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Do You Force Your Kids to Take Piano Lessons or Soccer or Ballet?

Daniel Thompson

It’s Monday afternoon and I’m waiting for Laylee at the bus stop.  I have her tights and leotard on the front seat of the van and I brace myself for the sigh that will escape her mouth when I remind her that it’s Monday and SURPRISE, like every other Monday, she has ballet class.

She begged to take ballet again this year, after a 15 month break, and since it’s an activity that doesn’t involve sitting in one spot for hours at a time turning pages and refusing food, I signed her up.  She’s already told me she’s done with soccer.  I was glad to have her doing something active and I do so love watching her twirl around in a tutu. 

But as the year wore on, she got tired.  There was too much homework, and piano practicing and never enough time to “read.”  I translate this to mean that there was never enough unscheduled time to just be a kid and choose her activity.  She dreaded Monday afternoons when she would get off the bus, change in the car and head straight to ballet.

If you looked at her face while she was dancing, you’d see pure joy.  Once she was there, she loved every minute of it.  So I told her I wanted her to finish out the year and then she could decide if she’d like to quit ballet for good.  I was surprised and a little disappointed when she finished this month, told me how much she’d loved it and how glad she was that she didn’t have to do it again in the fall.  I really thought that she’d think about how much fun she was having and decide to stick it out another year.  It’s not that I ever expected her to become a professional dancer, but I think it’s good for her confidence and I’m sad to see it end.

However, I think it needs to be her decision.

I want my kids to have well-rounded lives, to be skilled and confident and learn how to see something through to the end.  But I don’t want to spend tons of money on classes or activities that they dread or would simply rather not attend.  So I try to strike a balance.

I’d like each of my kids to have one activity that they do regularly for years, that they work at long enough to master it.  For Laylee, we’ve picked piano lessons.  I want her to have one thing that she does year in and year out, even when it’s hard, even when she’s sick of it so she can learn self-mastery and that she’s capable of doing difficult things.  She loves piano and so far we haven’t had any power struggles over it.  There’s always next year.

How do you regulate your kids’ activities?  Do you force them to participate when they say they’d rather not or do you let them take the lead?