Playing sports has physical and social benefits, but what if your child doesn't want to participate?
"Do you feel a child should be made to do a sport if they do not like it?" asks Circle of Moms member Tanya H.
Similarly, Cheryl B. questions her husband's decision to force their son to play football. "There are so many things in life that we have to do, I just don't see the point in making someone play a sport that he/she is not interested in."
If you, too, are wondering whether you should make your child play a sport — especially when they don't want to — Circle of Moms members suggest you consider its five benefits.
1. Good Exercise
Sports are important to keep kids busy and fit. "Participating in sports, especially team sports, help children learn self-discipline, will increase self-esteem and self-confidence (and the benefits from those are immeasurable), will teach them about working together to accomplish the same goal, and as they get older, it will teach them that worker harder than the next guy will pay off via more playing time and/or greater success," says mom Kristi C. "I also believe being involved in sports will encourage kids to take better care of themselves and in the long run, will keep them active and healthy as adults."
However, Circle of Moms members generally agree no good will come of forcing your child to play a sport she doesn't like if your child is already getting a lot of exercise in another activity she enjoys. "As long as she is getting exercise, that's the main goal," Michelle W. says. "If she's loves it that much, then she'll be happy and do her best. If you make her participate in something she doesn't like, you are setting her up for frustration and failure and yourself for arguments."
Heather F. agrees. "Never force your child to do what interests you," she says. "They will never really put their heart and soul into it because they are not doing it for themselves but for you. Then you are just wasting money and everyone's time, including the people you are paying to instruct them. Instructors rather teach those who want to learn; it makes for a much more productive class."
Keep reading for more benefits of playing sports.
2. Learn Valuable Skills
Children learn valuable skills playing sports, which is why moms like Alison H. "insist" on certain activities. She explains that her family has a cabin by the lake, so "for safety sake," her son will learn to swim.
Denikka G. agrees that swimming is a sport she would not allow her children to quit, whether they like it or not, until she is "comfortable that they were strong enough swimmers to be able to save themselves in a dangerous situation." She also wants her children to participate in a self-defense sport like karate or tae kwon do so that they learn how to defend themselves to a reasonable degree. "I won't expect them to become black belts or masters or anything, but they should be able to reasonably defend themselves," she says.
3. Won't Know If You Like It Until You Try
In addition to lifesaving activities, if your child is not getting any exercise, then it's OK to push kids to try out different activities until they find one they like, Circle of Moms members say. "It is important to let kids try any one that sounds like fun to them," Kristi C. says. "This will give them a chance to figure out what they like and what they are good at, with the hopes they will stay active, stay focused, have fun and stay out of trouble (and if we're really lucky, they will be offered a college scholarship so we don't have to foot the bill!)."
At a certain age, "variety is the spice" so you should push your child to try out different sports then let him choose if he wants to specialize in a sport he likes later, Suzan M. says, noting her daughter went from ballet to horseback riding before she "found her forte."
Many schools offer free trial classes that give your child an opportunity to experience a sport for a short period, Quyen P. suggests.
4. Teaches Commitment
If your child is trying out new sports, then don't let them quit too soon, before they get the hang of things, members caution. After all, it's important for kids to understand commitment. "I tell my kids that once they start something, they have to finish it; they can't just quit mid-term. This will teach them to follow through and finish, instead of quitting when things get hard, because we all know life isn't easy," Julie M. explains.
If you allow your child to quit halfway through a season or session, then you are "giving her permission to give up," Gillian B. says. "My boys understand they have to do something," she says, although the "something" is their choice, whether it's Boy Scouts, wrestling, football, baseball, guitar lessons, or choir. Once they choose something, they know they have "made a promise to the coach and [their] teammates to be there," and they have to finish the season. Then when the season/session is over, they can decide if they want to sign up again, she adds.
Colleen E. is another parent who doesn't let her children quit a sport midseason. "This will be a life lesson: once you start you must not quit," she says, also noting, "We must not teach our children to quit because they have teammates who depend on them for the season."
"I have always liked this approach," Chet M. adds. "It says to your kids: think carefully about what you choose, because once you make a commitment you stand by it. It's not forever though. You can pick something new every year if you want!"
5. You Can Keep Trying
Even if your child seems committed to or talented in a sport, it's OK to let her change directions once you've made it past the initial season, Stacey C. says. She explains her daughter was a talented wrestler who won many tournaments and titles, then one year she decided to quit. "Come to find out it was because of peer pressure and other girls picking on her that girls weren't supposed to wrestle, and she was struggling to fit in at her new school . . . I wanted her to know that she shouldn't quit something she loves just because others say she shouldn't do it. But, it was effecting her so much socially and her self-worth that at the end of the season, I told her she could be done if that was what she wanted."
Since then, Stacey's daughter dabbled in a lot of sports trying to find her niche, then "found her home" in dance. "So [in] my opinion, let your daughter try new things. She will get more out of doing something she enjoys and wants to do than she will something she is forced in to."
Parents should show enthusiasm for a lot of sports, so that it will show kids that different activities are fun. But if your child decides that team sports are not for him, then encourage another activity so that your child can get exercise and fresh air, Jessica M. adds. "My boyfriend isn't a sports person, but he's still outside a lot hunting, fishing, or [with] some sort of motorized toy. With everything out there, your [child] is likely to enjoy something."