Thursday, April 1, 2010

How-to: Counsel a Kid out of Figure Skating

We've all seen this kid: she drags herself into the rink, slooooowly puts on her figure skates, gets on the ice like she's going to prison, and skates around aimlessly. She exits the rink to retie her skates, to adjust her ponytail, to get a drink of water, to hide and read a book. When she does skate, she practices moves, jumps, and spins that she learned three years ago in Basic 8.

Mom, I'm going to tell it to you straight: you need to counsel your kid out of figure skating. The other parents aren't saying anything when your skater whines in the lobby and complains in the parking lot. They're too polite and they've known you for years. They're your friends and they think you'll be offended if they have the awkward conversation with you.

I'm going to do it: save your money and find your figure skater something to do outside of the rink.

Mom, I'm not trying to be mean. Really. I like you. I even like your whiny kid, when she's away from the rink and having fun. It's just painful to watch the scene your skater makes every week and it's painful, too, to know how you're scraping together the money to put her on the ice.

Here's how you do it, Mom:
  1. Cold turkey. Just take a break. Maybe a month. Maybe the summer. When the time for the next ice contract comes around, ask your figure skater if she misses it. She probably won't.
  2. Maintain friendships. Arrange for times to spend with her (former) figure skating friends. Keep those friendship ties, but do it away from the rink.
  3. Bandwagon. Ask your skater what her school friends enjoy. I don't care if it's knitting, find a way for your kid to join in.
  4. Replace. At the very same time that your skater would be on the ice, find something wonderful, marvelous, adventurous for her to try. Normally I would never recommend horse back riding (the only thing more expensive than figure skating), but if it gets your kid off the ice, it's worth the money. 
  5. Bait-n-switch. Does your skater love the musicality of figure skating? Try dance. Does she like the performance aspect? Try theater. Does she like the movement? Get her roller blades and crown her queen of the roller rink.
  6. The long goodbye. Reduce her ice time so gradually that she doesn't even notice it happening. Pretty soon she'll be weaned off of the ice.
  7. Reward behaviors you want to see. When she's trying the new activity, gush appropriately. Watch her and be amazed. Encourage her to talk about her new activity and how very, very cool it is.
Mom, don't listen to your kid when she says in that whiny voice that she loves figure skating and doesn't want to quit. Instead, listen to her behavior. Her attitude, her actions, and her level of activity should all be good indicators that this sport isn't for her. Be strong, Mom. You can do it.

Tell her that just because she doesn't like figure skating as much as she had thought, she isn't a failure and she isn't a bad person. She just needs to find that passion, that spark, that special interest that will take her from whiny to wonderful.

Give your kid permission to quit. Please. I promise I'll call you. We'll have coffee. We'll take the kids to the movies. We'll catch up and laugh. You'll show me photos of your kid on her horse, on stage, or at the gymnasium. The kid will beam with pride. We'll both gush appropriately.

I can't wait.

Alright, parents. Do you have any ideas for this mom? How would you recommend that she counsel her kid off the ice?

Do you have a question for Ice Mom? Ice Coach? Ice Girl? Synchro Mom? Are you an expert and you want to contribute to the Wednesday Ask the Expert Feature? Do you have a suggestion for a post you'd like to see? Wonderful. E-mail me at


sk8rmom.p said...

As tough as it is to see this happening, I have learned to butt out. We can never really know what the full situation is, and if we did, then we would have more of a "right" to lend advice if the parents or child asks.

I remember a situation where a group of parents tried to intervene with a younger child and a parent through coaches and the child's coach. You'd think the child was being tortured every time they stepped on to the ice. The coach and the club ended up losing the family to another rink and the child is still skating...and doing well I might add. Just needed some time to mature and adjust.

I would listen to and commiserate with the child and the parent whenever I could, be supportive and encourage other interests in a subtle way (ie when brought up). Sometimes even when people seem like they are ready to hear it, they don't want to hear the truth. You risk hurting feelings and losing any influence with them. Listen more than talk. Hopefully things will work out, and you will be there to enjoy them.

Also I might add that there are many different cultural "styles" (probably not the case here) but even families who have been in the states (or other country) for generations might have different types of ways of raising and relating to their children, and it's difficult to remember to be sensitive to them.

What a great and thought provoking situation. Unfortunately, common too.

jumpingbeanmom said...

OMG!!! You read my mind. My 10 yo is THAT kid. I told her coach last night if jumpingbean wasn't so into in, 10 yo would have been SO done SO long ago.

I am tired of bleeding time and money (and being in conflict with her) every week and honestly, I think it sucks some of the fun out of it for jumpingbean.

Here is the issue, 10 yo LOVES the synchro team and the social experience of the team, BUT...big but...the team level is getting higher, and so she HAS to practice more- not as much as jumpingbean, but more than she does.

You see, jumpingbean does both synchro and freestyle and it willing to put in the time and effort it takes to do it successfully.

So I keep trying different things to get her to see the light, and like the post she SAYS she wants it, but she doesn't show it.

WWYD?? Do I take her lesson/practice time down, let her keep on the synchro team and let natural consequences (ie she is the lowest test level, maybe she doesn't 'make' the team next time) happen, or do I pull it off like a bandaid?

WHY does she insist she wants to compete freestyle like jumpingbean (and 10yo isn't that good at it, partly natural talent, partly personality and partly effort based)- I feel like I am flushing hundreds of dollars into the toilet monthly. She even cries when coach corrects her- I am just tired of the struggle really tired, but 10 yo has middle child syndrome and thinks all things her are not fair.

BTW, my oldest is a competitive equestrian, and I don't need a whiny skater- WAY TOO EXPENSIVE

Anonymous said...

Hi Icemom, I really like the posts!

@jumpingbeanmom, im speaking as a skater who was in sort of the same position as jumpingbean. Me and my sister use to skate together too. I had more effort, a tad bit more talent, and was more ambitious towards skating. Later on we both stopped because our schedules got so busy. A year later, I couldn't stay away so I started again taking private lessons, (which I aranged myself) My sister never put in the effort to do that although she did SAY she wanted to skate she never actually did anything. I think your 10 year old just doesn't want to feel left out. Besides skating has a lot of glamour to it, which is why I think my sister likes it in the first place. It requires a lot of practice and effor that maybe 10 year old doesn't have to drive to do. It might be hard for her to give up not being part of the skating group so just gradually take her out of freestyle and keep her on syncro. Hope that helped!

Anonymous said...

Can we please put this post on the rink bulletin board?? I see this far too often, and as sk8rmom says, we never know the whole story, so we have to leave it up to the parents to take care of it. Though half the time I just end up feeling frustrated for the poor kids who (seem to be) forced to skate. Maybe telling your child you will pay for x amount (less than what you are currently paying). Like 1 lesson a week, 3 practice times. Depends on the skater and their current commitment, and if he or she wants more then he or she must work for it. Make it hard too, like clean out the messy hall closet for an extra freestyle session. Then you could see...does your skater REALLY want this or is it just conveinant..

jumpingbeanmom said...

Thanks Anonymous- she will still need to do a certain amount of practice for synchro, but yes, that is what I am leaning toward. She is probably going to need to still take 1-2 lessons a week, but maybe I can find a way to get her into something of a group for MIF, I don't know. It does help, and there is alot for me and her to consider right now.

jumpingbeanmom said...


"Maybe telling your child you will pay for x amount (less than what you are currently paying). Like 1 lesson a week, 3 practice times."

That may be a reasonable approach. I can talk to her coach about what I need done in that lesson (like perhaps MIF and Spins and flexibility moves- the things she needs for synchro)- he expects a 3:1 ratio on practice/lessons, and she isn't even close right now and even then it is a struggle.

Ice Mom said...

Hey, p.

Yeah. Intervening in this kind of situation is tough. I confess: I've only done it once, and not very successfully.

The kid has been at the same level for two years, skates listlessly, gets in other skaters' way, appears at random for ice and stands up her coach regularly.

I talked to the mom and said, "You know. It just doesn't seem like your kid is enjoying herself. Have you considered something else?"

I was nice about it, but man, someone had to bring it up. It was getting painful.

You're right, p: it's not an easy conversation to have without possibly turning someone off/away.

Ice Mom

Ice Mom said...

Aw, jumpingbeanmom. You're in a spot, aren't you?

I think that Anony's right: your middle child wants to stay with the group. She's probably getting a lot of social benefits from skating.

But if she's crying with the coach, maybe her goals and those of the coach aren't lined up. Maybe she needs a more recreational approach.

Then again, maybe she just needs a different outlet that would be a better fit for her. I'm not great at that myself; we stumbled around from sport to sport for years before finding figure skating. I never thought Ice Girl would be nuts about any sport.

Poor you: a figure skater and an equestrian. All you need now is a hockey player and you've hit the money pit jackpot!

(We dodged a bullet with horses. I.G. went to horse camp several weeks for three years. She liked it, but not like skating. *whew!*)

Me, I'd suggest...jogging? Walking? Bike riding? Something cheap... :)

Ice Mom

Anonymous said...

I'm always concerned about this day...not because it's the end of figure skating. My wallet and my car will be so happy! What concerns me is lots of idle free time! I see a lot of skaters sputter out when they need a structured activity the most...the preteen years. The body changes and so does the skating. I think finding a new activity or sport is VERY important. My plan is to let this new activity slowly take over. And before you know it we won't have any free nights to skate :)

jumpingbeanmom said...

Oh this

"What concerns me is lots of idle free time! I see a lot of skaters sputter out when they need a structured activity the most...the preteen years."

I just had this conversation with my mother about 10 yo. She is really bright, but has too much time on her hands and WILL be the one to get in trouble. She has tried dance, gymnastics, cheer, basketball, french horn, skating....and it all ends the same way.

jumpingbeanmom said...


Yes to this

I think that Anony's right: your middle child wants to stay with the group. She's probably getting a lot of social benefits from skating.

Coach and I are going to have more discussions in the next few weeks, but she cries even when things she HAS to work on get hard (like pre juv MIF)- I mean, many of the girls on her team, jumpingbean included are passed Juv MIF and working on Intermediate- she doesn't seem to connect that without the effort, the team will ditch her.

PrettyBowtie said...

I went through this situation with dancing- I was 14 and was missing all my time between ballet, cal, jazz, pilates and the Physio. I missed parties, hanging out, going shopping, everything I wanted to do. I'd turn up late to classes, unprepared to work hard, talked back to my coaches and didn't work outside of classes. One night it came to a head (about 2 months into the calisthenics year, so nearly the teams were chosen) and I said I was out. I didn't enjoy it any more.

I have to admit, the first 2 weeks off I loved lounging around, but suddenly I was bored- I had nothing to do and keep me working. So I returned after a month- and my coach knew me so well she'd kept my place in first team. What I learnt here? If you're leaving something you've been dedicated to for a period of time, have something to replace it- whether it be a drama class, a school related activity or another sport. Don't just drop it with nowhere to go, everyone will get bored and frustrated.

Anonymous said...

I find myself craving this info. I love reading every last word.

How wonderful to have things I never thought of right in front of me! Thank you all for paving the way for us newbies to the sport. When hard things come along in the future I will know just where to turn :)

Xan said...

There's a huge upside to quitting, and that is that after a skater quits, when she "visits" the rink she's a big star. Everyone will want to see her, and they'll sneak her into the dressing room during the show. Especially with kids older than 13, nobody ever really leaves anymore, because they just keep up with each other on Facebook.

Part of what you have to do with a skater who is losing enthusiasm is find out what is really going on. It might be loss of interest in the sport, it might be a social thing at the rink, or a coaching issue. It might be entirely unrelated to the rink. Sit down and have a goals talk with the kid and the coach.

What you should not do is tolerate the whining, or misbehavior on the ice, in an effort not to unduly influence the skater. Whining and misbehaving are a bid to have someone either pay attention, or force a decision on the skater. So tell the coach, if she whines or is intolerable in lessons, end the lesson. If she complains in an inappropriate way about going to the rink, then don't take her.

It might cost you a few coaching and ice fees while you sort it out, but it must be clear to the skater what you mean by proper behavior at the rink.

Ice Mom said...

Hey, Xan.

Excellent wisdom, as always.

I love the idea that the returning kid is a star at the rink. You're right - everyone is so happy to see the former skater.

I also agree that the whining is a plea for help. Very astute, Xan.

Ice Mom

Anonymous said...

My child (now a teen) is one I'm sure others would perceive as "needing to stop skating"
1. She leaves the ice constantly ( 4 foot surgeries in 4 years leading to bad cramps).
2. She practices things she learned several levels ago ( need to relearn after surgery, time off, physical therapy, new orthotics)
3. She has not gone up a level in 2 years ( has taken the Novice moves test 3 times, can't wear her skates long enough to finish the test, not allowed time to massage out cramps)
4. She does complain ( i wouldn't say whine) out of frustration, not because she wants to stop, but because she can't practice the way she wants to and others are improving while she is forced to sit out.
How many trips to how many doctors is enough? I know many at the rink find it easy to blame the mom, but the is a hard decision when your daughter is asking to go through so much pain and frustration, surgery, accupuncture, steroid shots, you name it, to do what she loves.