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Is It Quitting Time?

So your child has decided he hates basketball or thinks chess club's a chore. It happens: Even adults try and then reject activities. The tricky part with kids is figuring out when to encourage them to keep at it and when to let them off the hook. Some stick-it-out guidelines, from Catherine Crawford, a Mountain View, CA, family therapist:

Do a Little Detective Work.

Dig deeper into your child's reasons for wanting to leave an activity by the wayside. If it's a sport, for instance, does he have issues with the coach? Do the other kids in her dance troupe make her feel inadequate? Is he nervous about performing at an upcoming piano recital? Sometimes you just need a different approach -- private lessons, perhaps, or a less competitive class. And sometimes kids just need less, period: It may be that yours is overscheduled and wants more time to hang out with friends.

Delay the Decision.

Instead of letting your child quit immediately, come up with a potential ending date -- and a plan for arriving at a final verdict then. Explain to her: "I understand that cello/ soccer/hip-hop may not be your thing, after all, but you've committed until this season ends. If you still want to quit after that, that's fine. What can we do to help you do your best until then?" Once your child knows that you're willing to listen, and that the final choice is hers, she may begin to relax and enjoy the activity.

Swap in Something Else.

Just because your son didn't like swim team doesn't mean that he won't be a natural at karate or playing the guitar. Trying out different activities is a normal part of a child's development, notes Crawford, and this is prime time to do it, before other kids get too far ahead and the competition gets more intense. (And don't be surprised if your kid ends up going back to what he's quitting in a couple of years -- children often change their minds about the stuff they once hated.)