"You Made a Commitment and You Need to Follow Through"

Updated on June 11, 2016
M.D. asks from Pittsburgh, PA
26 answers

I have seen the opinion several time here that once a child commits to something, they need to follow through. I had always agreed with this but I'm reconsidering.

A friend had a different perspective. He coaches baseball (7-9 yo). There are a few kids on the team that clearly don't want to be there. I mentioned to my friend that since they committed, their parents were probably having them finish out the season. He completely disagreed with this strategy. He said that kids that don't want to be there don't make any effort and are sometime hard to coach - they just kind-of stand there on the field, don't go after balls, and don't listen when he tries to teach them. And at this age group, he's required to give all kids equal playing time, so he has to sit an interested motivated kid on the bench to give the unmotivated kid playing time. So, although parents tell their kids that they are letting their team down if they quit, it actually hurts the team when they stay.

I had not considered this perspective before. I would like to say - I would tell my kid they have to make an effort. But I also know I can't force my kid to really play hard. So I'm reconsidering my opinion.

I'd like to know your thoughts. What if sticking out a season actually hurts the team? I could see this could apply in any team sport/activity from baseball to dance.

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So What Happened?

Julie S, you may be right. I had not thought of that - did the kid willingly make the commitment, or did the parent make it for him?

ETA: I had more in here responding to some of the comments (kind of team, coaching style), but I took it out because the conversation seems to be moving towards a discussion of coaching, which wasn't really my intention (not that it's not important, but it's not quite what I was asking). I am more interested in the parenting decision. I was trying to think through my kids, and where I would draw the line between telling them to stick something out once they signed up and when I would say it's ok to stop mid-season.

I used to have a 'finish what you start perspective'. After reading comments, I'm moving towards feeling that if it turns out to be not their thing (they don't hate it, but are just ambivalent), then stick it out and don't sign up again. If they really actively dislike it, then stop. But maybe it's age dependent too. I don't have teens yet, but is it reasonable for older kids to have a better understanding of committing to a team? If so, should the bar for stopping be higher? My opinion is still evolving...

LillyM, I like how you phrase it. So, if a kid is not interested, as a parent, instead of telling my kid he should keep playing because otherwise he's letting down his team (which I hear people say but may not be true), I could explain that some times it takes some time to learn enough to make the activity interesting, and so he needs to participate and finish the season before he can judge if it's for him. Good perspective, thanks.

Featured Answers


answers from San Francisco on

People who think 7 to 9 year old's really understand the idea of commitment are idiots. I'm sorry but when people who can't even keep their own health/weight under control stand there screaming on the sidelines at their VERY SMALL CHILDREN I have a BIG problem.
My kids have done too many sports to name, swim team, traveling soccer, dance, competitive gymnastics, and more, these activities are HARD and when they said they were done you'd better believe I let them quit.
How many of you moms and dads put in the kind of effort required to be on these elite (or even recreational?) teams? After going to school and daycare all day, oh and also trying to just grow up? Not many I bet :-(

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

If my kids commit to a season of a sport? They need to stick with it to the end. They need to do their best and support their team and be a part of that team.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I get what you are saying, but as a parent who has paid a lot of money so that my kid can be active I will make my kid finish the season. If the money were refundable and I could take that money and put it into another activity that the child might prefer, then maybe that would be an option. But that is normally not the case. I won't sign him up for another season if he doesn't want to play anymore, but he has to finish what he started.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Portland on

I think, especially at young ages, that kids don't always understand the depth of what they commit to.

I pulled my son out of judo after I could see that he was just showing up and going through the motions. I'm sure it was a benefit to the other players who wanted someone focused and engaged to spar with instead of just a warm body. I've also let him slide on attending his bouldering lessons-- it's a six week commitment, but it was on Friday afternoons and sometimes he was just exhausted, so if we missed a couple, it wasn't like it was big deal. I'm not going to say "go climb!"-- I would rather it be fun for him. School is already an involuntary commitment for kids; I would hope extracurriculars would be for their own edification and pleasure.

There will be a time in a person's life when they do need to make more focused commitments, but I believe that childhood should be about doing new things AND respecting the child's needs, finding balance. I know he's more intellectually-inclined-- he never complains about his Lego robotics classes or his Minecraft group class. Each kid's temperament is different. My kid is more about the brain and less about organized physical engagement. (Unless someone started a tree-climbing team, ha!) Other kids are completely the opposite. Knowing what is right for each individual kid is important.

ETA: Hats off to you, Mamazita! I feel the same way! Do you have a truck-loading zone for the flowers I want to send you? ;)

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

IMO, the main purpose of extracurricular activities is for the kid to have fun. Any other benefits (physical fitness, friendship formation, or other life lessons) are secondary.
If the kid isn't enjoying it, then s/he needs to be allowed to quit.

No way would I punish a kid for not enjoying something that is supposed to be fun or for not wanting to play a game he doesn't like.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I really haven't experienced this. My boys choose their sports after playing them with their friends.

I understand your husband's point of view, however, if I've spent $100 registering my kid and another $100 on uniforms? He can stick it out for the 8 to 12 weeks of the season. I would tell my kids that if they aren't "liking" it? they need to figure out why and see what they can do better. This isn't just about them. This is about a team and working as a team. Everyone has bad days. However, we seem to have parents now that allow their kids to quit or "it's too hard" life is hard, not every day is going to be a home run. You play to improve.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

when i was younger i wanted to do baseball like my brother... but a few practives in i realized that it was not for me. i wanted to quit, i was one of the kids that wanted to stay on teh bench, but was forced to play in the games. my mom let me quit the team and they did so much better without me watching balls go by while i picked daisies in the outfield.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I agree that kids can't jump in and out of activities all the time if they aren't in the mood. But these kids are not having fun on the team.

I think it's up to the coach (your husband) to talk to each child's parents, in turn, and say that Joey doesn't seem interested, and what do the parents think. He should ask the parents' perspective and goals. He should ask open-ended questions, but things he should want to find out through their answers are whether Joey is just signed up because his buddies are, if the parents think he's going to get an athletic scholarship to college (really - some people work on this at age 7-9!), do they need him to be occupied during that time frame, if they feel he needs to develop athletic or social skills, if the older siblings love baseball and they think he will too, etc.

I think he should NOT say that Joey is not coachable because it will turn into a reflection on his coaching abilities. I think he should ask for their input on what would make Joey feel better about baseball - does Joey dislike the sport, does Joey simply not understand what he is supposed to do, does Joey not want to really learn skills but just play, is there a communication problem between what your husband wants and what the child thinks the coach wants, anything else? I think your husband should NOT say that other kids who are more skilled aren't getting to play, though. It has to be about little Joey and whether he's getting what he needs, and how it might be possible to achieve that. Some kids need a different explanation of rules or plays, for example, and a good teacher/coach can adapt a style so that everyone understands. And if it's not possible to help Joey improve, then the parents have to say if they'd be willing to pull the plug or if they should sit down and tell their child what they expect in terms of effort.

And yes, it's time consuming for your husband to have to do this with several kids. But that's the hard part of coaching/teaching and it has to be done.

I think it's wise to tell kids that they can't jump from A to B to C no matter how much it costs, and that they have to try. But I also think it's hard to get kids to understand the finances involved. If a child quits, he can't just jump into something new, and he needs to have something else to occupy his time besides the computer - but that can be riding bikes with kids in the neighborhood or building an ant farm. If it's a bad fit on a team, the child has no interest and no skill, then there's no advantage for anyone in having him continue "just because."

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answers from Sacramento on

If it's a team sport and we're signed up for the season, our child finishes it out. Our daughter tried softball and realized it wasn't for her, but she finished her season. She had fun along the way, but it wasn't her favorite. We did expect her to try her best and if we saw her failing to pay attention, we were on it after practice or the game (let the coaches handle it during the sessions). We didn't sign up again the next season.

If it's not a team activity, I'm fine with our kids dropping an activity. Everything requires such a commitment now. When I was a kid, I took tap dancing, ballet, baton twirling, art, you name it. I liked trying things out, but never did stick with anything in particular. They were short classes with a set time period, instead of the indefinite commitment everything is today, complete with contracts requiring 30 days notice. It's all so serious now, instead of just letting kids explore activities to see what interests them.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Our commitment only lasted one season, one session, one bite of the cake. I don't do the well you are already invested in this last year so we are signing you up again or any of that other nonsense. I think that is what your husband is seeing and not a commitment follow through issue. I have seen a lot of parents who find it important to them to say my kid plays sports and just keep making them sign up. Of course these kids don't want to do anything.

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answers from Springfield on

I don't think that statement applies to every age group. They have to be old enough to even understand what they are signing up for (soccer, Cub Scouts, etc), what is involved in that activity and just how long the commitment is. I don't think that is possible unless they've already done the activity once before, and even then I don't think it's possible for a 9 year old in many cases.

If we were talking about High School or Junior High age kids, sure. They have a pretty good idea and need to learn about commitment and responsibility.

Since my oldest is almost 10 year old and doesn't even have a complete say over everything he is signed up for, I couldn't say at what age this is an appropriate expectation. I know he can't yet handle it, but it's quite possible other 10 year olds could.

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answers from Washington DC on

You know, it's really a bigger decision than a lot of people think. Sometimes the kid NEEDS the push to help motivate them in more than just the sport. My husband coaches basketball and this last season, he had a boy who gave him trouble ALL season long. My husband took the time to mentor the boy and by the time the season was over, he was more confident (on and off the court), cared to help his team (teamwork), and mom said he was even doing better in school. Is this always the case? I'm sure not...but I'm sure some parents push for their kids to do activities in hopes this happens.

My kids have always gotten to pick what activity they do. We do sports fall - spring, and we did swimming lessons every summer until all 3 kids were proficient enough for me to read a book at the pool (with lifeguards). They have never gotten to quit or give up (minus Tae Kwon Do), we think it sends a bad message. But we also didn't sign them up for something and then tell them, they pick.

There have been kids where I wish the parents would let them quit. If a kid is FORCED to do a sport for whatever reason, and they don't want to, it does bring the team down and it's not fair to the kids who want to do well. My kids quit Tae Kwon Do after about 18 months. When I was dragging three kids in to the Dojo, the littlest one literally kicking and screaming, it was not fair to me, my kids, or the rest of the people there. We stopped going. No harm, no foul.

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answers from Miami on

Is this a rec league or travel? If it is a rec league, than I totally agree with you - make the commitment and follow through - at least for our rec leagues, they are supposed to be non-competitive and if you don't have enough players you have to forfeit. If it is a travel team, I'm not sure how the kids ended up there if they didn't want to play. This does hurt the team but seems like bad parenting to me.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Well I know some kids who just aren't super athletic but love the sport. I've seen it in hockey and soccer. The puck (or ball) goes right past them and some can barely skate. Maybe some are there because their parents say so. On our teams, there's always a few that people make that assumption about. But I find most of those kids love the sport. They just are clueless or not super athletic.

But if your kid really doesn't like it and doesn't try - then that's different. I agree. We pulled one out of soccer - she just didn't get it, didn't like it, and that was the end of that. But we had 3 weeks to decide. I love that option. I think that's perfect.

But I've made my kids stick with things - band was one. But the whole band group wanted to bail. It was a little older group. I felt it was important that our kid continue in that case. But definitely not the next year.

So - I think it depends. If they're not going to try, and hate it - then why prolong the agony.. I couldn't sit through watching it. But if it's just losing interest because it's not quite as fun as they thought - I make them stick with it. Typically though we always find a way to try it out first. That way you avoid this.

ETA: Read your SWH.

When one of our kids wanted to try out for an expensive sport (hockey) and hadn't been a big sports kid before, we wanted to see his commitment level. This is because he was just *thinking* about it. Well, that kid was out there shoveling the snow off the rink every time it snowed the winter before. He also looked into hockey camps and asked to try one before the season began. I feel like he made a really informed decision. So I also think it depends on the commitment level. Hockey requires getting parents up super early and driving all over the place. Not to mention pricey gear. So he proved to us he was serious. Again - this is a kid who is pretty ambivalent about stuff generally.

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answers from Amarillo on

Love mamapedia for losing my post.

ETA: I have been part of the team parent team where we were at each practice session, the game, and travel games. We were up at 5 am on Saturdays for the 7 am game. Yes the practices were Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Then home. Some nights it was tricky as I would drop daughter off for girl scouts and take son to practice and then come back for daughter while dad brought son back from practice. We were required to have a parent at field at all times. The team made it clear what the parents' responsibilities were before their children were put on teams.

This was before the "everybody got to play rules" so it might have been a bit different because the kids wanted to play and showed their desire to play. If you were not interested in really playing, you were cut from the team before the games really began.

My son played football from age 8 to 17 on teams, wrestling, basketball, track, and band. He did Boy Scouts as well.

Original post: I will try again. I feel that a child should honor their commitment. However, there should be a trial period of three or four practices involved so that the child understands the time and effort involved to be a good dancer, musician or sports person. If they child does not improve they could be "cut".

Not everyone is a sports jock or musician or dancer and sometimes parents have to let things alone. Perhaps a class in painting or scouting as an individual would be better.

There is probably no right or wrong way to answer. I do know that I once attempted to pull my daughter out of class in school but could not and she had to complete the semester in it. She has never picked up her instrument again and I am glad that I did not purchase the more expensive one in Germany for her to use. Sometimes there are personality conflicts that also cause a child not to want to participate.

It is hard to teach someone who does not want to learn and that does slow up and turn others off to the activity.

the other S.

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answers from Cleveland on

i did read your SWH and I get that you didn't want it to be a coaching issue, but when i go back and subsititute girl scout, or music lessons, or youth group, or dance class. it all adds up the same for me. At THIS age level, its the experience of being part of a group whether on a team or working one on one with a tutor/teacher/coach. The seasons are generally 2-4 months that doesn't seem too long to me for them to finish it out.

it isn't about lettting the team down... but more about really giving it a chance and experiencing the whole season.. from when you are just learning about how to play and who these people are.. to the end point where hopefully everyone has improved somewhat and have connected so that everyone in the group has value.

Even say one on one violin lessons, you wont know after 5 lessons what it is like to actually play a full tune that someone can recognize and how satisfying it is to have grandma sing along to you playing jingle bells. Sticking with it for 2-4 months seems reasonable to me.

but i guess i am working on the assumption that the child showed some mild interest, that the parent has the emotional ability to positively support their kid with out having unrealistic expectations, that the parent knew ahead of time what the commitment was.. not just 2x a week practice but knowing that practice is weds and friday and you already have an activity thurs. so instead of being every other day you have activities it is suddenly 3 days straight.

What your hubby is saying is one way of thinking of it.. and i have had to work with miserable kids that i just don't want to be around so i get it,,, but saying an unmotivated kid is HURTing the rest of the team, makes me sad.. instead of one kid dragging everyone down, how about everyone supporting the one that needs it the most.

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answers from Minneapolis on

I think the nature of rec leagues is that you get a mixed bag of motivation levels in kids. In all the years my kids played rec sports, they had some really great teams, and some really weak ones. Some were really fun, and others for whatever reason the mix of kids didn't gel and it was not so fun. Rec leagues are the perfect place for kids to try out a sport. Sometimes the kids want to do it, sometimes the parents make the push for it. IMO, the rec coaches job is to give EACH kid a positive experience, rather than care about the team's performance record so much. Try to make it a fun and positive experience, even if the lesser motivated kids never develop an interest in the game. Effort can be encouraged with a really positive attitude by the coach, but it can't be forced. And if sensitive kids pick up that a coach is frustrated with them, it just makes it worse.To the motivated kids that sit on the bench in the name of equal playing time, there are good lessons to be learned for them as well. I think at age 7-9, those kids can grasp the difference between the 2 kinds of teams. Eventually if rec isn't a fun experience for them, they will start playing only for tournament or travel teams.

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answers from Phoenix on

I think it depends on the kid and the circumstance. But I think we can all agree that it isn't fun for anyone involved when you have a cranky kid to deal with. Sometimes it's best to cut your losses and move on, no matter what. Good luck.

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answers from New York on

As parents we do encounter the need to teach the proper meaning of walking away from something that doesn't suite you, to set healthy boundaries for ones self. This would be one of those examples that reminds why they say parenting is hard and dang are they are correct! I see your husbands point perfectly, it does have sound logic behind it. A well working team is one that has everyone engaged & on point. The truth is, at some point we all come up upon something like this in life. When do you walk away & when is it not giving up? We all find our personal lines & boundaries somehow, right? Personal choices.

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answers from Miami on

I guess I am a little surprised that your husband has to give equal time to all the kids, even at this age. My kids' coaches certainly didn't. At some point if you were still looking at the clouds and ignoring the coach calling to you to pay attention, you got benched.

And that's the way it SHOULD be. There should be a consequence for ignoring the coach.

If the parent fusses about their kid being benched, then they should be asked directly and bluntly why they want their kid standing there ignoring what's happening while everyone else is working. I admit, that if a coach dressed me down like that about my kid's poor behavior, if I had the audacity to ask for more playing time, I would be embarrassed and would shut my mouth. What does your husband's parents do?

Honestly, if I were your husband, I would look at things this way. It would fix a great deal of problems.

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answers from Anchorage on

I feel like 7 to 9 year olds are younger kids so I understand the parents trying to teach them about commitment and following through. At that young of an age I would be more likely to make my child finish out the season as a teachable moment. Once kids are a bit older I think the teachable moment has passed as they are old enough to truly make the decision themselves that they don't like the sport and want to drop out.

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answers from Norfolk on

Some kids just aren't ready for team sports that young.
Kids are just as happy having free unscheduled unplanned play time and parents want to rush getting them into an activity - and it's just torture for some kids.
It would be nice if they just started team sports at 12 or in middle school.
Our son has never been interested in any team sports.
We started him in taekwondo when he was 8 and he's loved ever minute of it.
He's 17 now, a 4th don black belt - and he's so happy he's not on any teams.

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answers from St. Louis on

Maybe it is time for a team meeting w/parents.

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answers from Seattle on

I don't like the whole "you made a commitment, stick through it" idea. It sucks. Especially for kids! I mean, isn't being a kid really about finding out what you like? Trying new things? And if you don't like it...why should you have to keep doing it?
I mean..even as an adult, if I pick up a book to read and I don't like it within a chapter or two..i stop reading it. I once joined a book club and HATED it within the first couple of weeks...stopped going! Why torture your kid with something they don't like?
As a mother of children that play sports (now competitively) I cannot tell you how many times there would be kids on my boy's teams who did NOT want to be there. (when playing rec). There would be tears, tantrums, parents bribing, kids negotiating. It's just ridiculous.
It's my job to find things they love to do...not torture them with things they don't like.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

It depends entirely on what the situation is. I would let our girl try pretty much anything. If she loved it then she might get to do it again. If she hated it but it was important for another reason then she doesn't get to stop.

Like dance. All girls get to a point they hate it. It's like pulling teeth to get them in their leo and to the studio. But I know that if he was to drop any of it that she would be in a lower class when she finally decides she want to do it again. She would hate being with the little kids. Once enrollment is over she is in it for the year. Period. I've paid for it and we've committed. After the recital or show then we might slow down a little and perhaps do another activity once per month instead of a 2 hour ballet class but she won't be allowed to drop it.

I've explained it to her like this. College is in a few years. Getting scholarships for college isn't super easy. What if financial aid is gone? What if she wants to go to school for a medical degree that will take LOTS of money and years of work? Getting a dance scholarship for at least a junior college level to get her basics could pay her entire 2 years of college: housing, food, books, classes, etc...where all she has to do is show up for classes and sing and dance for her opportunity. So she understands that dance isn't just for fun, that is could be a way for her to go to college at no financial cost. For at least a few years. If she wanted to go to a 4 year college they also have music/dance scholarships that could pay at least part of her college cost.

If it were soccer or softball and it was an activity for the sake of not sitting on the couch playing video games then obviously there is no long term benefit from being on that team and I'd think harder about letting them quit. I would likely just make them stay to piss them off...lol. Really, just to show them that they were going to get out and be active doing something. Then I'd make them do another activity the next season.

So there are many reasons we put our kids in activities. Our girl is already proficient in ballet, tap, hip hop, jazz, lyrical, and can tumble on the floor better than most high school cheerleaders. She sings with nearly perfect pitch and has an ability to see the music a couple of times and she knows it. She has been in numerous plays and is okay as an actor. She isn't someone you'd go and pay to see in a movie but she takes direction, does what the director wants, and has even brought a few people to tears in one performance.

She has potential to get her way paid through at least 2 years of college, maybe all 4, IF he sticks with just going to her classes and participating. Even when she doesn't feel like it.

For fun she plays a sport. She's adequate at it and plays most games. BUT it's not anything she shines at and she won't make high school teams or be scouted for college teams. So it's 100% for fun and stress release. If she wants to play she plays. If she doesn't then it's not an order.

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answers from Boston on

The parent could look at the numbers of it. It your child is the 9th child on a softball team, no he of she cannot quit. If he or she is one of 15 on the team, then quitting will not hurt the team.

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