We encourage our 7 y/o child with adhd to experience different activities that interest him and also help him with social skills. He is impulsive and is eager to participate but loses interest quickly and wants to quit after a short time. Should we allow him to choose to quit or require him to continue? He has just begun piano lessons and already wants to quit. We want him to develop good habits and not give up on something.
Parenting around the globe has the universal purpose of cultivating habits, and in a globalized world it is important to be able to accommodate habits outside one's self. That said, we are in a fairly regimented world, and homes are to be a place of refuge - traditional public school is hard on young children who are neurodivergent, and bringing that rigidity into the home is not always helpful.
A good rule of thumb in handling these scenarios is to hold to what your family can manage. If you cannot afford to pinball through activities, be up front about that, because the activities will only get more expensive. If you have multiple children and they all do different activities, can you make it to their games and recitals? Are these activities providing family rhythms you hoped they would create?
7 is an appropriate age, ADHD or not, to establish a time commitment rule. That being said, you need to then be realistic about the ADHD element, and the role that will play in your willingness to persevere. Sports are easier here, because you can just state you have to finish one season, whereas music may need an imposed commitment. If you did not specify a time commitment for piano, encourage setting one, and follow through on allowing them to quit. It is not worth damaging your relationship with your 7yo over activities you yourself do not view as critical to what you see as leading to a healthy, adjusted life. Music is important, but tune that to your goals of socialization and the value of not giving up - this particular instrument may not be the best fit. Remember, you are not looking to get the "national average" out of your children, you are looking to raise your particular child in your particular circumstances. Make your frameworks for long-term goals based on your values and your means, and make them common household knowledge.
So as a kid (now adult) with ADHD, I can tell you that I quickly bored of a ton of different activities. I didn't like structured anything as much as I liked hopping on my bike and riding around the woods or playing video games or spending time with my friends.
As a result I quit soccer, tee-ball, karate, and trombone before I was 12. Then my dad tried to push hard and make me play baseball and frankly, I enjoyed the time throwing the ball around with him or batting practice, but I wasn't particularly good at learning the skills to actually play baseball (i.e. bunting, learning the niche rules like tagging up, even how to keep my eye on the ball when at-bat) because either nobody taught them to me (or they did and I wasn't paying attention) so I didn't enjoy playing because my teammates would give me a ton of grief because I wasn't very good.
Eventually, I actually found my way back to martial arts as a teenager and stuck with it all the way through high school and well into adulthood.
I later learned that the likely reason for this is because exercise is extremely good for people with ADHD. It helps our brains produce dopamine, which helps us focus. And when we can focus, we can start to achieve our potential.
I think the specific reason why I was able to pickup and carry martial arts for an extended time was because it is a mostly independent endeavor. I don't really have to work on a team and learn people's social cues (because that is hard for me and I don't like working on the skill). Possibly also because I tend to be able to hyper focus in chaotic situations and don't mind getting hit now and then.
I understand the concept of developing good habits and not giving up on something, but I think it's also important to recognize that unless you facilitate your child to acquire the skills then it will just feel extremely frustrating for them. This may mean medication and therapy, but it can also mean letting them try and then quit a few different things so that they find their way back to those things later on.
Understandably, it can be expensive to do this. So it helps to have a defined end point (i.e. we're doing soccer for 6 weeks). But you can reinforce the interest with a consistent ritual which ends the activity with something they definitely enjoy. For example, always get ice cream after . I find this can also be good because it lets you talk about what was done in greater detail and hear their thoughts, which gives a couple of angles for learning to occur and re-occur.