It’s time for the weekly swimming lesson, and “Joe” is playing up again. You have tried to prep him before the lesson, and he has agreed to listen and cooperate, but somehow when the time comes, he is resisting to pay attention again.
He is bobbing underwater, splashing around, and playing with pool toys while the teacher is talking. On occasion, he may be seen distracting other kids.
A few thoughts may probably enter your mind:
- I’m not bringing him to lessons anymore
- The teacher thinks I have no control
- The other parents are getting annoyed that my child is disrupting the class
- He is old enough but does not seem ready. Is there something “wrong”?
- This is so embarrassing…
Now it’s time to put those thoughts away. No one is judging you. “Joe” is perfectly normal (unless there is a pre-existing medical condition that was not previously diagnosed). This situation can be remedied, given time and patience.
Things to note
We need to remember that being in the water is both fun and exciting, and this experience is very much different from being on land. Unless a child has been through a traumatic experience with water or has received misconceptions about swimming, children enjoy water in general.
Children love to jump and bounce and experience the different sensations, especially weightlessness. Thus to children, being in the pool is often play time and not class time. Swimming is often one of the first formal and structured learning environments a child experiences. Therefore, it takes time for a child to adjust to this shift.
Expectations & Communication
Parents need to have realistic expectations of their child’s behaviour and consider their age and attention span. Every child is different, and parents need to understand and be accepting of the differences. Bribing or making idle threats do not work in the long run, especially if consequences are not followed through.
Communication with the teacher is important. Talk with the teacher about your expectations and let the teacher know if your child has any previous experience or learning difficulties. It is also important to not interfere during lesson time, as the child may not see the teacher in control of the class. Basic respect of authority is required. After all, parents do not go to formal school with their children, and parents do not interfere with the teaching during such class time as well.
Positive Reinforcement & Discipline
Watch your child’s lesson from a distance and give them positive feedback when they have completed. Give them the opportunity to play after the formal swimming lesson, so that they recognise that there is fun to look forward to after class. Be consistent and follow through with consequences should your child misbehave during class.
Don’t be embarrassed because all parents have been there, whether it’s during swimming lessons, at the shopping centre or while visiting friends and family. All children go through stages where they are testing their boundaries, and your child is certainly not the first child the swimming teacher has dealt with and certainly won’t be the last.