Should I Let My 10Yo Son Quit Tae Kwon Do?

Updated on May 13, 2010
J.M. asks from Andover, KS
10 answers

My son is 10, nearly 11. He is very smart and funny and likes video games and playing on the computer. He is not very athletically inclined. I mean, not exceptionally fast or strong or talented at sports. He has been in flag football, tackle football, baseball and soccer, all of which he tried without putting forth much effort in practices or games. His soccer coach even told me after one practice that my son was the laziest one on the team. After each sports' season was over, my son decided not to do it again. He had been been asking about karate for a few years and finally I found a tae kwon do class time that was convenient for us and I signed him up. I was really hoping this would be the thing that helped him become more self-confident. The benefits of TKD are well-documented and since he didn't do well on team sports, I thought an individual sport would be better.

He's been going to TKD for a little over a year, two to three times a week. He has progressed through the belt structure on schedule. Now that he's in the higher belts, however, the instructor is starting to give him a hard time about things. His kicks aren't high enough, his sparring technique is always the example of "what not to do," and there's not a lot of power or purpose behind any of his motions. I agree with this assessment, my son doesn't try very hard at all and now that he's getting up into the higher belts, they expect more of him. I think that's perfectly acceptable, but when I ask why he thinks his instructor would call him out in front of the class, my son says "I don't know, I'm TRYING!" He's always TRYING. I have tried coming up with ways to help him get better. Practicing at home, using ankle weights to improve his kick heighth, stretching every night for flexibility, making practice one of his "responsibilities" in order to get his allowance. I'm not forcing him to do any of it, I just make the suggestion and supply the gear. I figure if he WANTS to get better, he'll practice. Well, he doesn't. And tonight, after a discussion about him testing for his next belt in just a few weeks, all of a sudden he doesn't want to go. Says it's not fun anymore.

I should also note that in addition to quitting the four sports above, he wanted to play trumpet this year, but never wants to practice and when I ask him to play his current selection for me, he messes it up and claims something is "wrong" with his trumpet. And on two much more serious notes, he fails about every third assignment because he "forgets" to do it or the teacher didn't give it to him or he lost it (always an excuse) and his teeth are in serious danger because he will not brush them as he's been instructed by his dentist and orthodontist. He may have to have a gum graft on his lower front teeth because of this. He brushes, I check them, they're not done well and I try to show him where he's missing. He says, "I'm TRYING!"

Finally, some general facts to help in your understanding of the situation: his dad and I divorced 6 years ago and he is at his father's 50% of the time, so I can only check teeth, homework, and practicing on my half of the time. His dad also told me that TKD was consuming too much of "his" time so he would only take my son to class if he got himself ready and ASKED to be taken, so my son is only going one night a week right now (the night that falls on my day). I also have a six year old daughter who gets a lot of attention (she's very dramatic), but he was quitting things way before she started these antics. (She actually just quit dance lessons recently, so I'm doing something wrong, here) I got remarried last year to a guy that my son adores. I'm in a contract with the TKD gym that ends in a few months.

Pre-teens need to feel successful at something. Should I let him quit another sport because it got too hard? Or should I make him stick with it?

Bless you if you read all that. :)

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So What Happened?

It's been nearly a year since I asked this question. My contract with the TKD studio expired that summer and I let him stop going. Not long after that, I found out that he also did not sign up to continue with the school band in 6th grade; so chalk "trumpet" up to another thing he has quit. Since middle school was going to be a big change for him, I let him go into the school year with no extra-curricular activities at all. His grades all year have been As and Bs, behavior is fine. Now that we're approaching the end of the school year, I asked if he'd like to take pre-swim team at the YMCA. He's always been a strong swimmer and he did some swim team stuff a few summers ago. I thought if he wanted to learn the proper stroke form and everything, then we could put him on the swim team for the Y. Well, he's gone to two classes for pre-swim team and he wants to quit it, too. He says there are some of the strokes that he just "can't do." So, I have to say that I regret letting him quit TKD.
(Does anyone else have a problem with posting or reading the boxes on this page because it keeps jumping back to the top and I can't read what I'm typing, so I guess I shouldn't elaborate anymore!)

More Answers



answers from Denver on

Please get your children tested for ADD. All the homework issues, the trying but no one else can see it, the burn out quickly, the flaking on things, the failure to habituate, etc are all signs of the disorder. He's not going to want something till he discovers success, which I would bet his biochemistry and physiology have been preventing so far. Any 10 year old child being called lazy by adults should be tested for this problem to be sure that it isn't preventing them from having the energy and consistency and focus to succeed.

As for the woman in need of some deep breathing exercises, this is not a diagnosis. This is saying I have been where this kid is, and it was ADD for me. I am also saying that if people are sane and care about their children, they will attempt to rule out ADD before accepting anyone's statement that their kid is lazy, because there is so very often a correlation. It may not be the case for this woman. But it has been for a hell of a lot of women and their children, and their children deserved a chance at success which will only come through evaluation, not avoidance of the question. Just as you would rule out vision problems if you saw squinting, "lazy" in a child as an observation by many people involved in his life is often an indicator of a problem.

It could also be a thyroid imbalance or a number of other things that are less likely, but also important for a trained professional to rule out if a child lacks the energy to keep going with anything. Evaluation is important to his success rather than assuming kids are failures the way the next commenter is comfortable doing.

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answers from Chicago on

You should make him stick with SOMETHING.

He sounds like he has a fear of failure and maybe is a perfectionist. I know, it's easy to think that perfectionists have perfect papers, perfectly clean rooms, etc. Sometimes perfectionists have HORRIBLE messy rooms! Because they think if they can't do it right then they shouldn't do it at all. And so they don't.

Your son saying he's trying is a cop-out. Quitting is his way of never having to admit that he can't do something.

When he looks back on his teen years he'll regret never finishing anything. He'll regret never trying. I push my stepdaughter when she says she wants to quit. She wanted to quit soccer because it was "too hard with all the boys." I made her stick it out. At the awards ceremony she was beaming when she got her medal for participation. She wouldn't have gotten that moment if I had let her quit. She would have ended with bitter feelings about soccer. Now she still loves it!

Your son should stick it out to black belt. Talk to his instructor and see if the instructor thinks he can do it. Make him stick with it, through encouragement, pushing, etc. When he has that moment of triumph, he will thank you for it.

I don't think he has ADD (why are people so quick to decide kids have this disease or that disease? Maybe he's just HUMAN!!) He just has a personality that's unique (but not all that uncommon) and he needs a loving push in the right direction :)

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answers from Columbus on

What about music? My 9 year old has never been an "athlete". He's done football, tried t-ball, basketball and soccer. It's just not something he's interested in. My son is more of a Lego-building, inventor-type. That's ok. I'm certainly not going to force him to play sports. However, I agree kids should be involved in something. We just started my son in guitar lessons. He is really good and enjoys it. We were allowed to start by borrowing the instructor's guitar. We did not want to invest a lot of money into something that may not work out. Once he had several lessons and it was determined he enjoyed it and would stick with it, we got him a guitar. In our school district, they start band around 5th grade. Maybe that would be something he'd be interested in. What about cub scouts? I would say to keep encouraging him to try things. He may not have found his calling yet. Sitting on the couch, playing video games or watching tv isn't a good thing, so as long as he's trying something, he's not being "lazy". Good luck!



answers from Sioux Falls on

God made each of us different. He just has not found what he really likes to do yet. At least he tries things! I would be very proud of him for his accomplishments in TKD. That is nothing to be flippant about. As a 8-10 year old, it is not really laziness, than childish irresponsibility. Kids just get to doing other things, and need to be reminded. I am not judging, please don't take this the wrong way, but it appears that everyone has taken the "fun" out of it. He is getting belittled in front of his peers by his instructors, and then being reminded of it at home. He is now bucking. If he was my child, I would let him drop the TKD when it ends, and see if he would like to try something else. If he doesn't that is ok too. I wouldn't condone being a couch potato. I always limited my boys' video games to a 1/2 hour a day. He needs to get up. go outside and play! Bike riding, climbing trees, building forts, swimming, golfing, whatever. Neither of my boys were sports minded, but both grew up active and strong. God bless him for being different, and let him have fun dancing to the beat of his own drum!



answers from San Diego on

Strong 2nd to Amalthea's adhd radar ping. The ones that leaped off the page for me (out of several), were the patterns with HW, the "if it's not perfect it's not going to happen" type of perfectionism, the cavalier attitude towards/near nonexistant internal structure (like daily tasks... we adhd'ers have nearly no internal structure, we have to create it externally),I'd recommend an eval to rule it out if nothing else... because adhd solutions are often the opposite to "normal" solutions. For a good into/look I'd also rec. the book "You mean I'm not lazy, stupid, or crazy?!?" by Kate Kelly & Peggy Ramundo. It comes from an adult perspective... so it's a lot better "grasping the big picture" tool than most anything else out there. If reading through you see your son page after page... well... it makes the idea of looking at an eval a more practical one. And the book's only $10. Versus the cost of an eval.

PERSONALLY... if it we me, or my adhd kiddo... I wouldn't quit the sport, because it USED to be fun. it probably can be again, but instead look for a different dojo FIRST. There are approximately 15 (good) gymnastics gyms in my city (there are scores of bad ones)... and out of all of them only ONE is a good fit for my kiddo. He's terrible. Really. As in bad. It takes him 2 years to move up a level it takes other mediocre kids 6 months (and talented kids 1-3 months). In addition to that, he talks almost nonstop. Either would drive serious competitive coaches up the freakin' wall. But he LOVES gymnastics. He has this big grin on his face the whole time. So there's this one gym where they have their competitive gym totally separate from their rec gym. And the coaches in both are PHENOMENAL. They love my son, and it shows. The Rec kids, they only care that they're learning safely and that they're having fun. It's all about having fun. If a kid has drive they'll try them in the competitive gym... but they're always welcome in the rec gym. One isn't held as better than another one. They have 2 different goals. We've been there now for 5 years. Love love love this gym (and as a former competitive gymnast I've got high standards). Snowboarding, on the other hand, we're in the opposite boat. Kiddo is GOOD. So the competitive coaches WANT him. But kiddo is still goofy/ flighty and apt to interrupt with a "Wanna hear something funny?" and launch into a story about spongebob or halo without taking a breath. He's not a serious kid. He's a goofball. There are only 2 coaches on the mountain who dig this. So we stick with them (yay Dilon & Mark!). Because no matter how good kiddo is, or how bad he is... if he's not having fun, we may as well have stayed home picking our noses. Actually, it would have been more productive to have done so, because we/I wouldn't be dealing with meltdowns, plummeting self esteem, etc... as kiddo plays over and over in his mind everything "wrong with him" or that he's "not capable of". And believe me, the wrong coach who does negative reinforcement instead of positive reinforcement bleeds over into all areas of kiddo's life. ((For anyone who says that he's going to just have to learn to deal with negative reinforcement... I ask them to look at their own adult lives. How long do you stay at a job where your boss has nothing good to say to you, where going to work makes you sad and angry, or feeling less than? How long do you stay in a relationship where you feel put down all the time?))

Anyhow... there are no answers in what I've just written. Just our experiences.

I think kids have good internal sensors. They know when they're not wanted. They know when they're looked down on. For some reason, we try and train this out of them. I have no idea why.


answers from Norfolk on

He's got to do something for exercise. He needs to keep moving. If he quits one thing he has to take something else. Would he like gymnastics or Irish Step Dancing or clogging? Dancing is not always all about girls in pink tutu's. My son is in taekwondo, and there are all kinds of kids in class. Some try harder than others. Others don't try at all. But they are all running around and moving and are not in front of a tv / computer / electronic game for an hour a day. It's the exercise that's the important thing



answers from Tulsa on

I think I would get him a very good physical and discuss, in detail, how his behavior is showing itself. You might talk to the school counselor about your concerns too.

As for quitting, he is basically telling his dad he doesn't want to go and his dad is supporting him in this decision. It makes you look like the "B" for insisting he go. Also, making it a chore to be accomplished instead of a fun activity might be what is making it not fun anymore.


answers from Kansas City on


first off (in the order of your post and my thoughts as i read it), what the heck is the soccer coach doing calling your son lazy? that would have made me mad. definitely not helping the kid by calling him lazy.

S., like you say, he's just not athletically inclined. what is wrong with that? why does he have to be in a sport?

third, he's been doing tkd for awhile now, i would say that "a little over a year" is a pretty darn good try. so his enthusiasm is fading as it is getting more and more difficult for him. pretty normal i think. his skill level is just not as advanced as his classes are now getting. kudos to him for keeping at it this long, when apparently athletics just aren't his thing. personally, i was in band all through junior high and high school. one of the best in our little small town hs band. i decided i wanted to pursue it in college. WRONG! that level of dedication i did NOT have. so yes, i dropped it. i didn't have the talent or the drive for that level. i think if he wants to drop tkd at this point there's nothing wrong with that. he doesn't have the talent or drive for the level he's getting to.

last, if he is struggling this much with school work, and his home life is chaotic and the support sporadic, then why on earth would you expect him to do extracurricular activities as well? i feel like those things are just that - extra. let him take a break from the activities and get his grades under contol. to me those things should come S. to grades. i don't know all about that "pre-teens need to be successful at something" stuff - i think all people need to be successful at something to feel validated. but maybe let that first be his grades. it sounds like he just has too much on his plate. some kids can't handle all the go-go-go that "society" expects from us nowdays. i say, let him drop tkd, and even band if he doesn't want to do it (don't know how much he would be getting out of it if he doesn't want to do it to begin with), help him with his grades and homework, and let him know, if he gets his grades in good shape and wants to do an extracurricular activity, then you'll discuss it. just my two cents. good luck!



answers from San Antonio on

Could you maybe find a computer class for him to take? Or engineering/science type class (where they build things with legos, make robots, or rockets, etc)? Does he draw? Art class. Or how about a "fun" instrument (drums, guitar, or piano/keyboard)? Boy scouts?

I am not the one to ask about TKD, because my son has been taking for almost 2 years and he is only 5. We ended up changing studios and found a much better instructor who works really well with him. My husband is insistent that our kids be in martial arts at least through black belt or 18 which ever comes first. I do know how expensive it is and the long term contracts that lock you in to years of lessons. Our smaller studio is more willing to work with you and gives better prices and shorter contract periods. We visited 4 or 5 other studios before finding this one.

I do know it sounds like he is really frustrated with school and sports...I would suggest any class or activity that he likes/loves and wants to attend. Something to give him a boost. Good luck!!


answers from Dallas on

Sounds like sports aren't his thing. If you have to push this hard it seems kind of pointless to me. Find what would interest him. Maybe a guitar instead of the trumpet. Make it fun. Don't chose a hard core teacher. Get a fun college student that just spends 1/2 hour a week (not enough time to get bored) to teach him slowly and in a fun way.

What does he like to do? Art? Reading? Drama? Get him involved in something where he can feel successful. The TKD teacher sounds awful. Why in the world would you point out one kid and their inadequacies. That is a self esteem killer for sure. Help him find something he likes and can be successful at.

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