Disliking Activities- Spin-Off

Updated on August 13, 2014
F.B. asks from Kew Gardens, NY
18 answers

Mamas & Papas-

A recent question concerning extra-curriculars and the responses has me thinking- which activities do you think are "mandatory" and which ones are just recreational? My husband, who grew up in England, finds it unfathomable that sport wasn't a bigger part of my school curriculum. My parents, who grew up in the Middle East, find it shocking that higher mathematics and sciences aren't introduced at an early age, when kids are still like sponges. They also bemoan the fact that kids aren't made to do some sort of memorization/ rote recitation in front of class. Others who grew up elsewhere are surprised at the lack of core arts and music in the elementary years.

If a kid didn't want to keep at their multiplication tables, we would insist that they keep at it. Whereas it seems if they want to drop an instrument or a sport, the mamapedia responders are largely of the mindset that it doesn't make sense to push a child.

Where do you draw the line? Do you think that parents have a right/ or obligation to introduce activities/ disciplines that our schools don't foster in the form of extra curriculars? Do you think kiddie participation in these extra curriculars is optional?

F. B.

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So What Happened?

For what it's worth, I endured 4 years of piano lessons, 10 years of violin lessons, and 12 years of supplemental language education. I happen to have a natural aptitude for music and language, but I wasn't particularly keen on pursuing either, and did so only at my parents behest, and caused them a great deal of aggravation in the process.

Wondering what path we'll choose as a family, and how DS will take to it.

Featured Answers



answers from Sacramento on

School is mandatory. Anything beyond that is not, unless it's to address a medical issue. We need to stop trying to create "superkids" by overscheduling them with activities that don't interest them.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I believe in pushing kids to try things, and making them stick with them for a minimal time. (6 mos, a year?) If after that, they aren't interested, move on to something else, especially if it's becoming a battle and making everyone miserable.

I wish I had been pushed to try more as a kid, instead of essentially being left on my own.

So yes, some pushing is good.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Jacksonville on

To some degree, I think it depends upon the child. We all know that some kids just don't want to do much of anything. Those kids need to be prodded to try things. They don't necessarily have to stick with them long term, but these are the kids that will sit home and do nothing if you don't make it a requirement for them to choose something.

That is my son.

Then, there are the other kind of kids who want to try just about everything and enjoy the process. They like learning and competing and testing themselves and learning new skills. These kids tend to over commit to multiple things and it becomes a limitation process, more than making them do one thing.
This is my daughter.

Then, there are the kids who love to try something new, and don't want to stick with anything, only to want to try something else.

For kids in the first group, you have to force some activity. They can choose it, but they must do something. It could be a sport, or an instrument, but they won't do it on their own without parental insistence.

The kids in the second group will be excited to try (or at least willing to try) new things and will likely stick with them without much parental input, except to pay the bills and get them there. The more there is offered, the more they will do. They may want to do it ALL. And will be disappointed if you tell them to pick just one (or three).

The third group will happily start a new thing, and quickly tire of it, and want to quit shortly after starting. These kids need to have a "contract" almost, that requires they commit for a certain amount of time before beginning the new thing. Otherwise they would never stick with anything.

You use different methods with different kids.
But yes, I think kids (after about age 7 or 8) should have something they do outside of school and sitting around at home. It could be music. It could be a sport. It could be a language. It could be a hobby (lego clubs). But if they don't naturally gravitate to something, then encouragement becomes necessary. Before that age (when they are still little kids) I think it is ridiculous to require them to be scheduled. No 5 year old should HAVE to go to an outside activity on a schedule. If they want it, fine. But if a kid isn't interested in say, soccer, at age 4 or 5, they shouldn't be signed up "just to try it out" by mom and dad simply b/c mom and dad think it would be "good for them".

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answers from Los Angeles on

The rule/obligation in our house is if he wants to do a sport, he knows he's committed for that (sports) season.
I don't force my child to take on activities he's not interested in.
His interests will, I'm sure, change over the years.
His "job" right now is school.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I think each child is different and that there are no universal answers. Some kids need a little nudging along. I am unwilling to comment on rights and obligations because every family has different priorities.

For instance, I grew up relatively poor. School was my activity, period. We couldn't afford private lessons for *anything* for us; that would have meant making hard economic choices like 'food or lessons' or 'pay rent or uniform'...etc. I think that when we talk about the obligations or the 'right' to push our kids in different directions, we have to acknowledge that there is a socio-economic component to the conversation which doesn't get mentioned much at all.

And I'm not saying there aren't scholarships, but also consider how two full-time working parents are going to get the kid to lessons, etc.

Our son gets extra-curricular courses of his choosing for the most part. That said, when we had a bullying situation earlier this year, the school counselor suggested martial arts. We found a great judo club for him which he's been attending since March or so. We've seen good improvements in multiple areas for him and he has stated a goal of earning his yellow belt. We've decided that this would be a good goal to commit to. This means that I ride the bus across town with him for nearly an hour, which he's not fond of-- when he gets to judo, he jumps right in. It took him a while to warm up to it, but we know that's how he is. He's also not a physically active kid, so this also give him extra exercise during the school year. (summertime we walk, hike, bike rides, etc.)

We want him to have the experience of working toward an attainable goal and achieving it. The other things he does-- art, construction, etc. -- I don't worry so much about those classes. He should have fun with those; he's seven.

Last year we put him in tutoring for the summer, which was a great boost for him. I was chastised by a few for 'not' letting my son enjoy his summer... which was ridiculous because tutoring took 2 hours once a week and he was free to pursue his other interests in the other umpteen hours of awake time. He returned to school with his skills sharp in the fall. Now that he's doing more independent reading and such, we have relaxed a lot.

We all have things we have to do that we don't care for- I think that, much like everything in parenting, balance for the child and the whole family is everything.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I wanted to expose my children to different experiences, to test and see what they like and don't like and how to support their natural talents, skills and abiliites. So over the years there has been math, science, drama, dance, basketball, football, bowling, and other things.

I feel like as a parent it is important for me to expand my kids' knowledge of this world they live in.which includes sports, arts, foods, and so much more.

I believe it is important for the kid to participate to get the most out of the situation. My mom made me take piano lessosn for another 2 years. She wasn't really paying attention to the fact that I wasn't interested and thought that if I kept trying I would get better. I didn't get better because I didn't want to do it. My teachers of that time never let me even try to learn songs I liked and while I liked to listen to classical music I didn't want to learn to play it.

It wasn't the end of the world for me to have had this experience. LOL. I learned that parents aren't perfect and can make mistakes. I did however choose to participate in performing arts extracurricular activities which was great especially considering I'm an introvert.

As a parent I think it is wise to explore your motive for having your kids activities.

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answers from San Francisco on

Well, I wouldn't force my kid to learn the multiplication table, just like I wouldn't force a kid to play the piano. Instead, I believe that where there is genuine interest, learning just happens. And amazingly, kids left to their own devices end up learning higher math!

Learning is fun. If it isn't, then real learning isn't happening. Research shows how little time people need to make up for skills they don't have if they really are interested.

I took years of flute lessons, at the pressure of my parents. My hubby, at 41, decided to learn the flute. In less than a year, he has taught himself to read sheet music, and he plays great. Why endure anything? Why learn skills you may never need?

As an aside, my 6 year old divides recipes naturally. She is learning her multiplication tables by living.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i found rote memorization a great way to learn. but not everyone does. the fact is that if parents are open to the ways their kids learn, as well as having discussions with them on why certain things (like reading, mathematics and swimming, for example) are important, almost all kids DO want to learn them.
i got tired of battling my 10 year old about math, so quit. it took about 3 months before he came to me anxious that he would suffer for it, and we found a curriculum together.
however, the unschooling approach is unpopular and doesn't work for school kids. so yeah, parents do have to insist on certain things and figure out how to make that happen for their own kids.
but forcing kids to do too many things they find unpleasant makes for unhappy kids who learn to hate learning. i SO wanted my boys to learn to ride horses. they did. they were even pretty good. but it wasn't a passion, so i sadly had to let go of my dream to see them hit the show circuit. THEY wanted to play baseball. some days, of course, they hated it, and it ate our family's free time for a full decade. but that WAS a passion, so we saw it through.
during the baseball years we also had episodes of football, soccer, karate, basketball and robotics. basketball was the only one with a long shelf-life. we enjoyed our jaunts down side-paths, but never forced them.
my older son was so uninterested in music during our first year of homeschooling. i battled the BOE who insisted he had to study it because the other kids his age were. in exasperation i had him write an essay about beethoven. bam. done. stupid BOE.
that boy now has his bachelor's in......you guessed it. and plays the upright bass in the hunt valley symphony orchestra, and electric in a rock band.
i love the tiger mom's commitment to keeping a high bar for her kids. but that was our only point of agreement. i think we have an obligation to see to it that our kids actually enjoy their childhood to some extent.

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answers from Wausau on

Actually, memorizing multiplication tables is not the best way for many kids to learn so I would not make a kid keep at it if it wasn't working for them. I'm not saying one should toss up their hands and say, "Yeah, math is hard, just quit." I'm saying there are other methods of teaching and learning.

As for outside interests and extra-curricular activities, those should not be forced by parents. Possessing a talent does not mean that talent brings joy.As you said, you "endured" years of it. If you never did develop a love of music or language, then it was a waste of your time and your parent's money.

If - for example - you were really terrible at painting but you loved slapping a brush on canvas, that is the activity you should have done.

Parents should provide opportunities and a little guidance, and there is nothing wrong with having a kid honor a commitment if they have a contracted time-frame or have a team counting on them, but parents should not force the endless continuation of an activity they have decided their kid should do when the kid does not want to do it.

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answers from Washington DC on

I think there is a difference in things like learning basic skills (reading, writing, math) and things that rely partially on talent and interest.

My SD can play a trombone, but she stopped wanting to. There wasn't any point in forcing her to continue when she decided she did not want to. I was the one who sat with her nightly to listen to her practice and be sure she did it and I saw no benefit in fighting with her over it. She just got surly and played poorly. My DD does not want to do ballet. It would not benefit her other than to tick her off once a week and waste my money. So it's not her thing. We'll find her thing, and then it won't be a fight anymore.

I try not to make her do MY thing for me. I expose her to many things and give her opportunities. She loves science and robots and dinosaurs so we do a lot of those kinds of activities. I try to listen to her and encourage her in ways that benefit her. Even if that changes.

Her older brother played football and wrestled and it benefited him for a few years...and then he got tired of the way teammates treated each other, and his heart wasn't in it and he decided he'd rather bulk up on AP classes and focus on college, knowing he wasn't an athletic scholarship type. We made him finish the season and then let him drop it. He ended up with an academic scholarship instead.

I personally don't like team sports. I can't hit a ball with a bat. Do you remember that Daria series on MTV? That was me playing volleyball. I did gym because I had to and rejoiced when I didn't have to anymore. I tried a few things like track and gymnastics but felt very meh about them, not to mention transportation and cost for my single parent family. However, I loved theatre. That was my thing for many years, even doing community theatre after college.

You say you "endured" years of lessons. Doesn't sound like you look back very fondly on that time, and IMO, a child who is permitted to explore his or her own interests will be happier than a child restricted to something that matters more to Mom and Dad.

I also think this can be partially how parents define success. There are many ways to be successful.

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answers from Boston on

We were always allowed to choose whatever sports, arts, or other interests that we were interested in, my parents could afford, and fit into our schedule. My parents grew up poor (mom) and lower-working-class (dad) so really, having something to do after school beyond mind your younger siblings, playing with the one doll you had or whacking half of a ball off of the side of a brick building with a stick with your friends was considered a whole new world to them.

My 4 siblings and I did: figure skating, gymnastics, baseball, softball, basketball, tennis, cheerleading, Irish step dance, track, cross country, soccer, small group art lessons from a local teacher, art classes at the MFA museum school, theater, student council, student government, environmental clubs, church youth leadership, debate, public speaking, newspaper, yearbook, band, marching band, organ, piano, saxophone and guitar. Foreign language was whatever was offered at school.

To me, these "extras" are investment of parental time and money as well as time and effort of the child and that investment is a privilege. I can't imagine just deciding that "I step danced competitively for 8 years so my kids will too" or something equally as random. My kids all have interests and passions disparate from what my husband and I did. All of my sons play hockey because they love it. My step-daughter does mixed martial arts and is on the robotics team at her school - really cool interests, but nothing I would have done or would have imagined would be of interest to her. All of my sons enjoy golfing and I have never even picked up a club outside of mini-golf. Two kids have little interest in music, the other two would play guitar and piano all day long if allowed to. None of my kids is interested in theater or dance, which I loved. To each their own - they can do what interests them.

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answers from Austin on

I responded last night I will add, Our daughter always loved art, so she took art classes. She even attended the Arts Academy high school here in town so graduated with an Honor Diploma and an Art Diploma.
She was not really into sports.

She is like me and not very coordinated, but once she was going to start middle school, she mentioned she wanted to try rowing..

Rowing was not something any of us had ever done, but we were willing to drive her and a friend for lessons 5 afternoons a week all through the school year. They really enjoyed it and continued these lessons until they graduated from high school. She even competed here in Texas and in Oklahoma won a medal!

This also allowed our daughter who loved school to attend all honors and AP classes and extra classes in middle school and all 4 years of high school. She swore she was one of the only seniors the spring semester still at school at the end of the day!

She had a very interesting transcript.

This was her passion. She was just never interested in an instrument. She had taken voice lessons for 3 years in middle school, but found it was not her passion but art and learning are still the things that get her excited. She is using all of this for her profession now as an adult. She still loves Rowing!

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answers from Baton Rouge on

Yes, I made my kid learn how to do basic math, even though she didn't particularly enjoy it. It's necessary to have basic math skills in order to be gainfully employed.
There are some things that, like it or not, HAVE to be learned, HAVE to be done.
There are other things that kids should be allowed to do or not do, solely for the fun of it.
Adults have activities that we do or don't do as we feel like it. I love to knit. But if someone told me that I HAD to spend a certain amount of time every day knitting, I would soon come to hate it.

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answers from Grand Forks on

The only mandatory activities for me are music and swimming lessons. I don't care whether it is an instrument or singing in a choir, but I do think music is important to brain development. Swimming is a life saving skill. Otherwise I only put my kids in activities which they choose, and if they change their minds they just need to finish out their commitment (the contract or the amount I have paid for), whether it be a month or a year. I guess a second language is mandatory too, but I would let them transfer to English if they were not succeeding.

Fortunately our schools here do foster extra curricular activities. Lots of sports, art and music programs are offered.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I don't think there is a set place to draw the line - I really think there are a lot of factors that determine which activities are optional, which are mandatory, and which ones need to be tried for a little longer before deciding whether to keep it up or not.

With sports, I think all kids need to have some kind of physical activity and should at least try a minimum of 2-3 seasons of a team sport. I think being on a team teaches critical skills about working together and not always being the best one out there. But, if after a couple of years, a kid really hates it, then it's time to try something new. Find an individual sport, or even just go bike riding or running, to make sure the kid gets exercise and maintains a healthy life style.

I think swimming should be mandatory for all children. It is a critical life skill.

Music or art lessons are more optional in my mind, especially for older kids. I think it's an absolutely great thing to learn and can be a lot of fun. But, for a kid who really doesn't enjoy it and hates practicing, it's probably not worth continuing since there aren't as many tangible benefits from it. Music lessons are also usually pretty expensive.

I think learning a second language is very important; however, if it's required in your secondary schools, I don't think kids need to be forced to take additional classes on top of that. It is very time consuming and, unless they are going several times a week or getting reinforcement at home, it can be pretty hard to learn enough to be worthwhile.

I do not believe in putting children in additional math, science, reading or academic classes unless they express a strong desire to do so or they are behind in a subject and need extra help. With kids in school 6-7 hours per day, I don't think they need to go do more classes on top of that. I think finding other extracurricular activities (sports, music, art, language) is far more important. I think it's better to be well rounded than to excel in one academic area. I do see benefits of summer school and am all for it if it's the child's desire.

So, it's hard to say where to draw the line. I think you have to factor in what the activity is, how long they have tried it, and how old they are. I think any activity should be given at least a few months before dropping it.

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answers from Phoenix on

Swim lessons are non-negotiable, at least until they reach the level of swim team. At that point, they can choose to continue or stop. We view swimming as an important life skill, not an activity, until team level is reached.
Beyond that, there are things like softball/baseball, music of some sort, theatre/speech, etc. that I'd love for them to do, but will not force unless it's to finish out a season on a team.
I also won't force their choices within their choices. IE. My mom wanted me to join band in 5th grade. I wanted to play drums. She refused, but insisted I join still. I refused to join if I couldn't play drums. Circle continued and I won because the band instructor refused to force me as my mom requested and preferred I not participate if I didn't want to. I won't repeat that mistake.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Mandatory - learning an instrument (he can pick), swimming lessons (safety) and religious school (don't care if he chooses to believe in G-D when he is older, but he needs to learn history, a second language and community). I am also pretty sure he will take tennis lessons whether or not he wants to. Fortunately he chose chess lessons on his own. All civilized people should be able to read music and play chess and a racket sport in a social context.

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answers from Seattle on

We do require some extracurriculars and I do think that it is not only our right but our duty as parents to be responsible for providing the aspects of education that our public schools cannot. What that is for your family may depend on your values and the age of your child. Some may be optional, while others are not.

One of our non-optional ones is piano, even though my daughter hates to practice and it's a common source of conflict, it is something that is important to us.
Another one is swimming lessons. DD is neutral on those, sometimes she loves it, sometimes she'd rather stay at home. However we live in an area wit lots of access to water and learning how to swim is simply a matter of personal safety and not optional.

We also have her in at least one other sport, but let her decide what she wants to try. We have tried gymnastics, ballet, t-ball and now soccer. All in non-competitive environments (and I don't really care for competitive sports to begin with) and just for fun. Sometimes she sticks with something for a year, sometimes she's done with it halfway through a session (though we do make her finish the session). She hasn't found her favorite yet - and that's ok, but she does need some organized physical activity at least once a week, particularly during the colder seasons when there is just not as much opportunity for active outside play.

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