Opinion- Should I back off from swimming lessons - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 02:52 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My DD is almost three and started swimming lessons. I was initially going to wait until she was three so I didn't have to go in the water with her but am glad I started out with her.

She appears to be terrified. Which should be my answer to stop but like going to school alone the first time (2- half days) and starting other new things she gets apprehensive and then becomes independent and likes the new activity. Last week she cried but then did okay with swimming, I only dunked her once. I signed her up twice thinking reinforcement and regularity would be good but this weekend with my husband she "lost" it and we didn't bother with the class. It freaks the other kids out, her cry is the loudest. I don't wait to create a fear of swimming forever.

We were on vacation last fall and she swam with her dad and she was in kiddie pools all last summer. So I don't get it. I guess with her getting older she is thinking into things too much and making things scarier. I am thinking of just back out for while. I am not a quitter type so this is hard for me to decide to do. I thought starting them young and introducing new things would be better for long term readiness... maybe not.

I noticed, she has started being apprehensive and panicky to change and settings where new bunch of kids are running around. I want to assure her that change is good, most instances I am with her and she is also just going to a step up class in the same place she is use to. Sigh.
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#2 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 05:11 AM
 
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Can you talk to her about how she feels at all - or is her vocabular not up for that yet? (I know at three I wouldn't have been able to talk to my son about stuff like that! lol)

I would ask her first. If she says she doesn't want to do them - I would respect that. She will learn how to swim one day I am sure if it is something that is important and fun for her...maybe at 4 or 40! lol

I was a fish, my husband doesn't know how to swim and my DS has absolutly no interest in moving away from the side at the shallow end of the pool.... Swim lessons are out of the question lol! It would be nice if he were a fish like me - and we have been going to the pool once a week since he was 9 months old! lol...But oh well! He will be interested in it some day if it is something he really likes. If I try to take him out to deeper water - CPS would come cause his screams are that bad! lol

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#3 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 07:01 AM
 
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I would back off. I think early exposure to the water is great (with no pressure of course as that can really backfire on you) but early exposure to lessons is not necessarily the best route for every kid. If tears are involved I would say it's definitely not the route to take.

With my son I waited until he was really ready and wanted swim lessons (which I researched and proposed to him-- I don't mean I just waited until he finally thought to ask for them). He'd always liked the water so we just used a flotation vest and later water wings or stuck to areas where the water wasn't too deep. He has always had a blast at pools, waterparks and the beach, so once he was ready to swim it was nearly effortless.
eta: it should go without saying but just in case: of course a child wearing a flotation vest or water wings needs to be watched at all times--I think little kids who can swim should be watched at all times too

He was the oldest in his beginner class, but by the 4th lesson he was swimming and was moved into a class with swimmers. I think plenty of kids will be ready before my son was (nearly 8 and had turned 8 by the time of his first lesson--the younger kids in his beginner class seemed happy enough to be there,), but waiting hasn't done him any harm at all as he took to swimming very quickly and looks forward to his swim lesson each week (as in 6 more days til my swim lesson! 5 more days! etc). I figured he would just do one 12 week session and be ready to move on but he enjoys it so much he's kept going and wants to do them again next year too. I think it's great because with the lessons he is being challenged and perfecting technique.

I'm not sure what you mean by you "dunked her". Did she want to go underwater? If so, did she want you to make that happen? Was she ready and willing? I'm asking not to criticize but to understand more why she was so upset when it was time for the next lesson. The dunking might have had something to do with it.

I think almost any child who loves to be in water will eventually want to be able to swim (not necessarily learn on their own though). I get that it can be a safety issue too but I also think when you've got little ones who can swim it sometimes gives a false sense of security and it's not actually that much safer. Keeping my son safe around water was huge for me, but forcing swim lessons was not part of my strategy. (OP, that is not meant in a snarky tone at all--I'm really just trying to explain my take on this and the path to swimming my son took).
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#4 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 09:02 AM
 
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If you stay out of the pool over the winter it is not unusual for them to become frightened at this age.

If you can put a hold on the lessons and try to take her to the pool most days of the week you may find you don't even need them at this age.

Find the warmest pool you can (the closer to 90 degrees, the longer you'll be able to stay in) and if you can find one that is zero entry that is ideal. Then just hang out in there with her.
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#5 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 09:17 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the feedback. Safety was my reason for the lessons since we live near a beach but as mentioned one has to watch little ones closely regardless.

It's hard sometimes to let things go when it is ingrained in yourself... not quitting... but I have to remember she's still a toddler, thanks ladies!
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#6 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 10:01 AM
 
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OP - I can understand your frustration.

DH and I both don't remember learning to swim, we were that young. We grew up swimming in rivers, creeks, the ocean and in pools. We love the water and couldn't comprehend DS not wanting to swim or play with us.

Our experience with swimming lessons has not been great. We started DS at the community pool in the little toddler, play-with-them classes and that went fine.

When DS moved up to shallow end program, he really resisted. Because the classes were free and close to home, if he didn't want to participate, we either left the pool or he had to sit on the chair with me. More often than not, he really wanted to watch the other kids but seemed to scared to join in.

(These classes were offered several times during the summer, in one week blocks)

Last year, he was 3.5 years old and things feel into place. He was swimming under water by the end of the third, weekly session.

Like another poster mentioned, the instructors told me to keep him swimming through the winter but time didn't allow that. While on vacation, he refused to even try any skills until week's end.

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#7 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 11:07 AM
 
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I think you should back off and just do what she is comfortable doing. I am surprised that they have you dunk her under if she is scared of that. I think that doing things that scare her will make her fear worse rather than better, that is what it did to my dd's two friends and my brother (none of them put their head under water voluntarily or wanted to swim until after they were six). My dd loved the water at that age but she hated the lessons I was bringing her to. I backed off for a year and focused on fun in the kid pool with me before trying her in lessons again, once she started again she loved the lessons and has progressed quickly ever since.
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#8 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 12:20 PM
 
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I also agree with backing off for a time. Quit the lessons, and take the summer and fall as time to haver lots of fun water play, and try to regain tha association that water is fun.

We tried swimming lessons with my daughter at age three, and again at age four. both times she was terrified, and really had a horrible time. The teachers encouraged me to "just keep at it," that she would adjust. That may work with some people, but I know my kid, and pushing through something like this just makes it worse, she develops a fearful mental block. We took a few years off, made sure to have plenty of fun water time, and didn't push.

We came back to the pool at age 5.5. She was still scared, didn't want to let go of the wall or teacher, but this time she wanted to learn, and she was ready to try. She started dunking right away, then jumping into the teacher's arms. Within three months she was able to swim a lap across the pool solo. Her teacher (the aquatics head of the pool) was absolutely astounded. she said that she'd never seen a child who was so afraid initially learn so fast and well.

It has been a little over the year, and she is doing GREAT. She has lost all of her fear completely, is swimming many, many laps, and is proficient at many strokes. Most importantly to me she has great confidence and a genuine love of the water. most of the other kids in the class seem to be missing that.

A friend of mine enrolled her daughter, age four, last year, at a different pool from us. Unlike us she listened to the instructors and forced her child to swim even though the little girl was scared out of her mind. Her poor kiddo screamed at every lesson for SIX MONTHS. I went along once and it was so sad to se the little one crying out for her mother for 45 minutes. The teachers kept telling them to stick with it, that it would get better. It didn't, not for a long time. A year later she doesn't scream, but she really does not enjoy swimming lessons, and it shows.
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#9 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 01:22 PM
 
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I totally understand why her learning to swim is important to you! We live in an area where almost everyone has a pool, so it is a major safety issue. My 4.5 dd (who is a great swimmer and loves water now) was scared at 2.5-3 too. She screamed whenever she got water in her face in the pool, bathtub, whatever. We spent a lot of playtime in the pool the summer she turned 3. Then once she got more comfortable, we put her in the local swim school. The very first thing they did was to dunk her. Each kid being dunked was how they began each class til the kids got used to having their faces under water. My dd was scared, and dh said he wished he would have dunked her more in the pool at home (so don't feel bad). We started dunking my 1.5 yo son last summer, and will dunk him more (he's 2.5 now) this summer so he's not surprised by the feeling when it is time for lessons. So it's probably a good idea to back off, but also remember that things can change quickly with kids. Good luck!
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#10 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 01:33 PM
 
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I can understand waiting for lessons - but don't completely stop going into pools or having water fun.

And, if you want to use a flotation device with her while she's around water, please please please DO NOT use water wings. Those things are terrifying! (instead choose a coast guard approved life jacket that is properly fitted).
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#11 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 02:00 PM
 
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Water wings are terrifying? I am interested! Tell me more! Who finds them terrifying; the kids...or the adults (for some safety-related reason). Thanks!
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#12 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 02:04 PM
 
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I'm wondering if the lessons are poorly set up. When I took toddler swim lessons with DS, we never dunked them.

I would keep working on swimming with her, but in a more gentle and sensitive manner than the class was offering you.

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#13 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 02:11 PM
 
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Water wings are terrifying? I am interested! Tell me more! Who finds them terrifying; the kids...or the adults (for some safety-related reason). Thanks!
Water wings give both child and adult a false sense of security. They allow a child to go into deep water (remember for a 3 foot tall child 4 feet of water in the shallow end is over his/her head) without really being able to save themselves. Water wings can easily slip off while the child is in water over his/her head, and are not designed to keep the child's face out of water.

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#14 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 02:17 PM
 
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I think it is more important for them to be comfortable playing in the water than taking lessons at this age. My son much prefers just splashing around with me to taking lessons. Not that he was scared exactly, just reluctant. It's pretty common for them to hate being dunked. My son doesn't like it and I don't push it. I heard a good tip was encouraging them to get their face wet in the bath and make a game of blowing bubbles, etc. Do you have a splash park near you? Or can you set up a paddling pool outside? Just some thoughts.
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#15 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 02:39 PM
 
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I'd quit the swimming lessons and just take her swimming. My 3 year old loves to go swimming, but it's all about dh or I holding him while he just plays in the water. I don't know how he'd do with swimming lessons if he didn't know the instructor or the other kids. He will be taking lessons this summer with his daycare provider and it'll just be a class of 3-4 year olds from daycare, so I think he'll do great.

As for the dunking, I don't like it and I'm plenty old enough, so I guess I don't see the point in that.
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#16 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 02:44 PM
 
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sleeping baby on my chest won't let me be still long enough to read all of the responses, but i thought i'd tell you my experience.

When I was about 3 my mom signed me up for swimming lessons. Granted, as I recall she left me there and didn't stay, which probably made it way worse...but I *remember* how much I hated it. I mean HATED it. The ONLY part I liked was when they gave us a break and let us out of the water.

It was seriously traumatizing. Enough so that 25 years later I can still conjure that feeling of terror.

I only went once or twice.

And you know what... I ended up taking swimming lessons when I was older and I loved it. And I learned to swim.

I also remember going through phases. Sometimes I'd be in a stage where I didn't mind going under water, and sometimes I was in a phase where I was terrified. It came and went.

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#17 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 02:49 PM
 
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Water wings terrify me! I was a lifeguard, and had to save a child once who was wearing them. She had them on properly, but they moved from her shoulders to her wrists - which kept her wrists above water, but she wasn't strong enough to keep her head above water. She was fine, but we took the water wings away and gave her a coast guard approved life jacket after that.

Don't use water wings!!! They are NOT safe!
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#18 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 02:50 PM
 
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My DD was terrified of her swim lessons at 3 yrs so we dropped it and tried again when she was 4 and now she loves it and is more willing to get her face wet etc. I find the swim instructors preach exposure as important to get over the fear but in my situation time and maturity resolved her fears.
Good luck.
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#19 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 03:08 PM
 
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Originally Posted by eepster View Post
Water wings give both child and adult a false sense of security. They allow a child to go into deep water (remember for a 3 foot tall child 4 feet of water in the shallow end is over his/her head) without really being able to save themselves. Water wings can easily slip off while the child is in water over his/her head, and are not designed to keep the child's face out of water.
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Water wings terrify me! I was a lifeguard, and had to save a child once who was wearing them. She had them on properly, but they moved from her shoulders to her wrists - which kept her wrists above water, but she wasn't strong enough to keep her head above water. She was fine, but we took the water wings away and gave her a coast guard approved life jacket after that.

Don't use water wings!!! They are NOT safe!
Another former life guard chiming in. Those things scare me. I have seen them slip up on the wrist just like thyra described. I have seen other kids pull them off while playing, just kids being kids, putting them on their legs (horrifying to see them upside in the water).

Also, I agree with the false sense of security. A close friend of ours had a very scary close call when their 4 yo went into a lake without his wings. All ok in the end but the dad said if he had a do-over, he never would have introduced the wings.

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#20 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 04:27 PM
 
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I think it is more important for them to be comfortable playing in the water than taking lessons at this age.
I'm not a lifeguard, but it sounds dangerous to me to make children comfortable playing in the water when they are not able to swim.
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#21 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 05:20 PM
 
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I'm not a lifeguard, but it sounds dangerous to me to make children comfortable playing in the water when they are not able to swim.
But how will they learn to swim if they are not comfortable in the water?
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#22 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 05:24 PM
 
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I'm not a lifeguard, but it sounds dangerous to me to make children comfortable playing in the water when they are not able to swim.
Well, my oldest son (now 4 1/2) HATES being water above his head. It doesn't matter if mom and dad are holding him. He FREAKS! And swim lessons take place in water that is over his head.

However, he ADORES the water. So long as he can stand up. He'll even do quite a bit of the stuff asked of him in swim lessons so long as we are in the shallow end.

I decided swim lessons were not a good idea but it is better to allow him to gain confidence in water he is comfortable in.
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#23 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 05:32 PM
 
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Well, my oldest son (now 4 1/2) HATES being water above his head. It doesn't matter if mom and dad are holding him. He FREAKS! And swim lessons take place in water that is over his head.

However, he ADORES the water. So long as he can stand up. He'll even do quite a bit of the stuff asked of him in swim lessons so long as we are in the shallow end.

I decided swim lessons were not a good idea but it is better to allow him to gain confidence in water he is comfortable in.
At 4 its great for him to be comfortable in water he can stand in!! I would recommend looking into swim lessons that are not in water over his head - I never taught 4 yo's in water over their head (unless they were small for their age and the shallow end was too deep for them - and then I never asked them to let go of the side if I wasn't right there with them or holding onto them).

As he gets older, teaching skills that will translate from the shallow end to the deep end will serve to make him more comfortable in the deep end as well (bobbing comes to mind - take a breath, exhale under water, push off the bottom to take another breath once you surface).
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#24 of 24 Old 05-04-2010, 05:42 PM
 
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The only reason to have a 3 year old in swimming lessons is for enjoyment. If DD doesn't want to, pull her out.

Now, IMO, a 7+ year old is a different scenario, but at that age it's just for fun anyway. Let her goof around in the water with you & DH when/if she wants to and she'll eventually be ready for more formal learning.

 

 

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