Young children begin taking formal “lessons” in activities for a number of reasons: Mom or Dad thinks it’s a great idea, the child has expressed interest, friends are participating, they liked the leotard or karate outfit, etc. Most of the time these activties are wonderful and children thoroughly enjoy them. But what happens if your young child is unhappy? What if they resist going to class?
Some children will resist because an activity is new. This may be the first time they are going to a class where a parent or caregiver leaves the room. Perhaps this is the first time they have tried this particular activity or its “just one of those days.” In these cases, I would recommend trying to stick with the activity. Many times persistence through the initial hesitation will result in a child loving the activity!
It is helpful to remember that a “commitment” for a young child may be shorter than a full 6 or 12 week session. (Whether or not you can afford to do that financially is another question.) If your child is resistant, worries, or appears fearful, go and watch a class. Tell your child that you are going to “try one more time.” You might encourage them by saying that you are going to stay and watch, or even that you’ll come in with them, While observing, note whether the class is developmentally appropriate. Are the instructions clear? Are they asking very young children to wait while many other children have a turn? Are the children being engaged by the teacher? How does the teacher react when a child is hesitant or not following instructions? Sometimes children just aren’t sure what they’ve gotten themselves into. If you can understand why your child isn’t happy, it may be time to stop the activity.
Ideally, when signing your child up for an activity, take a trial class first. This way both of you will have the experience to make an informed choice. Participating in group activities can teach children innumerable values. But don’t forget to take into account that children need down time. Unstructured time at the park or at home is just as important as being sure your child is taking classes. A parent is the expert on their child. Use your knowledge and try to make wise choices. Adjustments can always be made. You can do this!