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The Art Of Quitting Part 3
Emotional Development
11 April 2024

The Art Of Quitting – Part 3 : Balance and Being Grown Ups

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In our final exploration of the Art of Quitting, we look at what are the challenges we face as adults to balance our approach. We’ll also explore some of the long term consequences of getting it right, and getting it wrong and why the Art Of Quitting is so important to make family life healthier and happier.


In “The Art Of Quitting – Part 3: Balance and Being Grown Ups,” explore the importance of balance, autonomy, and facing challenges together. It delves into practical strategies for adults to avoid common pitfalls, fostering resilience and healthy decision-making in themselves and the children they guide.

  • Identifies quitting behaviour’s complexity, stressing balance between healthy and unhealthy quitting.
  • Highlights the necessity of daily, conscious balancing efforts in parenting.
  • Discusses autonomy vs. executive parenting, urging thoughtful decision-making.
  • Lists common adult mistakes in addressing quitting, offering corrective strategies.
  • Emphasises turning quitting moments into learning opportunities for growth and resilience.

The Art Of Quitting - Part 3 : Balance and Being Grown Ups

The real challenge with quitting behaviour and navigating it, is that the same outcomes and the same behaviours can be healthy or unhealthy.

This can make it so easy for us to find ourselves on the wrong side of decisions, or guiding young people through their own.

This is why balance, and self reflection is key to this whole process. Nobody gives you a handbook on how to raise kids, and that’s because there’s no one way to do it. As we tell the kids you have to find “your way”, and in fact that’s the point. Becoming a great parent, guardian or educator is about being in those moments, challenging ourselves. That’s what makes it worthwhile.

In our first two articles we explored how quitting is a skill, and what the difference is between healthy and unhealthy quitting. In our final article we’re going to look at what obstacles we need to overcome as the grown ups in these moments, what excuses we might make for ourselves or our young people that can lead to unhealthy quitting.

Don’t Find Balance, Be Good At Balancing

There isn’t a threshold you cross where you become balanced. It’s something that takes daily, conscious and deliberate attention and focus.

  • Balancing requires considering various factors when young people express unhappiness or challenges.
  • Practice and shared experiences enhance communication and decision-making between adults and young people.
  • Balancing autonomy and executive decisions is crucial for fostering growth without overstepping boundaries.

Every moment that we’re in with young people we’ll need to balance out all the variables. When they’re telling you that they’re unhappy about something that happened at school, you’ve got to take into account a whole variety of things! Is this a pattern? What’s the other side of the story? Is something else going on that might be making them more fragile at this time?

That doesn’t mean we can’t get good at it though, practice makes possible! The more you face challenging moments together with your young person, like them wanting to quit something or give up, the better you’ll both get at communicating to one another and navigating those moments.

One of the key things to balance is autonomy vs executive parenting. There are times when you just have to make decisions for your young people which are best for them, to ask them to trust in you even if they don’t like a decision. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, because young minds aren’t fully formed, young people haven’t had enough experiences to know what’s best for them. That being said, they won’t grow, or have those experiences if we make all of the decisions for them. Neither answer is right though. You can’t let kids make all their own decisions, and you can’t make all the decisions for them.

For example, if your young person has said that they don’t enjoy something but not yet asked to quit, you wouldn’t want to tell them you’ll unenrol them, and you also wouldn’t want to tell them that they need to stick it out. In both cases you’ve removed their autonomy. Engage with those thoughts and feelings, explore them and give them tools to navigate the situation. If they didn’t apply those tools, then you could make an executive decision and tell them they need to remain enrolled until they’ve put in the effort to overcome the challenge.

Another obstacle is that there are genuine constraints on your time to navigate every challenge with young people. Helping them navigate challenges is tough, and takes emotional labour. Sometimes it’s just about getting through the day as a family and families and educators shouldn’t be expected to handle every situation perfectly, we’re learning how to guide just as young people are learning how to be.

Being Grown Ups

To get good at balancing though and navigate these obstacles of time and autonomy, we have to face that we as the grown ups will have our own hang ups.

  • Adults face tough times too, especially when guiding young people through challenges.
  • Four common mistakes include superficial narratives, harm reduction, perfection seeking, and bargaining.
  • Replacing these mistakes with validated guidance promotes healthy quitting and growth.

Kids aren’t the only ones who will use avoidance in the face of tough times! And there’s no tougher time than watching a young person we care about be unhappy. But that’s the responsibility we sign up for, to be able to endure those moments with our young people, not just to make everyone comfortable.

At Risky Kids we’ve identified 4 behaviours adults respond with during quitting behaviour, and we learned them because we do them! They’re natural reactions to seeing a young person struggle, but we need to master them.

  • Superficial Narratives – When a young person tells us they’re bored, or something’s easy, we want to believe them right away and act, to solve the problem! But this is just the surface we’re scratching, their behaviours. We need to know their thoughts, their feelings and WHY this has happened. We should use the Validate and Guidance tools from Part 2 to dig deeper. “I’m sorry to hear that, can you tell me what’s changed to make you feel that way?”
  • Harm Reduction – We can often get caught up in stopping young people being harmed, that we might find it hard to tell the difference between harm, and discomfort. Being unhappy, or uncomfortable often accompanies being challenged and growing. We need to face failure and our weaknesses which is hard. This isn’t the same as being harmed. Real harm is building an aversion to adversity, lifelong anxiety disorders or poor resilience. If you catch yourself saying “I don’t want to force them to do anything they don’t want to” instead ask yourself the question “What’s best for them?”
  • Perfection Seeking – So many families also feel like it’s their job to get everything right, and that there’s a “perfect” program or hobby for their kid. While there might be options which resonate more with who they are, remember they’re still learning who they are! Because of the challenge of learning itself (see the articles on the Stages of Becoming), no matter what you choose, there MUST be adversity. If you find yourself responding to your kids quitting behaviour with “this must not be their thing” then you might be falling into this trap. Instead, explore their reasoning and find the cause of their discomfort and if it needs to be overcome.
  • Bargaining – It’s healthy to create agreements with kids! We do it all the time at Risky Kids as part of the program. However bargaining is when we make sacrifices on value to try and get what we want. The difference is also that when we bargain, we’re often validating avoidance behaviour in advance (see Part 2 on Validation). When you say “Just try it and if you don’t like it you can quit” or “Just do a few more sessions and then you can quit” you’ve made a promise, focused on quitting being the objective. Instead, try language like “Challenging ourselves is important, let’s do this together and I’ll help you if there’s any problems” or  “If you’re having trouble let’s talk to your coaches/teacher/friend about things. I can help you with what you can ask if you’d like?”

These are just a few examples, but they’re ways that all adults will respond to a young person who’s struggling. The way to tell when they’re unhealthy is if it just makes things easier, but with no growth achieved. If the young person we’re responsible for hasn’t learned from the challenge and engaged in Healthy Quitting, then it’s likely that we’ve used one of these four to avoid our own discomfort.

Once you see yourself making these mistakes though, remember instead to replace them with the Validate and Guidance tools from Part 2.

The Art Of Quitting Part 3 (1)

The Fork In The Road

As I’ve said all throughout this series, quitting is actually a precious moment.

  • Pivotal moments of struggle are key for youths to learn deep, personal lessons.
  • Avoiding the healthy quitting process leads to only temporary comfort and future challenges.
  • Failing to address these moments diminishes resilience and complicates future adversities.

The times young people run out of tools and need our help, some of the most pivotal times for them to learn deep lessons about themselves and their worlds. Making the most of these moments is about not just having the tools, but understanding their value.

If we don’t engage with quitting behaviour, and turn them into learning moments, then there’s only going to be short term comfort. Letting a kid quit without helping them might make them happy in the immediate future, you might see relief on their faces and visibly see the anxiety diminish. You’ll feel like you’ve made the right decision. But unless you’ve gone through the Healthy Quitting process, then processes have begun which in the long run will make parenting harder, and that young person’s future experiences harder.

Without facing these moments, young people’s resilience will diminish. They’ll confuse discomfort with negativity and be unable to distinguish between necessary discomfort and unnecessary. They’ll never learn the joy and triumph of overcoming the desire to quit and coming out the other side stronger. This will mean they quit more often, and quicker. Parenting will get harder as you have to fight every battle for them, and move them between programs and hobbies more often.

If they don’t learn how to end things well for themselves, to take responsibility and challenge themselves, then future relationships, jobs, hobbies and pursuits are going to suffer. Any experience which involves discomfort has the chance of driving them away, with no tools to navigate it. Not just that, they’ll leave without a trace.

A story of a boy with no boundaries

Avoiding Discomfort Creates Harm

I knew a young boy who was raised with very few consequences. His parents let him quit anything he didn’t enjoy, and he spent a lot of his time gaming or online. If he didn’t want to clean up after himself he didn’t have to and he would promise to do chores around the house, but when he didn’t the parents didn’t hold him accountable. His parents would often make excuses for him to teachers, or unenrol him from his hobbies and sports when he stopped going.

This continued into his young adulthood. He tried a variety of jobs but would quit within a few days or weeks, often just not returning and ignoring calls from them. He spent most of his young adulthood on welfare. At one point he enrolled in University, even moving out of his parents house and into a rental. Within a single term his learned patterns kicked in. He dropped out and moved back home, both without notice to either the University or the landlord. His parents had to drive hundreds of kilometres to clean up his rental and pay his final bills! They had built patterns of behaviour as well. To this day, he lives in his parents basement, not cleaning up or paying bills.

This isn’t a case that this was who this young person simply was, but it was a result of him never having experiences which empowered him, or his parents holding him accountable to his choices. They of course had their reasons, and their own obstacles, but they often said they felt that if they put restrictions on him, that they were worried it would hurt him.  If they had challenged him, and held him accountable and inspired in him responsibility, it’s likely that his story would have been very different.

The High Road

Yet, if we choose the route that seems harder to begin with, investing in the emotional labour of challenging quitting behaviour and steering it toward healthy quitting, the outcomes are worth it.

Not only do we get to share deep and meaningful moments with young people, they’ll surprise us, they’ll grow before your eyes and triumph.

They’ll also develop real and lasting resilience. This means future adversity they’ll be able to face alone, or with less assistance and guidance from you. They’ll become more responsible and capable of fighting their own battles. They will learn not just the Art of Quitting, but also the art of not-quitting!


That brings us to the end of our Art Of Quitting Series! We’ve explored that the skill of quitting is one which can be learned, and also turned into an art! We’ve examined the differences between healthy and unhealthy quitting and finally we’ve delved into what are some of the obstacles we can put in the way as the grown ups.

We have a responsibility to help young people face challenges, to navigate them and to become stronger. When a young person wants to quit something, this is one of the biggest moments for them, the ones where they’ve run out of tools to do it themselves and when they need us the most.

Richard Williams

Richard Williams

Risky Kids Founder, Director of Programming

Richard Williams is a fitness industry consultant, gym owner, business coach and professional stunt actor with more than a decade of experience in the health and fitness industry. With an education in psychology and criminology, Richard blended life experience as a fitness industry consultant with Spartan Race, gym owner, elite-obstacle racer, ultra-runner and professional stunt actor to create the Risky Kids program.

Richard has a passion for enacting meaningful social change through all avenues of health and wellbeing and believes that obstacles are the way. Some of Richard’s key achievements include:

  • Key consultant/coordinator Spartan Race/Tough Mudder/Extreme Endurance
  • OCR World Championship Finalist –  Team & Solo (2015)
  • OCR World Championship Silver Medallist – Team Endurance (2018)
  • Professional film and television stunt performer for 15 years

Considered one of Australia’s foremost experts in the fields of fitness, wellbeing and behavioural science, Richard is frequently in demand as a guest speaker for relevant government and non-
government bodies and organisations. Speaking engagements centred on the success of the Risky Kids program, philosophy and approach have included:

  • Expert speaker/panellist Sports & Camp; Recreation Victoria and Outdoors Victoria forums
  • Closing expert speaker at the Australian Camps Association National Conference
  • Expert speaker at the National Fitness Expo, FILEX