For generations parents have been telling their kids “Don’t be a quitter”. Quitting gets a bad rap but for today’s busy families, it’s one of the best things you can do.
Gabrielle Douglas, Olympic Gold Medal Champion and all-around awesome cutie pie, had to quit lots of things in order to be successful at gymnastics. Her decision to quit her school, her hometown, even living with her family, led her to victory. She was smart enough to notice that trying to make other girls like her, was keeping her from excelling at her sport. She had to quit her old gym in order to grow into the athlete she was meant to be. It wasn’t easy but it felt right.
Every time we quit something, we make room for more of who we are meant to be. This can create a temporary void until we fill it with things that feel more authentically us. (Ask anyone who has been through divorce or an empty nest about this void, it’s scary!) But it is a necessary step to lead us closer to our best life.
Ben was a super star soccer player. He lived and breathed his passion for soccer and it showed. His family’s life and future plans revolved around Ben’s competitive, traveling soccer team. When Ben turned 12, he was ready to try something new. Nine years of intense year-round soccer left little time for him to try new things and he was ready to explore a new identity. He thought about joining the band or trying out for drama, maybe even a girlfriend?
Ben’s parents had a hard time with this but after a year of seeing their son unhappy, they said goodbye to soccer and hello to band. Gabrielle Douglas’ Mom had a hard time letting her quit her life to pursue her passion but eventually succumbed to Gaby’s relentless persuasion.
Michelle’s daughter wanted to quit basketball her sophmore year but her parents said no. They encouraged her to stick with the team through high school. She excelled and got that full basketball scholarship her parents were expecting. After the first semester at University, burned out, she quit her sport, lost her scholarship, and moved home to attend the local community college. Thirteen years of playing basketball was enough and she knew it. It was time to explore who she was without it.
Quitting things is about growing into a new identity that is more closely aligned with who we are meant to be. How do we know when to let our kids quit and when to encourage them to stick it out?
Short answer: we can’t know. We have no idea who they are meant to be in this lifetime. But they will tell us if we learn to listen and watch for these signs:
Time – Do they change their mind from one week to the next or are they consistent with their feelings after a month or two.
Body – When you tell them it’s time to go to _______, does their body collapse? Do they literally drag their feet out the door?
Voice – My daughter complains and collapses when it’s time to bathe but that doesn’t mean I’m going to let her quit! The voice used for whining is a different tone than the mature, often quiet whisper of TRUTH. Listen and see if you can hear the difference.
Tears – When we are preparing to move to our next stage of life by quitting the old and moving to an unknown future, “Truth Tears” show up. This can be confusing to parents who think “if quitting makes you sad, why quit?” There is a different quality to these tears that accompany an out loud acknowledgement of “I know I’m meant for more than this and I’m ready to see what it is, but change is scary.”
Quitters try new things. Quitters are open to new ideas and new experiences without fear. Quitters know who they are and who they aren’t and they are FUN to be around. Life is a game of “You’re Getting Warmer”. Look back on your life and tell me what’s the best thing you’ve ever quit?
Take inspiration from the teens at my summer camp:
“I’m going to quit trying to make everybody like me”
“I going to quit being so hard on myself”
“I’m going to quit a friend who drags me down.”
“I’m going to TRY to quit caring about what other people think.”