Pre-School

need advice re: swim class

DD is almost 4. She took her first swim class last summer, which was the mommy and me class. She liked the songs and games, but she refused to go under water, and I didn't push her.

She is now in the next class up, where they go in without a parent. The first class (last week), she did really well. She even went under water. She said she didn't like the class or going underwater, but we encouraged her to keep trying.

Today's class was a different story. She didn't want to go under water. The teacher was nice, but then she forced her underwater (DD was screaming the whole time). From that point on, she wouldn't do anything the teacher asked. She just cried for me the rest of the class. I didn't want to make a scene, so I just encouraged her.

I was very uncomfortable with the teacher forcing her underwater. Not only is it a safety risk, but I feel it perpetuates her fear of water and makes her distrust the teacher. Now, I'm not sure what to do. Do I pull her out of the class or force her to keep going? Part of me wants to keep her in just b/c it teachers her to fulfill a commitment. But, another part of me is asking if she even needs to learn how to swim right now. We don't live on the water or have a pool at home (we have one in our neighborhood).  If she's really that scared of it, maybe I shouldn't force her.



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Re: need advice re: swim class

  • Try to find private lessons at a swim teachers house. I find if kids are scared the lessons often either force them or don't teach them anything. A good instructor one on one would be a good solution. And they usually are no more money than most swim lessons. We pay 25 for a half hour lesson that usually takes almost an hour and teaches both kids at the same time.

    ETA: that might be more money than some places but they learn so much and are never on the wall.
    Jen - Mom to two December 12 babies Nathaniel 12/12/06 and Addison 12/12/08
  • I wouldn't pull her out of lessons.   I used to teach swimming lessons and your child's reaction is pretty typical, but the more exposure they have the better.

    Pulling her out sends the message that it is okay to give up.

    Maybe talk to the teacher about a game plan going forward.  Say that you understand her intentions and that you trust her completely.  But ask her there is a compromise that can be made with going underwater.  Like she tries on her own a couple times and goes down as far as she can on her own.  Then at the end of lessons the teacher will help her go underwater.   This way, if it startles her, then I it at the end of lessons.

    We also used to do something like have a diving ring that we would hold underwater and have the kids hold onto the edge to reach for it. Often times they would reach as far as they could while still holding on to the wall.  Sometimes they go it sometimes they didn't.   Finally one day, it would just click for them that if they stuck their head under and bent down further they could get the ring.

    Talk to the teacher- ask what can be done to help out.  But don't pull her.

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  • I would find a class that encourages her to go underwater but doesn't push her. DD1 has done lessons at the Y from 3-7 years. She didn't really start going under water until she was 6. She just didn't feel comfortable, and I don't think pushing her would have done anything but make her hate the water. She could swim the length of the pool on her own before she started going underwater, so I don't think it's necessary to learn to swim.
    Annalise Marie 05.29.06
    Charlotte Ella 07.16.10
    Emmeline Grace 03.27.13
  • I suspect the answer depends on the child, so I'll just tell you about mine.

    She has always loved water. At 18 months to 2 years when she was teething we went to the indoor pool almost every day. But she slowly got more independent and wanted to swim independently with the life jackets at the pool that other kids use, and eventually I got her a puddle jumper. But just as I had feared before I bought it, she got too dependent on it and started refusing to swim without it or even get her face wet.

    I talked up swim lessons for a couple of months. Telling her they are fun and she will play games and go underwater, etc. She didn't want to go under but looked forward to swim lessons.

    When the time came, I couldn't get a group lesson because the Sat morning ones conflicted with gymnastics and the weeknights were before we could get home from work/daycare. So we did 8 private lessons, twice a week though it ended up less because the instructor got injured in the middle and had to reschedule one. Before she started she would not put her face in the water, and when it was over she could swim 6 or so yards alone and take a breath in the middle, dive down for toys, and was making up "tricks" to do. If more than a week goes by I have to push her a little to do it but once she starts she has a blast.

    We did let her pick out a pair of goggles, which helped with the wet face thing. We also bribed her shamelessly with M and Ms. For a while every time she went under she got an M and M after. Once she got 36! After that it was more of a general "if you do well you'll get some M and Ms lol. We also got her dive toys in the middle which was a real turning point. She loves SpiderMan so we got SpiderMan dive toys.

    Not sure if that helps. I can swim well and I feel like I could teach a kid to swim, but with MY kid I felt like she needed someone else to push her a little. And she did.

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  • image abartow:

    I wouldn't pull her out of lessons.   I used to teach swimming lessons and your child's reaction is pretty typical, but the more exposure they have the better.

    Pulling her out sends the message that it is okay to give up.

    Maybe talk to the teacher about a game plan going forward.  Say that you understand her intentions and that you trust her completely.  But ask her there is a compromise that can be made with going underwater.  Like she tries on her own a couple times and goes down as far as she can on her own.  Then at the end of lessons the teacher will help her go underwater.   This way, if it startles her, then I it at the end of lessons.

    We also used to do something like have a diving ring that we would hold underwater and have the kids hold onto the edge to reach for it. Often times they would reach as far as they could while still holding on to the wall.  Sometimes they go it sometimes they didn't.   Finally one day, it would just click for them that if they stuck their head under and bent down further they could get the ring.

    Talk to the teacher- ask what can be done to help out.  But don't pull her.

    I agree with all of this.  My DS has been taking swim lessons for a few months now and he still won't put his head all the way in.  But he's gotten so much more comfortable overall.  

    I would definitely have a conversation with the teacher without your DD listening, if possible.  

    And finally, we aren't allowed to watch all swim lessons.  At first I hated it.  Now I look at it as a time to myself and my DS does SO MUCH better when he can't come to me when he's scared.

  • image abartow:

    I wouldn't pull her out of lessons.   I used to teach swimming lessons and your child's reaction is pretty typical, but the more exposure they have the better.

    Pulling her out sends the message that it is okay to give up.

    This. 

    Swimming is non-negotiable.  You conquer fears by facing them. Even when you're three.

  • I would be livid. ITA with you that the teacher should not push her underwater!! Either make that clear and work with the teacher going forward and/or consider private swim. DD is in swim without me for the first time and I'm not thrilled with it--too much sitting and waiting time. She is also afraid about going under water and luckily it's not a major issue yet.
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  • Thanks for all of your advice! I talked to the teacher today and asked that they not force her underwater. She said that was fine, and she didn't do that. However, she also didn't push her to do anything else. As a result, DD basically sat on the step the entire time and didn't participate. The most she would do was go to the bottom step. 

    I don't want to approach the teacher again because I don't want her to feel like I'm telling her what to do. I do think DD needs to learn to try things and not give up, but at this point it's a complete waste of my time and money to sit there and watch my daughter sit on a step for 45 minutes twice a week.

    She floated on her back just fine with DH at the pool yesterday, so I'm pretty sure now it has to do with the teacher losing her trust from forcing her under. I just don't know what I can do to overcome that.  



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  • image meg1974:

    Thanks for all of your advice! I talked to the teacher today and asked that they not force her underwater. She said that was fine, and she didn't do that. However, she also didn't push her to do anything else. As a result, DD basically sat on the step the entire time and didn't participate. The most she would do was go to the bottom step. 

    I don't want to approach the teacher again because I don't want her to feel like I'm telling her what to do. I do think DD needs to learn to try things and not give up, but at this point it's a complete waste of my time and money to sit there and watch my daughter sit on a step for 45 minutes twice a week.

    She floated on her back just fine with DH at the pool yesterday, so I'm pretty sure now it has to do with the teacher losing her trust from forcing her under. I just don't know what I can do to overcome that.  

    In all honesty, this class and teacher may just not be a good fit for your daughter.

    Are there other classes she can transfer into?   Some teachers are stronger and more able to "get" when to push a child and when to pull back.  Other teachers aren't.    Is there a director you can talk to?  Not necessarily to complain, but instead troubleshoot to see if there is a different class she can be in?  

    If not, as much as it feels like a waste of time, I would probably still keep her in the lesson and deal with it as best you can.  Sitting on the side is still giving exposure.  She is seeing her peers try things and seeing them do things may encourage her to try it too.  Sometimes it takes kids awhile to warm up to the idea of swimming lessons, but once they do, they are good to go.  

    Finally, is there a way  you can take her to the pool and let her show you the things she has learned?   Let her show you the floats, ask her about blowing bubbles, paddling her hands and whatnot.  Maybe if she is able to "teach" you the things she has learned, she may be more apt to try new things during class. 

    Good luck!

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