Why I pulled my kids out of swimming lessons

Swimming has always been part of my life. My dad was in the Indian Army so we had easy access to a wide variety of sporting facilities and there was always a swimming pool in the neighbourhood. Even with all that time in the water, I never had formal lessons. No one I knew did. And though I love to swim you’d probably be able to tell from my technique that I wasn’t taught properly.

When we moved to Calgary, my husband and I lived in a condo with a pool in the building. Swimming was a great way to escape the rotten Alberta weather and still get some physical activity.

The last few years living in Toronto with our two young daughters, and without such easy access to a pool, it had stopped being a part of our routine and we had to find other ways to be active.

But I wanted swimming to be a part of my kids’ lives the way it’s always been a part of mine. It was important to me that they learn the skills and the technique that I never did growing up, so I signed them up for swimming lessons.

My older one took to it immediately – she was 8 and already had a strong affinity for water. It was different for my younger one. Though she seemed to love being in the water as a toddler, she became a 4-year-old who refused to dip her toes in the pool.

That’s when I realized that sometimes classes aren’t enough. My little one didn’t like the water anymore because she associated it with something she had to do. A box that had to be checked off on Tuesday evenings.

I knew we had to change this, and fast. My hubby and I found a university club close by that had the facilities we needed, and so we decided that it was time to bring back family swim nights. I have to admit making the time is tough; my hubby works late and most evenings family swim at the pool is at 7 p.m., which is pretty late for the kids on a weeknight.

But my girls love their time in the water and the lifeguards give us tips on technique. I know it’s not the same as a class but I feel they’re still learning. More importantly, we had to take a step back to make it a positive association for my little one. We’ll return to lessons once she’s more comfortable, but when we do, those classes will just be one of many times she gets in the water.

In the meantime, my older one loves swimming laps, competing with her parents, and diving for her favourite torpedo. And my youngest has started to love the water again.

Swimming together as a family is one of the ways I’m upholding my parent promise to my kids, a promise that speaks directly to my soul. And it’s part of how I’m building a culture of movement in our family.

The lesson for me is clear. As parents we need to be role models for our kids, and the best way to encourage them to move their bodies and test their limits is to do it with them.

This may have begun as a way to get my little girl into the pool, but in the process we’re doing something together that makes our entire family happier and healthier. I can’t think of a better way to start a new year.

6 responses to “Why I pulled my kids out of swimming lessons

  1. It sounds like you made a great call deciding to go the less structured – but more family time – way for swimming with your kids.

    I find I go back and forth on lessons for my kids – 6 and 3. I’m a former instructor and competitive swimmer, so I love the water and swim with them a lot for fun. But I don’t want to become “the instructor”, because I want to focus on it being fun family time. And so I put them in lessons.

    But I find they hit walls with how fast they learn with lessons, so we take breaks. Example: I’m pretty sure my 3-year-old simply isn’t ready to star float on her back and more swimming lessons aren’t going to “fix” that. She’ll do it when she’s ready. Similarly, my 6-year-old needs more endurance before she moves on – and she can build that pretending to be a mermaid at open swim.

    I’ll put them back into lessons again in a bit for another hit of technique, but the focus right now is definitely to make sure they aren’t scared of the water, learn to play safely, and that they are having fun!

  2. Thanks for your encouragement, Jim. With the kids I feel some of the time the enjoyment comes automatically at classes and then others not so much. That’s when we need to bring the joy in, and hanging out as a family at the swimming pool late on a weeknight is one way to do that, I guess 🙂

  3. Hi Puneeta,
    I really like how you handled the swimming lessons situation with your kids. With any activity, lessons are great — as long as they aren’t terrifying for the child. Too often, parents and coaches will try to rationalize the situation, “Well, you need to keep going, even if it gives you nightmares when you go to sleep.” With kids, activities need to be fundamentally ENJOYABLE, otherwise we are turning them off activity for the rest of their lives. I’m sure your daughters will learn what they need to learn with tips from lifeguards, etc — my son and my daughters did the same. The key is that they learn to enjoy the water, and that they swim well enough to be safe, and this is definitely the case with my kids.
    – Jim Grove, Active for Life

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *