Teaching Children to Quit

Teaching Kids to Quit - The Classical Unschooler
When was the last time you quit something? When did your children stop doing something? Here’s why we need to seriously consider teaching children to quit. 

“I have been thinking about quitting,” someone says and there is immediate silence.

Most of the time, “quitting” makes us feel like we’re giving up. We immediately assume quitting something is a negative thing.

I know I do.

Teach Your Kids to Quit - The Classical Unschooler

About a year ago, when I still felt green about homeschooling (okay, okay, so I don’t have a doctorate in homeschooling now, but it’s our fifth year and I’m quite “settled in,” if you will) I asked some friends a question about a read aloud (that shall go unnamed) we hated. Here was the question:

“…if a read-aloud sucks, do you dump it? […] I hate, hate, hate it. I think it’s uselessly dumbed down. I don’t care for it, but we only have one more full day of reading it. Ugh. I’ll plod through if I must. But we all hate it. Thoughts?”

I got various responses – everything that ran the gamut from “dump it!” to “children need to learn perseverance” to “it’s just one more day – get it done!”

It’s been a whole year since then and looking back, I think I have something to say to myself about this internal struggle. Because looking back I can see slightly more clearly now. What I want to say to myself has to do with quitting.


Quitting is a skill. We need to cultivate it. Knowing when and how to quit and when and how to persevere is perhaps the most important skill our children (not to mention we ourselves) need to learn.

“Winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt.” – Seth Godin.

We need to learn to quit fast.

As homeschoolers, we tend to stick it out far longer than most people sending their children to public schools. This is not derision, it’s truth. We persevere with the co-op, the program, the curriculum, the classes even when we see that they are not working.

We do this because we worry that there might be something we are not seeing. Or we stick with it because we know the importance of time and developmental stages and we have paid attention to such things in our homeschool.

But by the same token, we wait too long on some other things. We need to be able to tell the difference between what is working, what it not and be able to quit faster.


Teaching this skill to children can be tricky, but effective. If the way they are thinking of a math problem, for instance, is not helping them figure things out, they need to drop it and think of it some other way. There is no inherent value in doing things a certain way only because a text book says so.

(For full disclosure, I will mention that we have memorize math facts, but even as I saw my children memorize, I saw how differently they came to the same answer. I saw no reason to teach them my way when their own way was unique to them.)

We need to learn to quit often.

My personal challenge is to read 100 books by the end of 2016 and December is drawing close extremely fast. (You can check out my Goodreads profile and follow me here.)

Having never before made the decision to read as many books, I got a little carried away in the winter months and read a lot. Then came summer. I get almost no reading done in the summer because we dig deep into homeschooling. At last count, I have read 82 books – something I have never done in any other year.

How did I manage? The truth is I read as many books by quitting many, many more after the first page or the first chapter. I did not persevere in these instances. In fact, it was by dumping the wrong books that I was able to read the ones I truly enjoyed and thus achieved my goal.

In other words, I quit often.

We need to quit without guilt.

The kids and I were playing Monopoly yesterday and the game was dragging. We all knew the rules fairly well and fortune was favoring no one. We all had managed to block the others’ attempts at a monopoly and were basically moving our tokens around the board paying rent and collecting it.


What was interesting is that no one wanted to quit for fear that someone would feel bad. We often do this – as homeschooling parents, as people in general. We have misplaced guilt. We are too polite to quit.

Please note that I am not talking about issues of morality here.

Of course there will be times when we need to persevere and stick through it come what may, but when it comes to the mundane, practical tasks, we need to be able to see them as such as quit without guilt.

Yesterday, I saw how my desire not to hurt my children’s feelings had been internalized by them. Never again, I assure you.

Quitting faster, more often and without guilt helps us to focus on what is important by getting rid of the trivial. It is something I intend to be incorporate into our homeschool.
What do you think? Do you think we need to teach our children to quit or persevere? How do you teach this important skill?

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Author: Purva Brown

Writer / blogger at http://TheClassicalUnschooler.com - unapologetically blending two seeming opposites.

3 thoughts on “Teaching Children to Quit”

  1. I know what you’re saying, but with some books, even though they wanted to quit, we kept on. And we were not sorry. They are some of our favorites.

  2. Ok, I have to admit, when I first saw the title of your post, I was reeeeaaally skeptical. All the way up until you said, “We need to be able to tell the difference between what is working, what is not and be able to quit faster.” Then it clicked! I used to do this ALL THE TIME when I taught public school. I still do it in rehearsals for our church choir, and when I teach adult Sunday school. Its good to plan lessons and rehearsals. But knowing when to change tactics, approaches, or even focuses is an important skill that takes practice. It takes looking at the purpose of the activity/goal and seeing if its really worth it to keep going. If its not working out for everyone, it might be time for a change.

    I also ran across this quote today that your post reminded me of. Robert D. Hales says, “I promise you: the calling to be a parent includes the gift to teach in ways that are right for you and for your children.” It gives me hope that God will guide me to what and how my kids need to learn, if I am willing to listen, and willing to change. That doesn’t mean preparation goes by the wayside. But, sometimes it means quitting without guilt the things that aren’t working out.

    Thank you for your post!

  3. Loved your post..nowadays with many motivational videos blogs quotes telling you to “never give up”,”keep going” n so on, this post brings about a realistic,different n practical approach which frees you off from the guilt n pressure of not giving up..I feel guilt is an emotion that crippled your ability to think n rationalise which worse..keep coming up with more such posts rather insights 👍🏻👍🏻

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