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Should I persist with swimming lessons?
For 3 yo DS


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#1 Mumto1feral

Posted 28 February 2013 - 09:58 AM

I'm not really sure what do here. We started swimming lessons for our 3 yo DS. We have done about 5 weeks now. He likes the water and likes going "swimming". But when it comes to the class, he doesn't want to participate. He doesn't like putting his head under water or getting water up his nose. Either myself or my husband are in the water with him.  It's a real struggle to get him to do what the teacher asks. I don't like to push him as I am worried that it becomes a battle of wills and put him off swimming. My husband things we should push him a bit more or be more forceful. But then DS starts to get upset and lashes out. So we are disagreeing about how to handle it. My husband gets angry about it and thinks if we don't try to push DS into trying to participate that DS is learning that if he doesn't want to do something then he doesn't have to do it. DS told me he's scared of the "big" pool. So, I am not really sure what to do. Any thoughts? Do you think we should push it like my husband thinks we should? Or keep persisting at DS's own pace? Or I am thinking of just stopping the classes and trying again later in the year.

#2 Accidental

Posted 28 February 2013 - 10:07 AM

Your DH is right about teaching children that some things are not optional, and to persevere... but three is quite young, and your son may not have the understanding of delayed gratification needed to push through his discomfort.

I reckon give formal lessons a rest, take him for a weekly splash anyway for water familiarisation, and find another activity he can do that will help him learn to comply with teacher's directions - something he enjoys, like kindygym or soccer.

#3 bebe12

Posted 28 February 2013 - 10:15 AM

part of my decision making would take into account how many pools are in your DS environment. ie you have one or grandparents or you live near beach etc.  If your child is going to be at places where he needs swimming skills i would say take it at his pace but keep going. IYKWIM

If you aren't around water maybe delay.

#4 Fox's Sox

Posted 28 February 2013 - 10:15 AM

I think get him familiar with the water first and let him go at his own pace...he is only 3 and I think forcing him would be too traumatic for everyone.  Good luck!! original.gif

#5 gabbigirl

Posted 28 February 2013 - 10:17 AM

We have had similar situations with both our girls. We have a swimming pool so learning to swim is important in our house.  With our first girl, we changed swim schools until we found a small one which she loved, and we never forced the issue.  With her personality it just made it worse.  She can now swim at 4.5 yrs old.  

My almost 3 yo has been the same as the big girl.  Not wanting to go under.  The teacher asked me to go into the reading area away from the class, and it worked perfectly.  She then went under and participated.  Would never have worked for no. 1 daughter.  

Having said that, I am not one to force these things...as we would never leave our children near water unsupervised.  I know this sounds obvious but where I live, near the beach, lots of kids swim early so parents do leave their kids unsupervised:   It blows me away.  We were also the situation where the girls were afraid of water and wouldn't go Anywhere near it without us...incl the bath!!



#6 cstar

Posted 28 February 2013 - 10:17 AM

I agree with pp, I'd give it a rest, maybe you could take him swimming yourself once a week until his maybe 4 years old.  I found this age much easier with swimming lesson.  He isn't going to learn very much if he isn't happy.

Good luck

#7 kristylee21

Posted 28 February 2013 - 10:22 AM

Could u try a group lesson where parents arint in the water? I know my daughter is much better now I'm not in the water and she copies what the other kids do.

#8 crazyone2989

Posted 28 February 2013 - 10:22 AM

After only 5 weeks? No I don't think you should give up just yet. He is only three so the space between each lesson will seem huge and as such it can take a while for them to feel comfortable. I would go to the pool between lessons and just persist and encourage him to go under water. The teacher should be able to try a number of different things to get him to participate. Perhaps try another teacher or school.

#9 renee1979

Posted 28 February 2013 - 10:24 AM

My daughter was similar, we tried her every term and had the same issues, so gave it a rest.  Just this last term she is finally loving it!  And after only 3 weeks she's been promoted into a class without me, and she's loving it and is so confident! Never would have guessed this would have happened, it's just a matter of time unless you traumatise them with over trying.  While she wasn't going to lessons we would go swimming every week so I'm sure that helped build her water confidence too.  Just don't make a big deal about it, it will happen a lot quicker and easier when the time is right.

#10 Domestic Goddess

Posted 28 February 2013 - 10:25 AM

Hmmmm, how many kids are in the class? DS started swimming at 5 months old and I have been with him in the water all this time. Then he turned 3 and it was suggested he goes 1 class up. He's now in a class with 2 other boys and I just sit on a chair and watch him.
He likes to play with his "class mates" before lessons. One of the boys also only started lessons a few weeks back and is very wary of water in his nose and all that.
But as they now have a bit of a play before lessons, he is getting more confident and is copying my DS and the other 3yo boy.
Goggles helped DS with having his face in the water.

Is private lessons an option? Or if he;s in a big class, can you ask to put him in smaller class so he gets more 1 on 1 attention? If this isn't possible, perhaps look for a pool that does have smaller classes?

I Personally would persevere though, but that's just me. We live in an area that floods easily, so it's just piece of mind.



#11 melajoe

Posted 28 February 2013 - 10:28 AM

DD1 loved swimming lessons as a baby & toddler, where we would be in the pool with her, but at 2 she went into the "big kids" class where it was just 3-4 kids and an instructor, and no mummy or daddy in the pool.  She hated it.  She screamed her way through the first couple of lessons, and then when the instructor suggested we try it with us in the pool again she hated that too.  So we took her out of lessons for about 12 months.  We didn't intend for it to be that long but other things came up, we moved, then it was winter, and by the time the next summer came around we enrolled her in a new swim school and she loved it again.  She was quite clingy as a toddler and I think just having that 12 month break allowed her to find her independence and confidence and she was then quite happy to get in the pool with the instructor, without us.  We still took her swimming "for fun" in the time she had off, she loved to swim and splash around, but I think forcing her into that class too early just gave her such a negative association with going to swimming lessons.

Maybe take a small break, if you can, so that he can grow a little bit.  Can you take him in the big pool yourself to show him it's not such a scary place?  I think swimming is such an important skill for little kids to learn but it's not supposed to be traumatic for them, and if he is crying and not following the instructor's directions then he won't learn the skills anyway.

#12 froggy1

Posted 28 February 2013 - 10:37 AM

We had a very similar situation - my 3 yo would wail and cry and cling to us through an entire lesson, then happily go into the pool afterwards and do everything from the lesson on her own! Hmmm. We gave it a break for a few weeks because she was a good swimmer, she just wasn't ready/comfortable enough for the teacher/class environment. We also changed to a different teacher who was less (ahem) bossy and more focussed on fun. At the first class the teacher had been one of those 'you should make them, she's old enough to do this, bla bla' bossy types. The second class we got her into was a 19yo teacher who said to my DD2 on her first day, 'no worries, do what you're comfortable with, we're just here to have fun, can you hold this toy for me, isn't this fun (etc)' and I swear after one lesson my DD2 was hooked! We haven't looked back. She hasn't missed a lesson or cried in the 18 months.

#13 Lucygoosey1

Posted 28 February 2013 - 10:54 AM

We have faced the same issues with my DD.  she likes playing in water but hates lessons and putting her head under.
We did a whole term of 'pushing her',  her screaming,  not wanting to do it.  It got us no where.
Then we changed schools and eased her in, just getting her to do things like kicking,  bubbles and then worked up to one or two head under water per lesson.  With a bribe of a lolly after class.  
Now she is better,  still doesn't like to go underwater though.
We have our own pool,  and there's not a chance she could save herself if she fell in. It's very important to me to continue lessons.
I'd be continuing with gentle encouragement rather than forcing him to do too much.  
Or having a break and trying again when he goes in by himself.

#14 Mamabear2010

Posted 28 February 2013 - 10:56 AM

Five weeks of lessons isn't very long. I would talk to the teacher and get their advice. I think they would have come across children with similar fears/dislikes and will be able to give you strategies.

I think water familiarisation is important. If your child fell in a pool, their head will be under and they are more likely to panic if it's unfamiliar to them.

There are some things you can do in the bath to help get them familiar with water on their heads. The teacher should be able to give you tips.

#15 harper_

Posted 28 February 2013 - 11:02 AM

Persevere, but if he still hates don't bother. However I would take him to the pool and teach him yourself. It may save his life one day.

#16 RunDMC

Posted 28 February 2013 - 12:43 PM

My DS is 2.8 and having similar problems, loves the water but having trouble with the participation elements, crying, clingy, not wanting to be in the class - however not wanting to get out of the pool. Over the last 2 weeks randomly and on the way to the lessons we have:
Talked about the importance of listening to coach.
Talked through the structure of the lessons
Practiced the songs
Gone and watched our friend having her lesson - same age
Had another practice lesson on our own
Passed on pouring water on his head in the pool, but have practiced in the bath tub at home.


At this last lesson have we seen a 90 % improvement. He really enjoyed and participated in most of the class.

Edited by RunDMC, 28 February 2013 - 12:49 PM.


#17 paod

Posted 28 February 2013 - 12:49 PM

Its swimming lessons not hard labour. Knowing how to swim is IMO essential. I wouldn't be negotiating with a 3 yr old or it's the beginning of the end

#18 seayork2002

Posted 28 February 2013 - 01:06 PM

I do agree children should learn to swim BUT how is forcing the issue actually going to assist the child to learn to swim, if this was my child I would scrap the lessons (for a while) and start from scratch with starting in a small pool, getting him used to that then gradually working from there, getting him to get his head under water in the bath playing outside with a bucket of water and just getting him used to water being fun then maybe getting together with other children and going to the pool together to muck around then start the lessons again, ask your husband to pick up a book on brain surgery and force him to learn it (not the same thing I know but to me forcing a child or an adult to learn anything different does not actually achieve anything in the long run).

Then start the lessons again, either this or a lifelong fear of water like my FIL . I do not think we should ‘wimp out’ but forcing is the other extreme.


#19 seayork2002

Posted 28 February 2013 - 01:08 PM

Can I ask how you can successfully physically force a child to swim will actually suddenly allow their body to teach them to swim?

QUOTE (paod @ 28/02/2013, 01:49 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Its swimming lessons not hard labour. Knowing how to swim is IMO essential. I wouldn't be negotiating with a 3 yr old or it's the beginning of the end



#20 bjk76

Posted 28 February 2013 - 01:20 PM

I agree with PPs to take your DS swimming 'for fun' outside of lessons, just to get him used to the water. My DS (23mo) is a bit scared of the water, and would even refuse to sit in the bath for a long time. He now has showers, but has just started swimming lessons again (after doing one term at 6mo). We took him to the pool 3 or 4 times to play before he started lessons. Our pool has a big waterpark playground area with varying depths, jets of water shooting everywhere, bubbles, waterslides etc. He loves playing with all these things and after a bit was quite happy to walk in chest-deep (for him) water. When we started lessons again, he was pretty scared to be in the deep water and especially didn't like it when the instructor took him and put him under the water!

We are going to spend some more time outside of class playing around in deep water, and encouraging him to be 'brave'. He's a fairly anxious kid, so he understands what 'brave' means. We usually help him get over his fears of different things by getting him to do something to react to the fear. eg. He was scared of the noisy automatic garage door at Nanna's, so we got him to walk up to it (which was a big thing) and knock on it. Once he did it a couple of times, he would quite proudly show how brave he was afterwards. He's scared of spiderwebs, so he will now blow on them, and scared of the dark crack where curtains don't quite meet in the middle, so we kind of make a 'beeping' gesture with our hands and say 'bah bah!' in a funny voice at the crack, and now he's a lot happier! So, basically doing silly little things like that actually helps him a lot. Given your DS is a lot older than mine, you should be able to discuss his feelings and strategies for dealing with them, a lot more easily than I do with my DS. I'd try to be silly and make a game out of the things he is scared of, but don't spend too much time trying in one go, especially if he's really scared.

Good luck!

#21 Lishyfips

Posted 28 February 2013 - 01:27 PM

I don't think there is anything wrong with saying he's not ready for swimming lessons yet and waiting till he's older. We don't always need to apply adult logic to situations and impose them on our kids - stopping because he's not enjoying it will not teach him to be a quitter, and he will not miss out on a place on the swim team as a teenager because he didn't start lessons till he was four or five.

Swimming pools are noisy, often chaotic places; putting your face in the water isn't very nice; having water splashed in your eyes isn't nice either. And three year olds are so young! Why should you have to do something that scares you when you're that little? Doesn't seem fair when there are so many years ahead of you to learn.

My eldest daughter hated getting her face wet, being splashed, being at the pool. I tried lessons when she was pre-school but she wasn't ready. Gave it a break till she was older, now she LOVES it. It can seem like everyone has their kids in swimming lessons from age three but it's not the case - lots of kids stop and start early on and they still learn quickly when they're a little older and more co-ordinated.

#22 Mamaidh

Posted 28 February 2013 - 01:36 PM

Some ways that I know of that other parents have been successful with are taking the child for lots of fun swims between lessons so that the pool is seen as a good thing, not a bad thing.  Change of swimming teacher can do the trick, whether it be a personality the your child relates to better, or someone who can deal with his issues in a way that works for him.  And then some children have just done better when they go back at an older age (though with plenty of exposure to pools so that fear isn't there)


#23 liveworkplay

Posted 28 February 2013 - 01:50 PM

I disagree with a lot of posters here. I would not be forcing a 3 yr old into lessons. They will be much more confident and learn much more quickly when they want to do it. Take them to the pool and do some blowing bubbles, kicking/paddling and jumping in yourself. Water orientation is not that hard.

#24 Mumto1feral

Posted 28 February 2013 - 02:54 PM

Thanks for the replies so far. Some really good ideas - thank you. It's always good to know that we are not the only ones facing this challenge!
QUOTE (bebe12 @ 28/02/2013, 11:15 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
part of my decision making would take into account how many pools are in your DS environment. ie you have one or grandparents or you live near beach etc.  If your child is going to be at places where he needs swimming skills i would say take it at his pace but keep going. IYKWIM

If you aren't around water maybe delay.

No pools or beaches around here. I just thought now may have been a good time to start.

QUOTE (kristylee21 @ 28/02/2013, 11:22 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Could u try a group lesson where parents arint in the water? I know my daughter is much better now I'm not in the water and she copies what the other kids do.
DS can be clingy, so not sure this would work just yet. Even at story time at the library he sits on my knee and doesn't sit on the mat with the other children.

QUOTE (Domestic Goddess @ 28/02/2013, 11:25 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Hmmmm, how many kids are in the class?

It's a small class. 2-3 kids plus parents each week. But it's still a very busy area as its based at the local pool, so DS may also feeling overwhelmed.


Edit - typos!

Edited by Mumto1bub, 28 February 2013 - 02:59 PM.


#25 Lishyfips

Posted 28 February 2013 - 05:05 PM

The older my kids get the more I realise that I don't need to rush them into doing things. I know swimming needs to be learnt for safety, but three years old is so young and if they don't enjoy it, why push it. Especially as it's not just your son who won't enjoy it - you'll find it stressful taking him. Give yourselves a break! There are some unpleasant and stressful things in parenting you can't avoid (toilet training, sleepless nights etc) but you're not doing your son any harm if he doesn't have consistent swimming lessons from age three.

Good luck with your decision!




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