Disliking Activities Question

Updated on August 13, 2014
L.Z. asks from Seattle, WA
28 answers

I have a question about activities. My kids aren't in that many this summer, but there is one in particular that my daughter is saying she doesn't like...singing lessons. She's been in it for about 4 months now. My question is, do you keep your kids in activities that you know are good for them, even if they don't care for it anymore? What I've heard from her music teachers is that sometimes parents need to push through that phase and then the kids thank them later for keeping them in music. My daughter is talented at it, but doesn't like the work or performing involved. I think it's good for her on multiple levels. She has to perform in front of groups, which is something she really needs to work on to get more comfortable, and she challenges her brain and uses her talent.

I told her I'd like her to do it for at least a year. Then she can decide what to do. She's 11 now. My son is almost 9 and he's saying he doesn't want to take piano anymore. I have told him he's in it for a year too. Our philosophy is that the kids need to choose an exercise activity or sport, musical instrument and a language on top of their schoolwork. That's how we were both raised. So, I'd be interested in hearing how you deal with complaints and if you just push through those or if you let the kids decide what they want to do. We are fine with them choosing one sport or another based on their interests, but I think I'm hung up on the particular challenge of voice lessons for my daughter and how this will help her in the long run.

My new plan is to offer incentives to see if that helps. If she practices and has a good attitude before her lesson, I'll give her a point, or whatever. I'm hoping that sparks a little more of a positive attitude to help her with all the hard work. I know it's hard for her, but it's so good for her.

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So What Happened?

Update: We decided to let her quit the lessons and focus on other instruments for her music. She still wants to do piano and is now taking violin. I realized that she needs to follow her own passions here, not just do something because she has some talent. Also there are other ways I can help challenge her social anxiety. I'm hoping she picks singing back up when she's ready. It was a joy to listen to her. Sniff.

Thank you for all of your comments. I will definitely be doing some research about voice lessons for 11 year old voices. When we started, the teacher assured me that she's very careful with voices this young and that she never starts them before age 10. However, I didn't do my own research and will be doing so. My daughter also takes piano and seems to still like it. The voice lessons help her social anxiety, so that's why I'm so hung up on them. Some of her dislike is probably because it's pushing her out of her shell and it's challenging. I also have her in Karate and challenge her in other ways socially, so maybe I'll loosen up about this activity. It's hard to know if she dislikes the singing itself or the anxiety it causes. She was the one who asked for the lessons in the first place and she loves singing around the house. Your feedback really does help me make my decisions on activities in general. Also, my son will be trying another instrument soon, so I might allow him to stop piano sooner if he likes that better. In my heart, I believe that we should follow our own passions. But, in my head I know I need to guide them a little and help my daughter push herself or she won't recover.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

IMO, the primary raison d'etre for EC activities is fun. The only activity that I insisted on whether she liked it or not was swimming lessons. I consider knowing how to swim a necessary life skill.
Other than that, she was free to quit any activity she no longer found enjoyable, and resume it later if she decided she wanted to give it another try.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Well, I make my 11 yo daughter take piano lessons although she wants to quit.

Re: singing lessons...my daughter is involved in theatre and has been in many local productions. She has a beautiful voice and I have been told she has perfect pitch and one voice teacher called her a child prodigy. As a result, I wanted to get the best voice teacher for her. There are 2 in my area with great reputations and both told me she is too young for voice lessons and to come back when she is in 8th grade. They told me the voice is very delicate and they did not want to see her ruin it and have polyps on her vocal cords in her 20's. Food for thought.

FYI...my daughter is in the school chorus.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

I depends on the activity.

Swimming is a life skill that is needed. Speech Therapy is often not like by kids, but important. If I had a child who could not stand one of these types of activities i would look around to see if there is a better place my child could learn. A foreign language is also very helpful and starting early is great. There will be grumbling.

Karate, gymnastics, team sports and music are more of a personal preference (again a specify teacher could help or hinder). My son really wanted karate we did it and he still liked it so I discussed that I will be paying for a year to get the discount, therefore there is not backing out until the year is up.

I explain to my kids that they are SO LUCKY to have these opportunities. My 7 year old expresses his gratitude.

Question: At what age did you start the music?

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Raleigh on

As a classically trained voice teacher and pianist, it's my professional opinion that 11 is too young for voice lessons. I also have to say that if a voice teacher took her on at this point, they are just taking your money. Voice lessons should start after puberty, as a girl this age can damage her voice if not very careful. During puberty, a female's voice changes, as well. So you end up reinventing the wheel so to speak. I would instead encourage choral groups where she can grow in a group setting, and bloom into solo performing later. Chorus is also a wonderful place to learn theory and music basics. And it's tons of fun.
As for your son, did you both decide on piano? Is there another instrument he would prefer? While I am a huge advocate for music lessons for children, they also have to like the instrument. Kids should love music, not resent it. Perhaps find a better fit for him and you might be surprised at the enthusiasm he could show you!

18 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

I took piano and violin growing up.
When I was finally allowed to quit I think my instructors were relieved.
I hated practicing - it was pure torture and I cried through most of it.
I would have rather scrubbed toilets than practice.
I just never had any talent for playing any musical instrument.
It was hard for me, and no amount of practice ever made any improvement for me.
But I loved singing and I was very happy in choral groups at school and I was in the church choir - voluntarily.
My Mom often heard me singing in my sleep (I'm a sleep talker).
My sister hates singing but plays piano, flute and guitar very well.
Our son loves playing clarinet, taekwondo and archery.
I've never had to force him to practice - that was one battle I never wanted to fight with him - I'd been on the other side of it and it was miserable.

If one activity is not your passion - then try others till you find what you enjoy.
Allow your kids to try other things.
Life's too short to be putting your kids through this.
The benefits you want them to get can be had through other things.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Well, I guess I'd ask you how you'd like it if someone made YOU go to a class (gym, sport, exercise, music, lesson, whatever) every week that wasn't necessary, that you didn't really like, but they thought it was "good" for you?
And made you keep going for a year?
Eleven of course is old enough to stick with a reasonable session, like a college quarter or semester, four months or so. So your kid wants to try an instrument? Sure, make them do the initial four to six months that you paid for, because that's what it takes to start seeing some improvement/results.
But really, what is the point here? Shouldn't you be guiding your kids towards activities they actually enjoy and therefore will ultimately excel in?
Sorry, I guess I just try to treat my kids with the same respect I expect to be treated with.
(And yes I have been there, done that. I have watched two kids walk away from activities they were actually really good at but ultimately did not enjoy. Hard, but that's life. Being a parent isn't about creating a product, it's about teaching emerging human beings how to navigate and OWN their choices, IMO.)

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

If you have to offer incentives, something is wrong. If our kids made a commitment to an activity they completed that activity but if they weren't interested in continuing after their commitment was complete, we found a different activity.

All I'm hearing in this is "I" and not about your daughter. She has told you she doesn't want to do it anymore. Let her finish the summer and take the fall off. Re-evaluation in the spring. Let her know that you "hear" her. She is 11, that is old enough to know what interests her and what doesn't.

This is about you not her.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I wouldn't "force" music lessons on a child. Learning music or voice should be a privilege, not a chore. I played organ and piano growing up because I wanted to, with a passion. I payed for my own lessons in high school. One of my brothers played guitar starting at age 12 and played for hours a day, every day. Another brother played saxophone because he wanted to, and he enjoyed years of school band and marching band. If any of us wanted to stop at any time, we would have. My two sisters didn't pursue music, but they had their own interests that were equally as valuable.

I know that there is a lot of value in learning music but is that really worth fighting over and wasting your money and time? If they're interested in it, they'll come back to it in due time. I would let them wrap up what you've paid for and then pursue something else that actually interests them right now.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I want to specifically address the issue that these are singing lessons for an 11 year old. I am a classically trained singer. I work with classically trained singers, including professional opera singers. I work with contemporary music singers, like musical theatre as well. They will ALL tell you that your daughter is too young to be taking singing lessons. The teacher who is working with her either does not know this, or does not care and just wants to make money, or is targeting this age set for a small subset of people who are trying to make their kids' child stars. I don't have confidence in your child's teacher that she even knows how to prevent damage to a child this age's vocal chords. You don't push an 11 year old's vocal chords.

She doesn't like to perform - that's huge. I'm not sure how you think singing lessons will help a child who doesn't want to perform.

I do understand the issue of your son not wanting to take piano. Your children are not really interested in music, and you've pushed yourself into a corner with doing what you need to do with your daughter, allowing her to quit, but making your son take piano regardless. Better for your daughter would be the piano lessons. At least that wouldn't chance hurting her vocal chords. Perhaps if they were both taking piano, your son would want to continue.

If you really want her to sing that much, find a child's choir, maybe in a church, with a good choral director. It may not be your church, but perhaps it wouldn't matter if you didn't attend that church.

Aside from the vocal chord issue, your daughter needs to be interested in singing in order for it to be successful for her. She needs to mature and grow into wanting it. Sometimes it's all about singing with other kids and having a choir teacher who is passionate and interesting. You can't just force this. It's part of development if a child isn't born with it. I was born with it. I was singing in front of people when I was 3 years old. I'm not happy if I'm not singing. But I know that not everyone is like this and pushing a child to do it when they don't want to is not what a parent should do.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I don't know...
I've never taken voice lessons. But if she hates it, and the point is for her to be doing "something"... why not let her choose something ELSE?
My daughter likes music as well, but I would never force her to sing. In my mind, singing is rather... personal.

My daughter plays piano (started in 2nd grade). She liked it a lot. She took a break from it for a while (due to circumstances regarding finding a teacher after her first one took ill, not due to lack of interest). We stumbled around with a mediocre teacher for a year or two and daughter started losing interest. We stopped. She had already taken up the clarinet at school in band class, and was playing weekly at church, so it wasn't like she would forget how to play or read music.

She got interested in it again a little over a year ago... and we found a new teacher. She has thrived since then. She plays beautifully. But if she hated it, I wouldn't force her to continue. I'd let her find something else. Maybe try a different instrument. Everyone isn't cut out to play trumpet. Everyone isn't cut out to play violin. Everyone isn't cut out to play with their voice, either.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

When my kids don't like an activity, I don't continue to make them do it.

As a kid I took years of piano lessons, after the first year I knew I didn't like the piano and wanted to try a different instrument. I was piano for another 2 years. My parents even bought an upright piano for me to practice on. It was one of the biggest dust collectors in the house.

I can read music, I know the notes and even some of the scales I remember but I still CAN'T play the piano proficiently. LOL.

You said she doesn't like the perform. Please stop trying to live out your dreams through her. Let her find her own place in the world. Let her try something new that would be a better fit.

There are times as parents we need to push our kids but this isn't one of them.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I have my children do what they WANT to do. They WANT to go to soccer every day, so that's what they do.
I have had them in after school science programs because they WANT to. They have gone to Lego building groups because they want to.
I would never force my child to do something like singing or music if they don't want to. Which breaks my heart a little, I sand and played multiple instruments for YEARS. But it's not what their hearts are calling them to do. Of course, swimming is a life skill. CPR is a life skill. Those would be different.
You have had your daughter doing it for 4 months. She knows now if this is something she wants to pursue. She will rebel soon. Help her find something she loves, that she wants to do, and your daughter will be happier and you will be less stressed out!
I have never understood WHY parents assume that their child needs to be raised exactly like them. Just because you both were pushed to do something and loved it doesn't mean that your children will be the same way. YOu can't live through them.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

The big issue is that everything now requires a long-term commitment. When I was a kid in the 70s and 80s, we took short-term classes. You signed up for around four to six weeks and that was it. I took ballet, tap, baton twirling, art, you name it. Class was over and it wasn't my favorite? No big deal, I didn't enroll again. Now, you're signing contracts and in it for the long haul, even if a child has never taken an activity before and doesn't know if he/she even likes it.

I have never forced our kids to continue with activities they don't enjoy. I do make them continue until we can get out of the contract (usually with 30 days notice). We are about to start our first stint with team sports, so that will be a new one for us. Since there's a commitment to a team and a lot of up-front equipment expense, our daughter will have to stick with it until the season is over, but I won't make her continue next year if it ends up not being her favorite.

What's good for kids is to explore the possibilities out there. Being forced to do something after school that's unpleasant doesn't benefit anyone. It's hard enough being an adult and being stuck with a particular degree or career that's not satisfying (I know many who've suffered through that). Childhood shouldn't be so serious.

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answers from Washington DC on

My daughter also wanted to take voice lessons. We told her to give it 3 months and if she didn't like it, she didn't have to do it. Her 3 months is coming up. She doesn't want to continue and we are ok with that. I feel that it is important for kids to be active and healthy BUT they do not have to be in any sports or activities. Their main job is to be a kid and go to school. My kids are outside from 11am to sometimes 8pm. They go outside and play with the neighborhood kids. We have 16 kids on our street ranging from age 2 to 17. My kids come inside when they are hungry lol. They are very active riding their bikes, scooters and just running around. We go to the pool and park and just let them play. I just don't feel like I should force them to continue something they really don't enjoy. My daughter loves to sing and she is very good at it, but she hates the lessons because it's boring to sing the same scales every single week over and over. As long as they give it a try, I won't make them keep doing it if they are not happy.

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answers from Washington DC on

My kids both tried music last year (the youngest isn't old enough to try yet) but neither of them finished the year. They love their passions (dance, football, baseball, and basketball).

All 3 of our kids took Tae Kwon Do a few years ago and when it got to the point where I was physically dragging them in the building, we quit.

Talk with your daughter, find out exactly WHY she wants to quit, make sure she knows she is making an informed decision, and tell her you support her choice whatever it is.

I woudln't force anything on her though, if she doesn't love it, she won't put her all in it, and then what is the point? I don't want my kids wasting their time, my time, or my money. If they are miserable, we move on to the next thing.

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answers from Reading on

The bottom line is - if she doesn't like it, at best she'll only go through the motions. She's not going to learn what you want her to learn. Of course her music teachers don't want her to stop - they get $50/hour on average. I started studying piano at 4 and took voice all through high school and college. I would NEVER force my kids to continue taking it if they didn't enjoy it. All she is building in that experience is resentment. I've never known anyone who hated the lessons to go on with passion an success in the art. I think it's wrong to take away her choice.

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answers from Austin on

Our daughter did not take voice lessons until middle school and then took them for 3 years, during the school year not in the summer. She began the lessons not so much because it was something she loved, but because she had a good voice and through choir, was winning high praise and awards for her singing, I think having that break during the year helped.

But once she started high school, she realized her art was her passion.

I took violin lessons for 5 years, with very short breaks a few weeks a year, and no breaks for practice. I was done. I had wanted to quit years before, but my parents really thought I should continue I was/am a pleaser so I continued. But I had no passion for it for years.

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answers from Chicago on

I think having kids commit to any activity for a year is just too much.

At this age they need to think they have some power in the choice. I think trying something for 3 months and then re-evaluating the choice is much more realistic. There is nothing wrong with taking a break and trying it again. They are kids and there is so much to experience.

If they truly love the activity they will return to it, but with a better sense of commitment because it is no longer forced upon them.

Or sometimes they break your heart by walking away from something they have such a natural talent for :-(. Ugh.

Best of luck to you

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answers from Washington DC on

i'm always just baffled by situations like this. yes, there are times when kids need to 'push through' but forcing kids to do activities and hobbies they dislike is a recipe for disaster.
surely there are ways she actually ENJOYS in which she can challenge her brain and use her talent. there are other venues in which she can experience music.
do you not remember how long a year was when you were 11?
you've got two kids who are learning to loathe music. that should be a big wake-up call.

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answers from Washington DC on

My DD recently told me she doesn't want to sign up for dance again in the fall. I'm sad, but it would be a lot of stress and money to keep her in something she doesn't want to do. When a kid hits on something they love, you can't stop them. SD threw herself into theatre in HS and loved it. She did everything, from building sets to performing in musicals. But in middle school, when she was not selected for jazz band, she quit. Sometimes what hurts about a child leaving an activity is that it was really for us the whole time, and we have dreams, and maybe those dreams don't fit the kid's reality.

If singing lessons aren't her thing, can she join the chorus at school? Do musical theatre? Etc. There are many ways to learn to sing. And, frankly, sometimes talent is just that, nothing more, and remains simply a fact about someone or a hobby. I would like my DD to take piano someday, but if she's really not going to practice, then I'd give it to the end of the current month. I think 4 months is long enough (longer than some sports seasons) to know if she likes it or not.

Some people are so anxious in front of a crowd that they would rather be dead than give the eulogy. If she's not a performer, please be understanding and recognize that singing for others may not be her gig.

You may also need to evaluate if the requirements - language AND music AND sports - benefit your kids. Are these all after school or some of them in school? I was never very athletic, but I had a lot of other interests that suited me just fine. I took language in school (check) and did chorus or orchestra til 7th grade. After that it didn't fit my schedule, but my sister did band through HS.

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answers from Washington DC on

I have been though this recently with both my kids. My 10 yo insisted on playing violin last year. I made her finish the school year but then she wanted to quit. My son did karate for 5 months and didn't want to do it anymore. I made both of them think it through and they both said they wanted to stop. I let them. I remember when I was a kid and my mom forced me to play the clarinet for several years. I hated that thing and I never was thankful that she made me persist. Twenty years later and I am still bitter. I also hated the piano. Maybe your kids have other interests (mine want to do horseback riding and other sports) or maybe their personalities do not fit with performing. Life is short. If after 5 months they hate something and the commitment was satisfied (like a school year of orchestra) then let them find something else. My son' spinal teacher told us that forcing him at that age (7) would cause a lifelong dislike and we should let him stop and try again later.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I think that after four months of singing lessons, an 11 year old is old enough to make the decision of whether to continue on or not. Singing lessons are great and you're right to think that it's helpful for her to perform in front of others; however, in the long run, singing isn't going to benefit her the way a sport or language would. If she's really unhappy, dislikes the lessons, and doesn't enjoy practicing, I think it's time to move on.

What is she interested in? Perhaps you can find a common ground - an activity that is challenging for her, but one that she also enjoys. If not, let the language boost her brain and the sport boost her health.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Well, there are a couple of things that stood out to me: that your daughter doesn't like the performing involved, and that she needs to work on performing in groups in order to get more comfortable.

Is she unable to handle anything in public, such as speaking to her teacher or contributing to a group presentation in class, or is she simply not the type who enjoys being on stage alone? When I was growing up, I was fine with speaking in class, and being in a quartet or choir, and I enjoyed being in plays in school, but I did NOT like being the lead, or singing a solo. Never have, never will. A supporting role, yes. I had friends who absolutely shone when the spotlight was on them and tried out for (and won) every starring role. It takes both kinds!

So if your daughter is too anxious to do anything in public, maybe the lessons would be valuable. But if she is normally comfortable in typical social situations, and just doesn't want to be a performer, maybe it's time to rethink the lessons. There are plenty of music lessons that don't focus on recitals and performances. They still teach a valuable skill, just without the public performances.

Maybe you could ask your daughter if she would like to learn an instrument if there were no performances or recitals. Or ask her if she'd like to be in a choir with no solos required. Or ask her what she thinks her own strengths and weaknesses are.

And is your daughter also in a sport, and learning a foreign language currently? That can be a lot for an 11 year old. We usually required one extracurricular item at a time, whether it was a sport or a lesson, and we found that was less stressful on everyone.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I agree with you but I wouldn't reward them for it.

Kids need boundaries and this is one of those things that you get to decide.

I think that you have a good attitude. Kids would quit most everything if we let them. They almost always come back later and want to know why we let them do that.

If it becomes a bigger problem then discuss it with her then.

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answers from Dallas on

It is good that you want to provide extra lessons to your children and want them to be well rounded individuals, but maybe they need some input into their interests. Was your daughter excited to start voice lessons or was this something that you decided she needed to do? If she does not like performing in front of groups, perhaps this is not the talent she needs to develop. Does she enjoy singing, but not working with the voice coach? Is she involved in choir at school? What are some of the benefits that you see her getting from singing lessons? I would suggest that you take her to some high school musicals (or professional publications) or choir performances to see the singers and how they need to train their voices to be successful. If she is attracted to those performers, it might give her more incentive to take the lessons.

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answers from San Antonio on

I have two kids in martial arts. They cycle through liking it and not liking it.

I asked the owner (who will really tell you the truth...he has told parents that their children would do better in another activity or another studio for that matter). He told me that kids do cycle through liking and not liking and that if we push through it you eventually get back to the liking it again point.

I think if we were stuck in not liking it for months and months then I would let them stop but it never lasts that long.

Also, my husband and I think self defense is a life skill that everyone should have in the world we live in.

So for us at least right now, dance, other sports, gymnastics, musical instruments, etc are on the back burner.

I know nothing about singing lessons...I hated piano lessons myself and have never regretted quitting, except at Christmas when I would love toplay carols... ;-)

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answers from Grand Forks on

I usually make my kids finish their commitments, then they can quit. I don't sign them up for anything they don't want to do. If we signed up for a year they need to do a year. I agree with mandatory music, but I would allow them to choose what instrument. As for your daughters voice lessons, does she also take piano? My son takes voice and piano because we have been told that if he is serious about singing he also needs to be able to play piano.

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answers from Reno on

I have to agree with Fuzzy on this one.
Many blessings

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