Do Parents Push Their Children to Learn to Swim Faster?

Swim school owners and swimming instructors are familiar with the parent who wants his/her child to progress faster. She pushes the child to do things before he is ready. The child gets frustrated. The instructor gets frustrated. The parent is frustrated.

What to do?

Ask the parent if she is a swimmer. To get the answer, you wouldn't ask like that, however.  You might ask this way: M'am, let's talk about Johnny's progress. If you were in the middle of the deep end of the pool right now, would you be comfortable? She looks dismayed and says no.

Now you know: Mother cannot swim: Mother does not understand the process of learning to swim. This is why she is pushing her son.

You say, "Johnny is doing really well. He's made very good progress since he began. When he learned to walk, did you push him to run before he was stable on his feet?" Mother says no, of course not. You say, "In the same way, we cannot ask him to learn faster than he's learning. Nothing is missing from his process. By the way, do you have a deadline you're concerned with....?"

Parents who have a misguided approach to kids' lessons are in pain. They would rather be informed. You can help -- and it's your job to help.  We start kids' lessons by educating parents before Day 1. If they understand, they make Johnny's lessons easier on Johnny and on our swim school. And, they make Instructor's outlook toward Johnny and Mother much more positive.

Then: ask if Mother would feel safer if she knew how to be at ease in the middle of the deep end. "Yes, but..." (she will say). Now you have an opportunity to register another client. AND you have an opportunity to make her family safer.

1. Enlist parents' help in Johnny's LTS process by educating them.

2. Discover the swimming ability of the family so that you can help all members who aren't safe yet.

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Comment by Melon Dash on April 22, 2012 at 2:34pm


So glad to hear someone else say that! I think you're outing a certain system here and I agree, they need to be called on this if water safety and ending drowning are to be served.

Comment by Reciprocity on April 21, 2012 at 9:12am

Parents need to understand that most club coaches care little about 'water safety' and are primarily there to MAKE MONEY at the expense of LTS programs whose goals are to SAVE LIVES.  They operate under the mistaken impression that somebody else is teaching water safety to their kids and that competitive skills are the same as life-saving skills.  Most of the competitive kids I see (hundreds per week) have a very difficult time following rules and are paralyzed with fright if their precious goggles get left at home.  In fact, most of the lifeguard training and WSI participants that struggle are competitive swimmers because the only swimming skills they possess were taught by someone who wants them to win a race and pay them monthly dues... not necessarily in that order.  Why would they ever bother with the survival float and the gliding strokes that can save a person's life?  Or for supporting the lifeguards with water safety goals?

Comment by Melon Dash on April 13, 2012 at 7:50am

I like that idea, Lisa. Thanks.

Comment by Lisa Phillips on April 12, 2012 at 6:37am

A good practice is to have the instructor tell the parents at the first lesson that during each lesson they will demonstrate a specific skill that they want them to practice in the pool before the next lesson. Then each lesson verbally remind the parents, here is the skill you are going to work on next. This will result in additional use and revenue for your facility while helping the child to develop his skills. A little more difficult to do this when lessons are held on back to back days, but works very well for lessons held once or twice a week.

Comment by Melon Dash on March 31, 2012 at 6:41am

Exactly, Joe!

I'd love to see your idea in the swim schools: swim schools  in the business of teaching parents how to play with their kids in the pool. Another paradigm shift.



Comment by Joe Andrews on March 30, 2012 at 10:55pm

Nice post. I take your walking to running example and add that running is essentially fast walking (yes I know there are some differences in tempo, stride, etc.) but it is similar. We practice walking a lot from the time we can start walking. How much of our days are spent in the pool? Especially for the kids that are in your Learn-To-Swim Class, especially the ones with the pushy parent who took them from school to music lessons to their other sport and then finally to the pool for lessons before they go to their final activity before heading home. It is an instant gratification issue. If those sort of parents only got that little Johnny may be not showing a ton of progress right now, he will likely make huge improvements at some point soon when stuff just clicks if they stick with it. 

These are typically the parents that need to just get in the pool and play with their kids outside of lessons. I am convinced the best thing a parent can do to support a good lesson program (and developmental swim team kids) is just take their kids to the pool and play with them, WITHOUT pushing swimming skills but praising when the kids do the right skills.  It is spending more time "walking and crawling" before we worry about having them run.

Keep it fun!

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