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Let Kids Test Their Limits

Melissa Roja Lawlor
Sept. 13, 2012

One mom's take on not letting kids quit as part of the Care.com Interview Series

Beth Feldman believes in testing limits, no matter what the challenge. So it should not surprise anyone that the creator of the online community Role Mommy and former TV exec went into labor with her second child still deftly handling publicity for "CSI," "The Amazing Race" finale, and an "Extra" feature story between contractions. When it comes to kids quitting, Feldman makes sure her kids don't back down, even if a challenge seems too tough to take on. See why she believes that, when it comes to her family, she'd rather her kids experience failure than missing out on life by playing it safe.

Tell us about your family and your blog.

I have two sites - Role Mommy, an online community, blog network and events company dedicated to inspiring parents to pursue their passion while raising a family, and Project You magazine, an online magazine for parents of all ages, new moms through empty nesters.

What types of activities do your kids participate in? How active are your kids and family?

My son plays baseball and basketball. My daughter plays softball and is an artist. We are all pretty active. My husband and I play tennis together and we all go bike riding as a family.

What is your personal philosophy on quitting?

We actually encourage our kids to try their best and not quit if a challenge seems too tough to take on. However, if it means doing something that makes you unhappy, then I am definitely a proponent of quitting things you do not love.

Have you ever felt that your kids are doing too much? How do you determine how many and which activities your kids are enrolled in?

When they were younger, we had them enrolled in a lot of activities, but I think it was a matter of figuring out what they wanted to do most. Now that they're older, they do less when it comes to sporting activities -- either one or two sports at a time. The commitment to a sports team can be intense so I've always found it's better to pursue one sport then to spread one's self too thin.

Growing up, how did your parents handle quitting an activity/sport/class?

My parents encouraged us to try our best and they didn't make us feel bad if we decided to give up a sport, or for me, a passion like musical theater. In hindsight though, I wish they pushed me more, because oftentimes, people quit out of fear. If you're afraid to fail, you sometimes don't go for it. I encourage my own kids to test their limits because even if they don't succeed, it's a huge accomplishment if you show up and try your best. Quitters don't ever experience all that life has to offer because they play it safe every step of the way.

Have your children expressed a desire to quit an activity or sport before? What was your response?

My daughter has expressed a desire to quit softball, which does make me quite sad. When she first started playing the game, she made new friends and showed a lot of potential for the sport. She even started pitching. The tough thing was, her dad was her coach, and at times, he could be hard on her because he saw her potential and wanted her to try harder. When it came time to try out for the school team, we encouraged her to do it even though she was afraid she wouldn't make it. She pushed herself to the limit and really worked hard, even earning some kudos from the coach, but unfortunately, she didn't make the team. She was completely crushed by the experience, but we convinced her to continue to play with her travel team. However, she lost a lot of interest in the sport when she was relegated to the outfield and no longer pitching. We are encouraging her to try out for the team again, but at the end of the day, it's her ultimate decision. She's not going to become a professional softball player, so if she decides to give up the sport, I'll be totally supportive.

At what point have you or do you feel it's ok to let your kids quit? Explain.

I think it's okay for your kid to quit if they are totally miserable and no matter what they do, they can't seem to succeed at the task they are attempting to undertake. Quit because something makes you unhappy, but don't quit because you're afraid you might fail.

There are some who believe that not letting your child quit an activity is a learning experience in and of itself. Do you agree or disagree with this? Why?

I agree when the end result is that the child finds satisfaction after doing their best. Quitting is easy, but trying your best no matter what the outcome is something every child should strive to do.

What tips can you give parents of children who are expressing a desire to quit?

Don't force your child to pursue something if they really hate it. Don't live vicariously through your child. However, if your child is giving something up because they're afraid to fail, you need to help bolster their confidence so that they try their best. As parents, we don't ever want to see our kids fail, but failure leads to growth, and eventually, growth leads to ultimate success.

What lessons, if any, have your family learned from quitting (or not quitting) an activity/class/sport?

Right now, we're in the middle of the lesson. My daughter is about to decide whether she's going to quit softball -- so come back to me in a few months and I'll let you know how it turned out!

Beth Feldman is the founder of Role Mommy, an online community and events company created to inspire, entertain, and inform today's busy moms. She is also the editor in chief of Project You magazine, as well as co-author of Peeing in Peace: Tales & Tips for Type A Moms and See Mom Run: Side-Splitting Essays from the World's Most Harried Moms. You can find Beth on Twitter and Facebook.

For more advice on how to handle discussions about quitting, visit the Care.com Interview Series: When Is It OK for Your Child to Quit? »

Photo used with permission from Beth Feldman.

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