So, when he started protesting going to his swim class a few months ago, I wasn’t sure what to do. When he started screaming and crying on the pool deck, I was at a loss. I expected this kind of reaction when we introduced him to skiing in February. But with swimming? No way.
He gave a number of reasons for why he didn’t want to swim but I knew that something had spooked him and had started to erode his confidence. I knew that he didn’t like using the kick board but the barbells were OK. He didn’t like swimming to the deep-end but jumping off the diving platform into the deep-end was OK. He tried to coax and encourage him. We tried to bribe him. We tried everything that we could think of.
As a parent, it’s hard to watch your child lose their confidence, especially when it’s something that you know brings your child so much joy. As a parent, it’s also hard to be that parent at the pool / birthday party / playground with the screaming, kicking, whining child. My husband and I were so ready to throw in the towel, to give up and to let Jasper win this battle. I was so frustrated. I could feel the frustration pouring out of my pores. In part, it was because I love swimming and want to share that with my children.
But, since we had already committed to lessons for the summer, we decided to switch him to private lessons with his favorite swim teacher – his first teacher who he loves and practically would do anything for. If this didn’t work out, we’d give swimming a rest for a while. Since then, it’s been a slow process of rebuilding his confidence as a swimmer and making it fun again. By the second lesson, he was laughing and smiling. By the third lesson, he was using the kick board and learning to do the backstroke. I started to breathe a sigh of relief.
This experience reminded me of a few things:
- Don’t push but don’t give up. For me, I felt that it was important that Jasper keep trying. In life, he’s going to encounter many situations that he doesn’t like and that are hard but he needs to learn the skills to face those situations. Maybe that’s the Tiger Mom in me coming out but I do feel that it’s an important skill to learn. If he refused to swim and wasn’t having fun, we would have stopped the lessons and taken a break from swimming.
- Don’t underestimate the power of being silly. I swear that the reason that Jasper got back in the water and was willing to continue with his swim lessons was because his teacher is hilarious. He makes jokes and makes Jasper feel like he’s the funniest kid ever.
- It’s a big deal to conquer your fears. Celebrate the small accomplishments along the way to help to build confidence. It’s important to recognize the progress that our kids make. I know that it was a big deal that Jasper swam in the pool by himself without his teacher in the water with him and we celebrated that.
I am hopeful that this is a turning point for him. Our mantra through these last few swim lessons has been Brave and Calm. Yes, both Jasper and Mommy have to be brave and calm – the latter more so for Mommy.
How do you encourage your children when they are scared or lose their confidence? How do you build resiliency in yourself and in your kids?