Would you quit swimming lessons in this situation? - Mothering Forums

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Old 05-20-2010, 01:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My 4.5 DS started swimming lessons 2 weeks ago-the teacher is very straightforward-not warm and fuzzy-does not praise the children-but she does not make them do anything they don't feel comfortable doing. My DS did the first lesson fine but I could see in his expression that he was doing it because he's a compliant good kid and not because he was feeling overly confident. I dismissed it to it being the first lesson. However throughout the week he started stuttering (always a sign of stress for him-first thing togo is the lang fluency). Then on swim lesson #2 he was shaking getting into his suit and told me he was nervous. When we got to the pool area he started hysterically crying and wanted me in the pool (we aren't allowed). He sat at the side for 20min of the 30min lesson hysterical-not like him at all. Every time the teacher tried to talk to him or make eye contact he cried harder. I finallygot him to tell me he didnt want to go under the water or get his head or face wet. Once I told the teacher this he did the rest of the lesson but still looked so uncertain of things. Two other days last week my husband took him to the pool and they had an awesome time-couldn't get DS out of the pool. He is NOT afraid of the water....he is afraid of the teacher and it is not his personality to tell someone if he doesn't feel comfortable-well at least not tell a stranger. he is a very good kid-and very shy......I am wondering if this sort of environment is not a good for him and I don't want to teach him to fear the water or swimming lessons. WWYD?
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Old 05-20-2010, 01:42 PM
 
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Is she the only instructor? If not, I would ask that he be moved to a different class. I used to be a swim instructor, and it was SO fun! But, I was always very excited, and praised the kids constantly - even if all they did was hang on to the side!

Definitely see if you can switch teachers - or ask if they rotate, and get in on the next session of classes with a different teacher (I'm guessing they have one teacher per level or something, and they might rotate occasionally). I would definitely be honest about the reason for the switch though - it shouldn't hurt anyone's feelings.
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Old 05-20-2010, 02:52 PM
 
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Does she seem like a scary person or is the fear more an unjustified one that lies with him? If she is open to helping him when he is willing to be helped without pushing him past his comfort zone then I think you should continue the lessons for a few more weeks and see if he warms up once he knows her. During swimming lessons a teacher has to balance the needs of the other kids with the needs of your kid because the other parents get extremely irate if a teacher spends a long time trying to talk to a kid that isn't ready for lessons instead of teaching the kids who are.

Since she knows his fear now you should see that reflected in her work with him and hopefully he is happier. It would have been awesome if you all knew it ahead of time so he had no discomfort, but it sounds like he is the only one who knew it and he wasnt' comfortable sharing it with any of you. It also sounds like she did a nice job of balancing his needs with the needs of the other kids. Swimming lessons are different from preschool, each child gets a certain amount of time and teachers don't spend a lot of time trying coaxing a child in when it is clear he doesn't want in and his parents are fine with him on the edge crying. I think that if he doesn't cry at the next lessons that you should give him time to get used to it. If he is just going to cry and not try things then I do think you need to wait a while on lessons. A kid who is acts terrified of the water can have a very big negative impact on the other students.
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Old 05-20-2010, 03:05 PM
 
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Originally Posted by mainemommy1 View Post
He is NOT afraid of the water....he is afraid of the teacher and it is not his personality to tell someone if he doesn't feel comfortable-well at least not tell a stranger. he is a very good kid-and very shy......I am wondering if this sort of environment is not a good for him and I don't want to teach him to fear the water or swimming lessons. WWYD?
When your kid was at the pool with your H, did your H make sure to practice submerging his head? I went through this when I first went to the Y, and my Dad going over submerging my head in the bathtub was really helpful. There is a difference between being in the water with your head above it, and having your head submerged.

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Old 05-20-2010, 03:16 PM
 
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I'd find different lessons. My daughter learned at a local aquatic center where the lessons were mostly taught by college students, who were super-enthusiastic and also great at coaxing the kids without freaking them out. It seemed to me that the guys were even better at getting the kids relaxed, happy, and participating than the young women were. If there's anything sweeter than two 20-year-old dudes in the water high-fiving a bunch of four-year-olds, I haven't seen it!
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Old 05-20-2010, 03:51 PM
 
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I would worry about sending the message that it's okay to quit when things get hard. But on the other hand, forcing him to stay with a teacher he's not comfortable sends the message that his opinion doesn't matter. So I agree that finding a different teacher is the best bet. Maybe try interviewing teachers before committing, so you can be sure of finding a good personality fit.

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Old 05-20-2010, 04:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks everyone....I think we'll try another class or two and then call it quits and find a better program. My DH is a very good swimmer and could easily teach deep water safety swimming skills which is all I care about anyways. Yes, the teacher is very intimidating-even after my son was hysterical(he was not throwing a fit by the way-this was very different as he was visually scared) he got in the pool finally and she NEVER praised him for his efforts after that-she went on to correct him. The other Moms and I were talking about how WE are actually intimidated by this instructor. She is an older woman and seems to have a very big ego. The session is only a few weeks. I pulled him out of a Parks and Rec program that was not at all what we thought (not swimming-something else)-at his age he has no clue whether something is a few weeks long or just a session or two so the quitting message doesn't really apply-especially since swimming was something I told him he was doing and he didn't ask for the lessons. I can see however how this might apply to another situation. I will look for a different teacher in the meantime-thanks!
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Old 05-20-2010, 06:11 PM
 
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Have you looked into private lessons?

When your DH took your son, they were one on one. Whenever it's a group lesson, the teacher has to divde their attention between multiple children (4 seems to be the going number), there's a ton of waiting which can lead to anxiety, and the teacher *cannot* spend as much time being coaxing as s/he might one on one.

In our area, one on one private lessons are often not all that much more expensive than group ones. For a child that has a fear of putting their face in or getting their head wet (I had 2 of those!) private lessons until they are comfortable doing that was an EXCELLENT investment.

A warm and cuddly fuzzy teddy bear teacher still might not have been able to calm your child if the wait time, distraction of other children, noise amplified by multiple classes in the pool at the same time, and far less contact with the teacher contributed to his nervousness.
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Old 05-20-2010, 07:33 PM
 
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Yes, I would switch teachers or find another program. Learning to swim is so much about gaining confidence, and it sounds like his is only being stifled.

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Old 05-20-2010, 11:54 PM
 
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These kind of experiences really p*ss me off. Why is terrifying a child necessary? There's a local private swim teacher here who's supposed to be so fabulous, and she won't let parents watch the lessons, let alone participate. She has a separate closed-off area where parents are supposed to wait. IMO it's because some children will freak out like the OP's child. I had my 18 mo old in a class where you were supposed to submerge them--I was like, no way, that's torture! And the teachers laughed and said oh, they all cry, hahaha--made me . Anyway, I never did anything like that and my Ds is now 5 and swims like a fish and has since he was around 2.5. Anyway, I agree OP to let your DH gently teach your son.
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Old 05-23-2010, 11:52 AM
 
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I would because she doesn't praise them and connect with the kids from your description. My son has been in swim lessons for the last 2 1/2 months every day. He was super scared of water and now loves it. The teachers have been trained to give lots of praise and high fives. Every time he does something they reinforce. They do make him do things that he didn't want to do and he was scared at first but it worked. Even when his teacher was making him try new things he was scared of he still loved the teacher. 2 1/2 months later he loves swimming and his teachers. They were always so positive with him. I think they really need to connect with and trust the teacher for it to work. If you have neither of those things then there really is no point in continuing.

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Old 05-23-2010, 11:57 AM
 
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I highly suggest private lessons. Do you have a local fresh water beach near you? (many lifeguards offer lower priced private lessons.)

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Old 05-23-2010, 06:25 PM
 
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As long as she isn't pushing him really hard to do things that he is uncomfortable with, I would keep taking him. I would expect a couple of more weeks of him sitting out the beginning of the class before he was ready to get in to it, but each week it should be shorter and shorter.

DS went through this kind of thing too. When he started Music Together classes, he spent a week crying and clinging to me in the lobby. We went back each week though, and as long as he could hold Mr Rabbit and hang on to me he was OK. After a while he was fine there. Ten when he started preschool, I had to sit out side in the hall. The first few days he just looked into the classroom but hung on to me. Then he would go in but come out anytime anything frightened him. It took a month, but eventually I was able to drop him off (though he's most of the way through his second year there and still insists I walk him to his classroom instead of dropping him at door from the car-line.)

DS has really learned to be more confident and manage his fears better (DS has a lot of fears.) I believe strongly that gently helping him face fears has been essential in this. I think if we had just avoided the fears completely, by dropping out of classes and preschool, DS would have missed an important lesson. If the fears had not been respected though, by just dropping him off while crying, or not respecting his need to enter music class gradually, then he would have learned the wrong lesson.

You're there with him, so you can just gently encourage him to do what he is comfortable with. He may not really learn to swim this time around, but I would think the learning to handle his fear is worth staying with the lesson. It sounds like a good situation for him to work on handling his anxiety, and to learn how to communicate what he is and isn't comfortable with.

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Old 05-23-2010, 07:15 PM
 
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Another vote for private lessons if the classes just don't work out.
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Old 05-23-2010, 07:26 PM
 
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We had a bad experience with group lessons when DS was about your son's age. I think it caused some long term bad effects. He also liked the water but not the lessons. We didn't try lessons again until about a year ago, when DS was 6.5, and went with private lessons. I would agree that private lessons are the way to go with kids who are too old for parent and tot classes but who don't know how to swim on their own yet.
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Old 05-24-2010, 05:52 AM
 
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I would probably pull him out. I had a bad experience with swim lessons when I was young. My parents kept me in them (actually, they thought it was funny ) I learned to swim just fine, I even lifeguarded for a few years. But every time I go to a gym pool, my stomach knots up and I get extremely anxious. I would find a teacher he is more comfortable with.
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Old 05-24-2010, 06:24 AM
 
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I'd say listen to your gut. On the one hand, learning to swim is a non-negotiable at our house. It can be hard and scary, and sometimes you just have to push through it. But a lot depends on your child. Will it backfire? Is the teacher genuinely someone who rubs you the wrong way? There are usually many different options, and if it's not seriously traumatic and it's not a long program, I would try at least a couple more weeks. But if the child is being actually traumatized, then I would pull him. But I'd look into your options: different teacher, private lessons, another program. And I'd do a lot of work on your own. Sometimes that sort of thing (playing in the water and working with mom and dad) can cause huge jumps in success.
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Old 05-24-2010, 03:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks all-we went for lesson 3 today and he just sat with me and watched. The teacher was out and there was a sub who was much better but the 3 kids in the class are all so different. We were watching her teach a child who is much more advanced and that scared my child too. There are only 3 kids in the class. Scary thing is-I researched this teacher.....Yes, he will learn to swim eventually-he is only 4 and has a speech delay and since swimming started he has been stuttering A LOT(it's painful to listen)-speech therapist thinks it is caused from anxiety and swimming is the ONLY new thing. Preschool teacher used to be a swim teacher and knows my child very well-her input is that he is too young and not ready and needs to learn to be comfortable in the water before he'll be comfortable learning from a stranger in water. Unfortunately the swim teacher owns her own swimming school and so asking to switch is not an option-she is the boss and doesn't employ others.
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