What exactly is the message that you fear sending? “It’s ok to quit something that you no longer want to do?” It sounds like you are afraid that you are setting the template for how your child will deal with bumps in the road later in life.
You aren’t alone with that fear. Most parents wonder what the boundaries are between encouragement and pushing, between discipline and permissiveness.
First of all, the situation you are facing is a common one, particularly when children reach adolescence. Some of their organized activities, sports, arts, theatre, and others, just don’t push their buttons anymore. It could be that they never were all that interested, or maybe other interests are taking precedence. Kids only have so much bandwidth.
Either way, the first thing you can do is to find out why your child wants to quit the team. Is it that the coach is critical? Or no playing time? Or is it just not fun anymore? The reason matters and you need to first find out what it is before you worry that you are scarring your child for life. Often, once a child has identified and articulated the itch they are trying to scratch by quitting (and you are the sounding board for that, so be patient.) they can make their own decision about what to do.
A good rule of thumb in these matters is this; a nudge is ok, a push is too much. Listening and guiding isn’t being overly permissive. It is the foundation of a strong parent–child relationship.
by Ross E. Goldstein, Ph.D. — psychologist and author of Chain Reaction, a novel that tells the story of a young man’s struggle to find himself and love, set in the world of professional cycling. You can contact Ross at his website, Chainreactionnovel.com.