Quitting has a bad reputation. It’s perceived to be giving up on your dreams or on yourself. It’s what you do when you’ve run out of willpower, support or talent. It’s that thing that losers do. Whatever else we do in this life, we’re supposed to never, ever give up. Quitting isn’t an option.

But that’s not what I’m teaching my kids.

There is a moment for quitting. Every adult knows this, but we like to pretend our kids are the exception to the rule. We will keep them pushing forward. We will be SURE they are successful. We won’t allowing quitting in our house. And then we realize we’ve backed ourselves into a miserable, unrealistic corner with no way out.

Quitting is sometimes the exact right response to realizing we’ve gotten everything valuable we can gain from that experience. You started your child in dance classes, then realized she’s uncoordinated, hates performing, and the whole experience is costing you the money you could be saving for a family Disney vacation. Maybe it’s time to quit. Your son starts the trombone, but he also starts basketball, Boy Scouts, and the chess club. Maybe something is going to have to give.

When we frame quitting as failure, we make our kids feel like they’ve lost out on something when the truth is that it takes a lifetime of starting and quitting to figure out what you love, what you’re good at, and what inspires your passion.

After over a decade of lessons, countless hours spent practicing and a financial investment by my parents that I’ve never felt ready to try to calculate, I quit the violin. I can’t say I ever really enjoyed it, but I stuck with it. The guilt from quitting was pretty heavy, but the relief was tremendous. I’ve never really regretted quitting, although there are still times I wonder if I’ll someday want to pick it back up again. 

I’m glad I started the violin. I’m glad I practiced. I’m glad I developed those skills and the relationships I gained through the activities I did with my violin. And I’m glad I quit. 

I think we would be well served to approach some of our activities, passions and hobbies in a similar manner to the KonMari method of tidying up. We can evaluate that activity and if we decide it is no longer bringing us joy, we can thank it for what it gave us and we can move on without guilt. I want to practice this and I want to teach it to my kids. I want to recognize there are seasons to what we feel passionate about or what we want to accomplish. Quitting is a necessary part of making room for the new in our lives. We don’t have to quit in bitterness or anger, but with thankfulness for what we learned through the process.

If we started activities knowing under the right circumstances we have the freedom to quit, I think we’d feel more comfortable trying new things. That exercise class isn’t a forever commitment. Those voice lessons might be fun for a season, but don’t have to turn into something more. It can be okay for my kids to try soccer this year, then basketball next year.

There are precious few things I don’t want my kids to quit. We will keep pushing through even when school is hard. If they have made a commitment to a team, we will fulfill that commitment before reevaluating. If I paid to rent that instrument for the year, let’s finish out the year. Church is a nonnegotiable, even when it takes time you’d rather be doing other things.

There are many ways to teach our children faithfulness and perseverance. We don’t want them to give up before they’ve gotten what they needed to out of an experience. We want our kids to press on even when things are hard because rewards are often just on the other side. We can emphasize the joy and beauty of working towards a goal and we can also show them the wisdom in letting go of the goals that weren’t right for us. 

So I’m raising quitters. Kids who quit with thoughtfulness and intentionality. Kids who won’t carry guilt for recognizing when it’s time to move on. Kids who aren’t scared to try new things because they know not every activity has to be a lifelong commitment. For some of our over-scheduled, hyper-committed, exhausted kids, maybe a little quitting is just what they need.

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Maralee Bradley

Maralee is a mom of six pretty incredible kids ages 8 and under. Four were adopted (one internationally from Liberia, three through foster care in Nebraska) and two were biological surprises. Prior to becoming parents, Maralee and her husband were houseparents at a children’s home and had the privilege of helping to raise 17 boys during their five year tenure. Maralee is passionate about caring for kids, foster parenting and adoption, making her family a fairly decent dinner every night, staying on top of the laundry, watching ridiculous documentaries and doing it all for God’s glory. Maralee can be heard on My Bridge Radio talking about motherhood on "A Mother's Heart for God" and what won't fit in a 90 second radio segment ends up at www.amusingmaralee.com.