Gym classes and kids taking classes they really don't want to or aren't interested in - Mothering Forums

 
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#1 of 19 Old 01-15-2007, 01:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hey there. My 4yo has been attending this little gym class for about 4-5 months. When she first started she loved it, and was doing great. As time went on, she seemed to get less interested. She also started listening less to the coach, running around a bit, getting more distracted, etc. One day, she really didn't do well, and coach had to have her come and sit out for a bit. She told our Nanny (who was there that day observing), that DD was being dangerous to the other children by not listening.

I'm in a quandry about all this. Of course, DD needs to listen. But I'm also trying to figure out if maybe she's just not interested anymore and has "learned" what she's wanted to learn and is ready to end the class - at least for now. After all, she is only 4, and she could always come back to gym later. We put her in this little class just to see if she would have an interest.

Frankly, I'm not very athletic - never have been, and I would find it frustrating to be forced to take a class that didn't interest me. But you all know how it is - you hear from the "experts" that kids NEED to try new things - they shouldn't quit a class, etc. But then you hear the sad stories about someone being forced to take piano lessons during their childhood and ending up hating the piano and never having one in their homes as an adult.

*sigh*

Frankly, I just want to go with my gut and ignore everyone... But I'll ask you all for your opinions - on the specifics on my DD and gym class, AND the topic in general - children taking classes when they might really not want to, or have the interest.

The other part of this now is the discipline in this class, and I DO want your thoughts on this - the teacher has a 5-part discipline process. The kids start out with two stickers.

~1st misbehave, they lose one sticker.
~2nd misbehave, they lose the other sticker.
~3rd misbehave, they have a time-out.
~4th misbehave, they have to sit with one of the other coaches off the floor.
~5th misbehave, they are completely out of the class.

Now, when Nanny and I were discussing this - we said that we felt the discipline process was too lenient for DD. She will take every one of those chances if she can. We felt that perhaps Coach should take her off the floor sooner. But we can't get the Coach to change her discipline method.

But - here's the other thing - the whole discipline process has started to make going to gym class really stressful and nerve-wracking. It's like we are all thinking, "Oh, no. Can't lose a sticker!" Sticker, sticker, sticker. The focus is so much on that now. It's more about "how many stickers will DD lose today", rather than about "how many new skills will she learn and have fun with"? It's really sad, because the focus is now so negative! And it was very positive when she started this class. And I don't want DD to lose an genuine interest in gymnastics because of all of this.

The idea of stickers being taken away for negative behavior also doesn't provide any reinforcement for positive behavior, KWIM? It's all about how many she could LOSE, not how many she could GAIN.

Anyway, there are several things going on here, and I'm to the point where I'm sufficiently confused : and need some outside perspective!

TIA!
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#2 of 19 Old 01-15-2007, 02:44 PM
 
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Is this the type of class where one session ends then another session begins? If so, you could have your daughter complete the current session then not sign her up for the next time. This is a compromise between following through on your commitment to take a class (not just quitting whenever you feel like it) but not getting stuck in an activity you don't like forever. If it's an ongoing class, it's a bit trickier. Maybe give her the choice whether to continue when the next month's payment is due?
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#3 of 19 Old 01-15-2007, 02:55 PM
 
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If she's not enjoying the class and it's becoming stressful to all of you, then I would take her out. Maybe you could try a different gym where they don't do the sticker thing. That seems a little intense for kids her age anyway, assuming this is a recreational (non-team) class. My dd has been to a few different places and I've never seen negative reinforcement like that for that age before. Actually, even when she was on the gymnastics team last year it was all positive reinforcement.

My dd has taken dance since she was 3 and there are always kids who don't want to be there and they always manage to disrupt the class somehow until they are allowed to quit. It's not fair to the kids who don't want to be there (because they are not having fun) and it's not fair to the kids who want to be there and learn.
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#4 of 19 Old 01-15-2007, 02:56 PM
 
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I definitely think taking a break could be a good thing. We take swim lessons year round, but after taking lessons for almost a solid 3 years (we did take a couple month break once), ds (just 5 at this time) also started not wanting to go and not really doing what he should have been doing during class. He was swimming at a proficient level, so I took him out at the beginning of July. It's only been within the last month that he started asking about lessons again. ( .....as I was writing this, ds said he wants to go swimming! He's going upstairs to put on his swim suit!)

I don't think that kids should be able to quit on a whim because they need to know that doing something well takes work. On the other hand, if they don't like it anymore or aren't getting anything out of it, then what's the point in continuing? I can tell you this, my ds would not be motivated to behave in order to keep a sticker or two. Ask her if she wants to take a break. If she misses it, she'll want to go back and probably be more compliant with the behavior expectations. If she doesn't miss it, then it will be a good thing that you took the break.

Laura - Mom to ds (10) and dd (7) "Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life." Brian Andreas.

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#5 of 19 Old 01-15-2007, 03:02 PM
 
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I would also choose to not go back after this class session is over.

For us, we've introduced ds1 to swimming and basketball at this point. And, we choose not to do them together (3 session of swimming back to back, then 1 session basketball, then back to swimming). ds1 has taken a big interest in swimming, so that's something we encourage at this point. But, if he started getting distracted easily, we'd definitely consider moving him on to another activity (like gymnastics, soccer, tball, etc.)

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#6 of 19 Old 01-15-2007, 03:16 PM
 
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My dd (nearly 4) used to love her gym class, she went for nearly a year. Then she started doing the same things you described. She wouldn't stay in the class. I used to wait outside and damned if I was paying for a class so we both sit outside and watch it. It was getting stressful for me too. I just didn't sign her up for the next class. Try something different, an art class or maybe she just needs some unstructured time - indoor playground or something.
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#7 of 19 Old 01-15-2007, 03:35 PM
 
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At such a young age, I think it's really important that she is simply having positive experiences. If she isn't enjoying the class, or if she does enjoy it but is having "problems" following instructions, then I think she should stop going.

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#8 of 19 Old 01-15-2007, 03:47 PM
 
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I'd hate that sticker "discipline" for my child. Yeeeecccch! (Have you read any Alfie Kohn, btw?). That would really leave a bad taste in my mouth.

My dd2 is in dance class this year. She just turned 3 in Nov and after much initial enthusiasm she developed a lot of trepidation because the instructor (who is not my fave instructor at the center) insisted on following her 4 week lesson plan of pretending to be scary and ferocious animals. My dd was clearly unnerved by this. This is a class exclusively for 3 year olds and -- gosh -- some 3 year olds are scared of ferocious animals! I was NOT impressed by the instructor's unwillingness to bend on that and dd2 just developed a real fear of going so we just dropped it for a month or so. It's pay by the month so it was easy enough to do that. DD2's big sister is in another dance class taught by the same instructor, though, and there's a big recital in May for all the classes and I was afraid that when dd2 saw dd1 being in the recital she would be disappointed if she didn't get to do it, too. When dd2 expressed some desire to go back to class I did encourage her and we've now rejoined the 3 yr old class with no scary animals any more. DD2 still talks about it, though. "Miss Marsha isn't doing scary animals any more." If dd1 wasn't going to be in the recital in May, though, I don't know that I would have encouraged dd2 to go back as strongly.

If it was my child in the class you describe we'd drop it in a heartbeat and see if we could find something that was more to our liking. This is just class for fun and enrichment after all. If you were taking a yoga class or a pottery class or some other class and you and the instructor just didn't mesh would you continue to go?

hth

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#9 of 19 Old 01-15-2007, 05:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh, and here is the written evaluation the coach gave us at the end of last semester:

"DD has quite honestly made very little progress this semester. She has an understanding of how the class works and what to do at each apparatus, but has only mastered 1/3 of her Caterpillar Level skills." (Mamasaurus here - that is their "term" for the level of skills they should know.)

"I believe she would progress at a much faster rate if she were to actually try the skill, instead of trying to be silly. This also puts her in danger. She also needs to work on being a better listener!"

What do you all think of this?
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#10 of 19 Old 01-15-2007, 06:14 PM
 
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Oh, and here is the written evaluation the coach gave us at the end of last semester:

"DD has quite honestly made very little progress this semester. She has an understanding of how the class works and what to do at each apparatus, but has only mastered 1/3 of her Caterpillar Level skills." (Mamasaurus here - that is their "term" for the level of skills they should know.)

"I believe she would progress at a much faster rate if she were to actually try the skill, instead of trying to be silly. This also puts her in danger. She also needs to work on being a better listener!"

What do you all think of this?
Well honestly, for her age, what does this instructor THINK she should be capable of? I think she's expecting too much. My ds is 3.5 and there is NO way that I (or anyone else) could expect him to "master" any skill like that. (We're in basketball right now - 3-5 age group- and those kids have trouble running across the court sometimes let alone worry about dribbling or who has the ball. )

Steph, wife to C, mama to O :, E , and I :.
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#11 of 19 Old 01-15-2007, 06:28 PM
 
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I absolutely agree with PPs who are icked out with the whole weird sticker/reward as motivator. The kids should be either internally motivated or the class should be fun enough without having to rely on a crutch. From the note you posted, it sounds like this teacher is far more obsessed with achievement, "progress" and reaching goals than encouraging the enjoyable, relaxed, and fun aspects. Does this school do a lot of competitive gymnastics as the children reach elementary age? I would encourage your daughter to quit - it sounds like she doesn't enjoy being there, and the teacher isn't a good match for her.

I do think kids should be allowed to drop a class. So often, kids aren't developmentally able to make the commitment to a class like this, and often it's the parents' idea - not theirs - to sign up in the first place. And even if a kid does insist that she wants to take the class, she's way too young to actually make that sort of commitment. And hey, I've signed up for classes before that were dreadful, and I didn't feel bad about dropping or switching out. Life is too short to be miserable.


I like what David Elkind has to say on the topic:
http://life.familyeducation.com/extr...ior/36536.html
Quote:
Children ages nine and under don't have a clear sense yet of what kinds of activities they will like. Elkind believes "it's fine for them to give it up" if they don't appear to be enjoying an activity. Quitting probably represents no more than a feeling of "this isn't fun for me."

Elkind says parents should be relieved to know there is no evidence of "transfer of training." In other words, just because a child quits hockey doesn't mean he'll grow up to quit every job he has. Conversely, "Children in a Montessori preschool may learn to put their toys away after playing in a classroom, but we know from research that it doesn't transfer over to their house!"

Struggling with children about after-school activities tends to accelerate. In the end, it is impossible to force children to participate in a class or sport. Trying to force them may only develop anxiety that could make them even more reluctant to try other new experiences.

Involve children in decision-making about trying new activities, rather than deciding for yourself what you think they'll like. At the same time, Elkind advises parents to bear in mind that kids tend to overestimate how much they'll actually enjoy an activity.

With older children, talk in advance about what would be a reasonable trial period for a new activity. "That gives children a sense that they are sharing control," Elkind says.

Consider whether your child's reluctance to continue with an activity is the result of fatigue or need for more down time. Many kids are overscheduled, and may simply need more time to relax.
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#12 of 19 Old 01-15-2007, 07:38 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So, if my DD stops taking the class, what do you think I should say to the coach about why I'm taking DD out?

And is there anyone who thinks I should keep her in? Please speak up with your reasons why. I'm trying to keep an open mind here.
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#13 of 19 Old 01-15-2007, 08:06 PM
 
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So, if my DD stops taking the class, what do you think I should say to the coach about why I'm taking DD out?
I'd say it wasn't a good match at this time. Just like a job that doesn't work - sometimes, it's just not a good match, nobody's fault. Don't let her make it your kid's fault.

David Elkind is an expert too, BTW. So he would fully support you!
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#14 of 19 Old 01-15-2007, 08:07 PM
 
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So, if my DD stops taking the class, what do you think I should say to the coach about why I'm taking DD out?
I'd be as brief as possible. I'd saying something along the lines of "It's time for a change" with a big smile. Leave the door open in case you want to come back at a later time, but I agree with some PP's - this sounds like they're expecting a lot in a militant kind of learning style. Find a tumbling program (if and when dd is ready) that emphasizes fun.

Laura - Mom to ds (10) and dd (7) "Time stands still best in moments that look suspiciously like ordinary life." Brian Andreas.

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#15 of 19 Old 01-15-2007, 08:22 PM
 
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I agree with taking her out and you don't really owe the coach much explanation - maybe just "We've decided to take this semester off."

I had my DD in two music classes and I knew both instructors personally in the classes. I just told them we had a lovely time, but wouldn't be signing up for the next session. They were very nice about it. I wanted them to know if would be our last class together. They are both very nice whenever I see them, so it wasn't anything awkward.

It sounds to me like she's just "done" with the little gym. Try something else with her - dance, creative movement, art, acting, cooking, circus skills, organized sports, swimming, Irish Dance, belly dance, yoga- whatever strikes your boat. You could also arrange to observe some different classes or get some libary books and find out what she would like to do.

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#16 of 19 Old 01-15-2007, 09:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes, I do want to be brief and nice - because I truly like the gym and the coaches and you never know - DD could get interested again. The honest truth is I think she's absorbed all she wants to right now, and it's time for something new.
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#17 of 19 Old 01-15-2007, 09:34 PM
 
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The honest truth is I think she's absorbed all she wants to right now, and it's time for something new.
Tell them this - it's short, honest and doesn't burn any bridges. If she wants to go back when she's older, she can. If not, oh well.

Ds loved "munchkin soccer" as long as Dad was allowed to play along with him. Then he turned 4 and was supposed to play by himself. He wouldn't/couldn't, and we stopped soccrer class. He's 5 1/2 now and is again saying he'd like to play.

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#18 of 19 Old 01-15-2007, 10:41 PM
 
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What is this gym?? I have a 7 yo in gymnastics, she has taken classes at two different USAG gyms, and one recreational gym owned by a fully qualified teacher. In none of these gyms has there ever been any sort of sticker reward/ punishment system, or written progress reports, or anything like that. That's just weird. The focus for the little kids has always been to have fun. Yes they are concerned with safety, mostly one kid per trampoline type rules. You said the Nanny takes her, have you gone to observe the class yourself?

I think the problem is with this gym, not your dd. Where are you? Are there any other choices?

As far as what to tell them when you take her out, tell her that you think their expectations for a 3yo's behavior are out of line, and that their sticker system is just plain weird.
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#19 of 19 Old 01-15-2007, 10:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ok, my Nanny and I and my Mom and DH have talked this through to death.

I went to DD at a quiet moment a bit ago and asked her flat out if she liked attending the gym class and if she wanted to continue. And she said yes. She said she likes it. I told her she didn't have to keep going if she didn't want to, but she said she wants to.

Soooo...

We are going to try again tomorrow. I haven't had a chance to talk to the coach since she wrote that note to me. She handed it to my Nanny, and so I want to talk to her myself. I am going to go with her to the class and see how it goes.

I'll let you know how it goes!
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