need that coaxing and, that she just has to find something she really likes. Great job momma for helping her stick things out and, find what she really likes!

    10.16.18Reply