Motivate a Child to Enroll in Extracurricular Activities

Read about the different ways you can motivate your kids to enroll in extracurricular activities.

The virtues of participating in extracurricular activities are widely known, they teach responsibility, teamwork, confidence, and leadership skills to name a few benefits. The act of learning to balance school obligations, family needs, and an extracurricular activity can teach your child time management and emotional regulation throughout their life. Even just making friends in extracurricular activities can help your child to thrive as an adult whether they keep in touch with those friends or not as they age. Obviously, being involved in activities outside of academics is an important part of life for many and you want your child to have that experience, but knowing where to start and get your child motivated to participate can feel like a chore. With a few simple ideas to keep in mind though you’ll be well on your way to getting your child ready and willing to branch out into a new world of opportunity.

Find their passion, even if you have to try a few times

Helping your child find something that they enjoy and become good at can be a long process but it is worthwhile all the same. Making sure that they are trying a wide variety of experiences and giving them enough time to really figure out if they like something or not is the important part. Your child may start baseball only to find out that they really don’t like the sport at all, and while you may not want to set a precedent of letting them quit a season early, you’ll have to find balance between giving things a good try and continuing something that just isn’t their favorite for reasons that won’t matter in the end.

Make sure that you aren’t overextending your child

If Tuesday nights are busy with homework try to find an activity that takes place on the weekend. Avoid overscheduling your child. While it may be tempting to have your child in a sport, and learning an instrument, and participating in scouts, keep in mind that your child will need time to practice and reflect, just because they only have piano for an hour on Thursdays doesn’t mean they won’t need a few hours to practice during the week. Sit down with them and go over their obligations and really try to listen to their needs, and then help them find an activity that works with your lifestyle. Compromises that can be made can include swapping off activities in offseasons, for example, trumpet lessons during the summer with practices year round, and then a winter sport, or vice versa. Be creative, find a routine that works for you and your child, and won’t be adding an undue amount of stress to the family.

Be supportive but don’t smother

Having a parent being your biggest fan can be a great asset for a child who is a bit shy about participating, or it could be a nightmare. Talk to your child about their comfort level with your involvement level. Would they want you to be team mom or would they rather you drop them off at practice and only go to games? If your child is older let them do most of the navigating of their activity but be ready to step in if they need help or advice. Avoid at all costs making the participation in the sport, learning the instrument or other activity a sticking point in your relationship. If participating is causing more drama than expected it’s time to sit down and figure out where the problem is.

Think outside of the box

You may have a mental picture of your daughter being a ballerina or your son is a quarterback but that may not be what they want. You can make suggestions and even overrule activities that you don’t agree with for religious or cultural reasons, but keep in mind that your child is their own person and may have an inkling to try something you haven’t thought of. Let them take some of the leadership in the choosing of activity and see where they go.

Let them bask

If your child is playing a sport or learning to dance, make sure they have an outlet to show off their hard work. Inviting grandparents or other important adults in their life to recitals or games can help your child be motivated to continue improving. If nothing else inviting people who are important to your child to awards ceremonies or just letting them show what they can do at a family dinner can help them to feel proud of their accomplishments.

Reward effort, not perfection

There is nothing worse than feeling overly criticized, and there’s no group of people who are quite as sensitive about making mistakes as tweens and teens. It’s definitely hard to keep your head up and feel empowered when you’re still making mistakes while learning something new. One thing that can help is to focus on the trying part more than the succeeding part. Success will come to most who really dig in and try, but keeping the motivation up when things are hard can be impossible if you feel like all your effort is for nothing. Fun first, remember that your child may never be the very best at everything but they can still have fun, learn new skills, make new friends, and be their best at something as long as they keep trying.

In the end, the process of finding an activity, trying it for long enough to form an opinion, getting good enough at it to feel competent, and merging this new adventure with the rest of your life can be rewarding, amazing, and worthwhile but only if the good eventually outweighs the stress. Keep checking in on how things are going, watch for signs of burnout and have a backup plan for when things don’t go perfectly. You may find that the first thing you’ve chosen isn’t a good fit, don’t give up. Eventually, you’ll find something that works out for everyone, and that’s when the fun gets going!