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“Finding an Activity That Works”

She just couldn’t believe she would finally be a cheerleader. She had waited for this moment for quite some time now and was too excited to sit still. When we told our daughter that she could start cheerleading as part of an after school program she was just delighted. She had always dreamed of being a cheerleader. She was excited to learn the moves, be part of a team, and of course “all the boys will just love her.”

She eagerly attended her first class and was hooked. She was excited to learn all the moves and was making friends on her team. Many of the routines were to some of her favorite songs and she couldn’t wait for us to pick her up so she could show us what she learned. “In a few more classes we will be getting our pom-poms” she squealed with delight.

Sure enough, after a few more classes her pom-poms came in and a cheerleading shirt to match. Each week we would pick her up and arrive a little early to watch her in her element. She was one of the most attentive and dedicated cheerleaders in the group. As the instructor mentioned that it was time to wrap up, my daughter was the first to run to the front of the class and ask if they could do the cheer just one more time. A couple of the other girls moaned and groaned that they were “ready to go” but my daughter didn’t care. She was there for herself. After each class I would ask her how she liked it and always the same answer, she loved it.

A few weeks had passed and things started to change, when I asked her how she liked her cheerleading class she would say that she loved the class but the other girls in the group made it hard for her to enjoy it. I even witnessed firsthand how many girl seemed like they didn’t want to be there. The instructor was unable to control the girls who would rather just talk or sit on the sidelines instead. This started to weigh on my daughter and I could see her interest in the class waning.

“Why can’t they just pay attention” she would ask me. I didn’t know why they were there either and it was unfortunate that it seemed like they were taking hold of the class.

A few more weeks passed and I made sure to let my daughter know that if she didn’t want to go to cheerleading anymore she didn’t have to. The only way to find out if we like something is to try it and never would I forced her to stay in a class that she wasn’t interested in any longer. God knows that I have attended many classes in my life, some for just one lesson, some for a month, some for even a year or two and then decided that it wasn’t for me.

We didn’t make it a big deal when she finally said she didn’t want to go to cheerleading anymore. I have asked her a few times to make sure that it was what she wanted, but she said she felt she learned all that she could and that she was disappointed that she was the only one that really wanted to learn there. The other girls were disruptive, and it wasn’t much of a team at all.

She started cheerleading in hopes of being part of a larger team, a group of girls that all had a common goal and would work accordingly to reach it. Unfortunately she didn’t find what she was looking for. She didn’t go to cheerleading today and that’s fine. Instead she came home and played with Legos, read some books, and helped me make dinner.

“Dad, do you think next year I can start a different club?” She timidly asks me. “Of course you can, you can try as many clubs as you like until you find the one that’s right for you.” I promptly replied.

I clearly remember when I was a kid and also was a part of after school clubs that I ran into the same problem my daughter did. I had a true and genuine interest in the club and many of the children there were just stuck there as a form of daycare. They didn’t want to be there at all and they were either tossed in the class for the after school care, or to live out their parents ideas of what they should be doing. Not only is that an absolute bummer for your child, but for the other children that are genuinely interested in the class. I urge parents to not impose their own ideas of what their child should be doing after school, and let their children find out what they truly enjoy. When they lose interest in an activity it’s not a time to badger them or keep them in the class, but find something that truly motivates them and interests them. It’s not that they are quitting so much as they are testing the waters and sampling what life has to offer.

Especially when children are young they have no idea what they are getting into with different clubs. Perhaps they thought baseball would be more playing and less running laps, perhaps they thought karate would be more flashy moves and less dull instruction, perhaps they thought their after school art class would be more painting and less coloring. Whatever the case, I think it’s more important to allow your child to explore their interests, than keep them somewhere that they don’t want to be.

As for the cheerleading class, my daughter has a positive attitude about it. “I already have the T-shirt, the pom-poms, and know the moves, I’m as much of a cheerleader as anyone.” She sure is, isn’t she?

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