Finbar thinks he is a much better swimmer than he actually is. The frustrating thing is that he could be, but he limits himself. Much like his twin brother, Max (Participant #32), he’s overconfident in his abilities, but once he panics, he goes from overconfident to zero confidence.
Fin moves very quickly through the water and I have to keep up with his fast pace. He’s smart and he’s cute, which is a dangerous combination during a swim lesson. Many instructors will give in to this and crumble when he bats his eyelashes and says he can’t do something by himself. He’ll swim for a bit, then confidently pick his head up for a breath and start talking. When his head comes up, his legs drop and he begins to sink, which causes him to lose total control. This is where a parent or instructor would pick Fin up so he doesn’t ‘get scared and drown.’ This is a crucial moment. Fin doubts himself and panics. His talking becomes screaming, then crying, then if I don’t ‘save him,’ a tantrum. Part of me wants to let him work it out, put his face down and get to the wall or to me by himself. Because I know he can. But the other part doesn’t want to see him suffer. I mean, he’s only three, right? I have to focus on each swimmer as an individual and be aware of boundaries- there’s really no set formula for teaching.
It comes down to him experiencing everything on his own. He has to try. And sometimes fail. My job is making sure the ‘failing’ part of the lesson is enough to make him respect the water, but not so much that he’s terrified of it. So, I let Fin try skills on his own. I ask him if he needs help and when he says, “No,” I stand back and watch. When he’s overconfident, I bring him back to reality by letting him have some healthy fear. Then I ask him once again if he needs help. When he succeeds, I go completely nuts, high-fiving and smiling and celebrating. And we build on the skills from there. Then when he asks if he can go in the inner tube, he earns that priviledge. It can be a slow process, but in the end, isn’t it worth it to know that your child is learning something that can save his life?
One of the many reasons I like and respect Maximo and Finbar’s parents is because they do continue swim lessons. Through ups, downs and plateaus, they keep the boys in classes, whether it’s with me or someone else. I see many parents get frustrated and overwhelmed, telling me they have to cut out some activities, so they’ll stop swimming and continue ballet, soccer and gymnastics. In my opinion, that’s not a wise decision. SWIMMING IS THE ONLY ACTIVITY THAT CAN SAVE A LIFE! Give your child and yourself that gift. ‘Tis the season 🙂