"Giving Up" as parenting advice...

Apparently I’m a bad parent (according to a large number of parenting books my wife has read) because I think my kid should drop an activity she isn’t good at/doesn’t care enough about to be good at it.

Wife: “Sophie had a bad day at the chess club today. She apparently lost all her games, and the other kids noticed and said something.”
Me: “Huh. That’s not surprising.”
“I’m telling her how to handle it… do you have any ideas?”
“Not really. She should drop the club after this school year, though.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, she should drop it after this year.”
“Because of two facts: (1) She never, ever asks to play the game while at home, even though she has a chess board set up in the living room, and (2) I bought her a chess teaching program for her DS and the child hasn’t put it in the system since December 26th.”
“But why should she give it up? She just needs to be better at it.”
“Well, perhaps. But she hasn’t shown a bit of desire to be better at it. And the time of ‘gimme’s’ is drawing to a close for her… she’s going to be entering an age where games become contests and scoring actually counts. And since she hasn’t shown any true desire to play, other than when we remind her that she needs to play, I don’t think we really need to bother with this. We tried it, she’s not that interested, time to move to the next thing. Lastly, it’s not as if chess is a life-skill that will come in handy at crucial moments.”
“But it’s supposed to help her with brain development.”
“How is her brain being developed if she plays 2 games a month and loses both of them?”

… and here’s where I get to the meat of this thread…

“You know, in all the parenting books I’ve read, and I’ve read dozens of them, I cannot remember a single one counseling one to just ‘give up’ because your kid isn’t good at an activity. They always talk about more practice, or varying practice styles to suit your kids personalities, or whatever.”
“Well, that’s just stupid. ‘Practice more’ is fine advice as long as we’re talking about something the kid wants to do - but I haven’t seen any indication that she really wants to play chess, other than her desire to please us. And if one is not good at something, and becoming visibly so, then why not focus on the things that you are good at? To make a simple analogy, if I had a stereotypical nerd for a son, I would be doing him a disservice to force him to be on the football team.”
“Well, I can’t believe you just want her to give up!”
“I’m not saying give up the game, just give up the chess club. I’m telling you, as she gets older, the kids will get better, she won’t, and she’ll lose game after game. She’ll get a reputation as an easy win, and, imho, the damage done to her psyche and self-esteem will be far greater than any supposed ‘brain development’. And eventually, the competition will be serious enough where they won’t want her on the team… and where will she be then, if we push this for a few years, giving her the idea that this is somehow important to us and she is failing at it?”

So, there’s the “chess club discussion”, but I’m also interested in a general talk about when it is appropriate for a parent to say to a kid “You know, it’s OK to stop/quit/give up on this.” Is it OK to council quitting? Was there a time when you wish your parents had let you quit an activity… and are you better or worse when they acceded/refused to bow to your wishes?

Maybe I missed it, but since you said “she’s going to be entering an age…” um, how old IS your kid?

9yo, third grade.

Right now, all the kids in the chess club (at her level) are able to join if they want. However, some of the High Schools that we’re looking at have very competitive chess teams, and the “you can be member of the team if you merely show up” mentality will not exist.

And you’re right - it is a relevant question.

Forcing a kid to do something they don’t want to do and are embarrassingly poor at is probably not a recipe for success. It’s not about giving up - it’s about realizing that your kid’s interests and successes aren’t going to be something you get to cherry-pick. Your kid isn’t giving up because she was never into this to begin with.

I definitely was forced to do stuff well beyond the point of enjoyment or interest and it only really served to create an environment of avoidance. I basically just stopped communicating about my interests (at least within spheres my father would care about, like physical fitness) and avoiding those areas completely, because I wasn’t allowed to try something and not like it. I had to commit to it indefinitely then fight about it forever before finally, grudgingly, being able to stop doing the thing I never really liked to begin with. Usually with air of extreme disappointment.

My dad never really learned though. Long after I graduated from college, he started hassling me about when I was going to law school. I had not studied law or anything related, nor had I ever expressed an interest in performing law. This was based on me doing mock trial for a few months – where I had started as a lawyer, hated it, and became a witness (actor, basically) within a week of starting. In high school. Not a good listener.

Woah. There’s an enormous world that lies between 3rd grade and high school. Oh, and I’m further confused: “high schools that we’re looking at …” You mean, like private schools? At any rate, you may be jumping the gun a bit here.

Also, very few things that are “supposed to help with brain development” do anything that simple social interaction, family time, etc. doesn’t do. Human children were developing their brains thousands of years before chess was invented. You daughter won’t turn into an idiot just because she doesn’t play chess.

What interests DOES she have? Aptitudes? Hobbies?

I think the usual advice is that if a kid begged to do an activity and then doesn’t like it, you have them finish out the year. She’s in 3rd grade; there’s no reason to be chained to chess club (or anything at all) for the rest of her life. Try something new that she will like.

The idea is that a kid who joins a team or program has a responsibility to the team to not just quit when things aren’t easy any more. But once the term is up, you don’t have to sign up again. And of course, if Activity X is actively torturous and damaging, then a kid should just quit right away.

Yes, private schools. Where I come from, 3rd grade is not too early to start thinking about these things.

I don’t think you’re a bad parent. I don’t count for much, obvy. However, you might find you have more success as a spouse if you reframe your argument in terms of encouraging your kid to explore a wide variety of blah blah blah and find her bliss so she can follow it. That is, to drop chess club to make room for something she genuinely likes to do. I might be put off too if I thought my husband was encouraging our kid to drop something because it was too challenging, or because he wasn’t practicing enough, since kids do need to learn to work on things they find challenging or even frustrating, or that require practice.

I encourage my kids, I support my kids, I root for my kids, but I never push them to engage in activities they aren’t enjoying or don’t want to do anymore. Trying things out, and figuring out what you like and don’t like is part of childhood. They shouldn’t have to be saddled with an activity or endeavor for life because they tried it at nine years old. They should try exactly as hard as it’s fun for them to try and no more.

I think the OP is in the right if his kid isn’t interested.

I was forced to do things I wasn’t interested in and so I sucked at it and all it made me do was to be embarrasred and feel bad about myself.

Then I wanted to play soccer and my dad was reluctant to sign me up because he thought I would just want to quit again but since I actually liked playing soccer with the other kids at school I knew I would enjoy it so I finally talked him into to letting me play and so I did for five years until we moved and I loved it.

You’re right that she should finish the year – learning to deal with commitment, especially in some form of team environment, where others are counting on her – is an important life lesson. Granted, she’s only 9, but it’s still an important lesson.

When my daughter was in the 6th grade, she wanted to play sax in the school band. We got her a sax, but soon, she decided she hated the sax. It was large and heavy, and she couldn’t play it well. She stuck with it through the end of the school year, and after, changed to the flute, and kept that through h.s.

The point is there’s nothing wrong with “giving up” under certain circumstances. It’s no use forcing a kid to do something they despise if it’s not required, and I don’t see that a chess club is required. Homework, on the other hand, well, you can’t just quit that. But a club the kid’s not interested in? I see no problem there.

I tried to get my son to play hockey. At the age of 8 he told me he didn’t like it and didn’t want to keep going. I’m sure most fathers in Canada would not have taken that as an answer. But, really he wasn’t very coordinated and other kids were starting to make him look pretty bad out there.

I could have continued dragging him miserably to the rink every Saturday morning. Instead we told him that he had to do something, so we switched to soccer. He’s not very good at that either! But at least he doesn’t mind going.

Sometimes giving up is OK, as long as they keep trying to find something they like and are OK at.

Dangermom has a good point: there’s a difference between quitting mid-season and sticking it out but then not re-signing up the next season. The former is not really OK, but the latter is not so cut-and-dried.

Quick summary: OP, from what you’ve written (I have nothing but your words alone to go by) I’m with you and not your wife. You specified “drop if after this year” anyway.

There’s about a bazillion activities your daughter can be involved in that develop her brain etc. etc. It’s like chess is a boyfriend - not like a shitty abusive asshat, but one that’s just not right for you. There are other fish in the sea, y’know?

I’m curious how she ended up in chess club in the first place, if she has such little interest in it. Was there a time that she played around the house just for fun? If not … uh, why join the chess club then?

I’d agree to have her finish the year and then just drop it. My son has been through soccer, karate and other activities where he just showed zero interest in practicing at home. The karate teacher gave stances he could practice during commercials while watching TV and he never did them. I was constantly on him about kicking the ball around the backyard and through a “goal” (the swing set) and he never once touched that ball unless he was at the scheduled practice. I think finishing the commitment is a good lesson but this is the time for them to be trying new stuff and seeing what they WILL care enough to follow up on. So this year, it’s chess and next year it’s dance or flag football or painting or whatever.

My son is in 6th grade and wanted to join wrestling and I warned him that this was a real commitment with real scoring and a team who’d depend on him, etc. He joined and, at 66 lbs (and in the >75 lb weight class), consistently got pinned by kids with a 10% advantage in body weight. But he never missed a meet, missed one practice due to illness, went to all the voluntary practices on weekends and, out of ~60 kids, the coach gave him the Sportsmanship award for giving it his all every day and never giving up, quitting or throwing a fit over how unfair it all was. My son’s looking forward to next year and (God willing) putting on enough weight to be competitive in his class and use his year’s experience to an advantage. I wouldn’t have guessed this kid existed inside the one who tried soccer and karate and the saxophone and all the rest of it but that’s why you keep them trying new things.

Should she quit? If it’s going to be competitive in the future, and she’s not interested in being good at it, then perhaps her time and effort should be invested elsewhere, in something that:

-she’s more likely to enjoy
-has some aptitude for
-is willing to practice at it, and
-is more likely to stick with for the long haul.

FWIW I was in band from fifth grade through end of undergraduate college. Hated practicing at home - I mean really fucking hated it, avoided it as much as possible - but enjoyed practicing with the rest of the band and playing in concerts. In the long run, I think the music and the socializing was a good thing for me.

And in the absence of competitive chess-playing, I think my brain developed just fine. If brain development is the only reason left for justifying continued participation in chess, then it really is time to move on to something else.

Why did she join the team in the first place? Was it her decision, or your wife’s? Does she want to quit? Does it bother her that she loses? Let her make her own choice here, regardless of what it is. If she wants to stay on the chess team, then let her. Maybe there’s a cute boy or girl and she likes to lose to him or her. Maybe it’s a social outlet for her having nothing to do with chess itself. If she decides to quit because she’s embarrassed by losing all the time, support her. But don’t tell her she HAS to do anything.

Your wife sounds neurotic. I have always been one of the worst chess players I knew (and was the easy win in chess club in 5th grade until I got embarrassed by losing all the time and quit). But I ended up at the top of my high school class. It’s irrelevant. I had a good time until the shame kicked in. Don’t place a lot of emphasis on it either way.

This is The Dumbest Thing you could fight with your wife about. Just tell her to let your kid make her own choices here.

Your wife may be worried that your daughter is only going to be in activities that she finds herself good at, instead of things she needs to work for. However, in her schoolwork, she’s going to find something she’s not naturally gifted at and will have to work for. Let her have an activity she wants to do, there’s already so many opportunities to work towards something she’s not good at.

IMHO forcing a child to contiune to do something they don’t enjoy is a good way to make them hate that activity.

Make her finish the year, and if your wife is concerned and wants her to contiunue to play chess, then once a week have a family chess night. Make it fun. That way she doesn’t have the social pressure, but she still gets the knowledge of the game.

It’s a mom thing and Sophie is very easy going, always open to trying new things as long as there are other kids around. Laura scheduled her for a one-week chess camp at San Antonio Academy last summer, Sophie said she “liked” chess, and the school is starting a new chess club.