When your kid refuses to participate– do you beg, bribe, threaten or back off?

OMG, I am so excited for Holden. He is totally going to be the best soccer player ever. My hubby and I both played and we are just super excited that he’s such an athletic kid. He’s amazing. See?

Yup, this is him in action. Impressive, eh? We tried coaxing, threatening, bribing, begging, and ignoring, but nothing worked. He refused to play.

People kept asking me, “Awwww, what’s wrong with Holden?” And I’d nicely answer, “He’s just not feeling it today,” when really I wanted to say, “Nothing is wrong with him. He’s a just being a douchenugget.”

I was embarrassed, frustrated, annoyed and lots of other crappy emotions. By halftime we’d given up completely, but after the game my hubby and I immediately turned our frowns upside down and pounced on him with encouragement.  

“Holden, I can’t wait to see you play soccer next weekend.”

“I’ll bet you can even score a goal!”

“What kind of gatorade should I buy you for the game? I’ll get you the biggest bottle they sell!”

And then we realized we were pressuring him too much so we agreed to stop talking about it. Until the morning of the game when he woke up and we put on humungous over-the-top smiles and said things like, “Yayyyy, it’s soccer day!!” “Are you SO excited to play today?!” “You’re gonna do awesome, buddy!!”

And I even offered to cook him a big breakfast for energy.

ME: How about some eggs, buddy? 

HOLDEN: Can I cook it?

ME: Like make the eggs? Sure, you can help me.

HOLDEN: No, can I make ALL of them? Like you don’t help me at all?

ME: Ummm, you can try.

I didn’t think he could do it ALL by himself, but guess what? I stand corrected.


And then on Monday morning he made my hubby eggs for breakfast all by himself. Like the only thing anyone did was get the eggs off the top shelf for him and the rest he did alone. 

He was so proud, and his plates looked amazing.

So I know what you’re probably thinking right now. WTF? I thought this was a post about him refusing to play soccer. When did it turn into a post about cooking? Did he play in the next soccer game or what?! 

He did. He never sat down in the chair once and he went out onto the field and did a good job and he even scored a goal. And then at dinner that night we made a toast to him.

EVERYONE: To the chef!!

Because after we got home from the game, we didn’t speak about soccer again that day. Instead I took him to the grocery store and we bought all sorts of awesome ingredients to cook a big dinner together. And I let him do almost everything by himself. See?

Because I realized something. My hubby and I would both love for him to have a passion for soccer, but it doesn’t matter what we want. It’s not OUR passion. It’s HIS passion. And right now he’s telling me that his passion is cooking (at least at the moment it is because we all know as soon as I buy him Ginzu knives he’s gonna say he doesn’t want to do it anymore). And no pun intended, but I’m gonna feed that passion as long as he wants to keep doing it.

Because even though I want him to play soccer and be awesome at it, there’s something I want even more than that. For him to be happy. That’s my passion, and I’m gonna do everything I can to make that happen. 


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There are 8 comments for this article
  1. Megan at 10:21 am

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I just experienced this with my son at his hockey practice. 60 kids on the ice and only one who refused to go in the ice, MINE! I felt all the same things, embarrassment, frustrated, but mostly sad. Sad because after bringing him to the change room, he said he felt like he wasn’t going enough 🙁 . Maybe hockey won’t end up being his thing and I realized that’s okay! A tough realization here in Canada where almost all kids play hockey at some point or another haha. Like you, I just want him to be happy and find something he loves to do that doesn’t take, bribes, threats etc. So in conclusion , it’s nice to see other parents dealing with the same thing!!

    • Baby Sideburns at 10:50 am

      Oh Megan, that must be super hard in Canada! Holden refused to play hockey too, and it kills my husband. Hockey was/is his thing big time. And then he’ll take Holden to the rink to ice skate and he’ll skate great, but never wants to do a class. I guess the good news is your son will pick something else and be awesome at it and have an easier time standing out because all the other kids will be playing hockey.

    • Lana at 2:28 pm

      Megan, I feel you. Fellow Canadian Mom here with two boys. My boys have NO desire to play hockey other than in the backyard with their own rules and people act like I am the WORST mom because I don’t sign them up and make them play. (They are much more for golf, lacrosse and baseball and I am ok with that!) Your son will find his thing in his own time!

  2. Jennifer at 11:12 am

    It can be hard to let our kids discover their own passions, but there is definitely joy in doing so. My daughter wanted to do ballet so much, so we bought all the attire, signed her up for classes, and she went-for 2 months. Then she wanted to try horseback riding. I bought nothing. She borrowed a helmet and wore tennis shoes and jeans the first year. Five years later and she still loves it and rides about every day. And I’ve realized I am much better suited as a horse mom than as a ballet mom.

  3. Judy at 1:13 pm

    When my now 38 yr old son was younger, he played baseball. He loved it and excelled. But not before this little incident. He must have been 8 or 9 and all during pre-season practice, he was behind the plate as catcher. Never wanted to practice at any other position. When the first game came around, he decided he didn’t want to play. Not just catcher, he didn’t want to play, at all. I was the meanest Mom that day. I marched him out of that dugout and told him in no uncertain terms that he most certainly would play in this game and he would be the catcher. I pointed out that the coach had practiced only him behind the plate because that is what he (my son) had wanted, there was no one else prepared to catch on that day and that his team was counting on him. I also told him that after that day, he never had to play baseball again, ever. But on THAT day, he was the catcher.

    I am sure some will say this was the exact wrong thing to do. I wanted to teach him about team work and being accountable. I still don’t know if it was the right thing to do. I will tell you he played baseball for many, many yrs, and was almost always the catcher. And I couldn’t be more proud of the man he is today.

  4. Jamie at 4:56 pm

    I can completely relate 100%! My youngest had finally picked an activity, soccer. He was going, playing and having a generally good time until one day when he decided he didn’t want to play. I think he was tired and just wanted to go home. After pushing for a while, begging, pleading, yelling, etc. I backed off and told him that he didn’t have to play, but that he was part of a team and had made a commitment to those guys, so he had to stay at the game, cheer them on, and be a good teammate, even if he wasn’t going to be on the field. That’s just what he did, after a bit of pouting because we didn’t just go home. The next week he was feeling it and was back out there. Soccer is not his thing. We’re still searching for what is, but I hope he at least learned something about commitment that day. That, or I’ve just connected the dots on why team sports don’t seem to be his thing! 😂

  5. Dani at 1:31 am

    My oldest plays soccer. My middle child tried, and hated it. He’s really good at it, but he hates it. Just like Holden he took up cooking and makes me breakfast almost every morning. Eventually he came to me and said, I want to play lacrosse. We tried it, and he loved it. He’s been playing ever since. Holden will find his passion whether it stays cooking or moves on to something else. Now, if only you could help me with my oldest, who plays soccer because I did and won’t give it up. It’s not his passion and I wish I could help him find something. Or the girl, whose passion is watching people play with toys on YouTube!

  6. C Whitehouse at 6:36 am

    The gauge for us was how my son did after we pushed him through the start (he’s 16 now). EVERY single thing started with fights, tears and tantrums. We would push him through then we couldn’t get him to leave when the activity was over! One time I didn’t have the fight inside me. I said FINE, let’s just go home and watch TV today. He broke down in tears and told me “but you’re supposed to encourage me” can you imagine? He was depending on the push! BTW he is a competitive hockey player now.

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