Mocha Dad and Moms: A Parent’s Dilemma – Pushing Too Hard vs Giving Up Too Soon

When Is It Too Soon to Give Up on Something?

When my elder son, the Boss, started playing hockey in our very Canadian hockey town, my younger son, the Destroyer, wanted to play too.

He was awestruck by his older brother’s abilities and begged for a chance to get out on the ice.

“I’m glad that you’re so eager to play hockey,” I said.  “But you have to learn how to skate first.”

He was a bit disappointed by this minor detail, but if skating lessons were all he needed to start slapping the puck around the ice, then he was ready to sign up.

When we went to fit him for skates and a helmet, the excitement in his face was very clear. He was going to be just like his big brother.

On the first day of lessons, the Destroyer was raring to go.  But his demeanor changed as soon as his skate blades hit the ice. Warm tears streamed down his little face as he stood motionless on the ice.

I tried not to let his crying make me cry. It took an amazing amount of willpower to keep it together. I wanted to run over, wrap my arms around him, and whisk him away to the comfort of his mother’s love. But I resisted. “Give him time,” I said to myself. “Maybe he’ll like it.” Sadly, the crying continued for the entire lesson.

We attended one more lesson, but the water works started as soon as he entered the rink. At that point, I decided to take him out of skating lessons. I was saddened that skating lessons proved to be such an awful experience for him. I was even more disappointed that it would definitely turn him off hockey completely.

But my main concern was the lesson that he may have learned from this experience. I worried that by pulling him out of the lessons, it may have given him the impression that it’s okay to give up – definitely not something I want to teach my kids. I want them to keep trying and practicing even when it’s hard.  But where do you draw the line? When is it too soon to give up on something?  When is it okay to say, “This is not for my kid”?

A while later, I asked the Destroyer if he was still interested in playing sports. He looked at me with a sly grin and said, “I think I’ll stick with the skateboard and the drums.”

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Maria Lianos is a mom of two rambunctious boys and publisher/editor of A Mother World. She also is a celebrity blogger for Babble and a Community Manager for a local non-profit organization for new parents, Life With a Baby.

Learning How Hard to Push

My daughter, Nee, knows exactly what she doesn’t like. My wife and I have signed her up for many activities, but she can hardly enjoy them because she is such a naysayer.

We tried ballet. “Dancing is not my thing,” she said.

We tried soccer. “Soccer is no fun because the girls are too aggressive,” she complained.

I even offered to enroll her in a Manga drawing class, which I know she loves, but she declined by saying, “It will be boring.”

I want to give her many opportunities to try different things so she can discover her true passions. But it gets frustrating because she is afraid of new experiences.

It’s hard for me to relate to her attitude because I’m adventurous. I try new things just for the sake of doing something different. If I like it – great. If not – no big deal.

Not Nee.

She prefers the safety of the familiar. Therefore, I made a pact with her that was designed to push her out of her comfort zone. She must enroll in at least one extra-curricular activity during the school year and one sport during the summer and she is required to participate for the duration of the activity. If she decides that she doesn’t like it, then she doesn’t have to pursue it any further.

As a parent, I must walk a fine line between pushing her to spread her wings and allowing her to find her own path. But I never want to give her the impression that it’s okay to give up or to not try in the first place.

We recently arranged piano lessons for Nee. After some initial reluctance, she agreed to take the lessons. Things started a little rocky, but she finally made a breakthrough when she was able to play a song all the way through.

“Aren’t you glad you didn’t give up when things got tough?” I asked.

She smiled, nodded her head, and continued playing “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.”

Stay Strong,


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Questions: When is it too soon to give up on something? How do you teach the value of perseverence? How do you know when you’ve pushed too hard?

Mocha Dad and Moms is a regular column where I discuss parenting topics with moms. If you’d like to be one of the featured moms, send me a message with your idea to

About author

Frederick J. Goodall

Frederick J. Goodall is the founder of Mocha Dad - a parenting website focused on fatherhood. He is passionate about parenting and helping men to be great dads, husbands, and role models. You can contact him at or on Twitter at