2 YO swimming lessons - is it the case you have to be cruel to be kind with forcing her underwater?

(54 Posts)
Reastie Mon 10-Jun-13 18:06:43

Any advice on this?

DD is nearly 2.5. We have been doing swimming lessons for several months. She has always hated going underwater or getting her face wet. She's gone through a couple of phases where she has screamed through the whole lesson pretty much and it's directly related to fear of going underwater and she chokes every time she goes underwater and has cried afterwards. She seems to slowly build up confidence again whilst I don't put her underwater but then as soon as she thinks I might she goes back to square one with being scared and crying through the lessons.

I'm feeling like an awful mother about this. My gut instinct is to not put her under the water at all and keep her happy and build her confidence and in time she'll learn to swim, and if she never likes putting her head under water then it doesn't matter, she'll just swim doggy paddle forever more. She won't win swimming galas but then who cares about that... However, my swimming teacher is strongly of the position that I need to be cruel to be kind and in the long run it's the best thing for her just forcing her in as it will make her a more confident swimmer in the long term and by me saying no to her going underwater I'm stifling her progress and ability.

Bestseller Mon 10-Jun-13 18:09:55

Really, you want advice?

I'd stop wasting your money. Keep taking her swimming to she's used to the water and you can have fun and exercise together, then try again after she's started school.

Pre-school swimming lessons with DS1 were torture, in the end I gave up, but should have done much sooner. He started formal lessons again about a term after he started school and within a few weeks had caught up with his peers.

boysrock Mon 10-Jun-13 18:12:44

I would listen to your instincts. Ds is quite a bit older than your dd and has recently been coerced into doing something he wasn't comfortable with- jumping in at the deep end and not a confident swimmer by any means. He now hatws swimming lessons and refuses to go back.

Fwiw I dont see how inducing panic and choking is going to help with confidence. Surely a bit more confidence first would help? Maybe its just me being too soft. [Confused]

TheYamiOfYawn Mon 10-Jun-13 18:12:51

my kid's preschool swimming teacher would not, under ant circumstances, make a child go underwater without their permission. I'd stop those classes and go swimming together, or fu.d a class with a teacher who respects your child a bit more.

RalphGnu Mon 10-Jun-13 18:12:51

Oh, please don't force her underwater, not a little 2 year old. Well, not any child of any age. This was done to me as a child by a sadistic swimming teacher at school and it made me absolutely terrified of water for many years. Follow your instincts. The swimming teacher sounds like a dick.

ilovepowerhoop Mon 10-Jun-13 18:15:35

I'd stop lessons and start again when she is a bit older. Neither of mine did lessons until they were 4years old. In the meantime go to the pool as a family and play and do splashing, etc and build up her confidence. Dont force her to do anything she isnt ready for and isnt happy doing as that will be counter-productive. She doesnt need to swim at 2½ years old and there is plenty of time for her to learn and progress at her own pace.

peeriebear Mon 10-Jun-13 18:15:50

I don't like getting my face wet and I can swim, but not underwater. If somebody forced me underwater I would probably beat the tar out of them. Please don't listen to the teacher!

CMOTDibbler Mon 10-Jun-13 18:17:24

Stop the lessons, and take her to pools where she can play in the water and do things at her own pace. Shes only 2.5, and imo theres no need for her to go underwater at all

intheshed Mon 10-Jun-13 18:21:38

No please don't! I am very dubious of all these baby/preschool lessons that involve lots of underwater swimming. I did Waterbabies with DD1 and none of the babies seemed to enjoy the underwater aspect of it, then DD just kept getting recurrent ear infections. We stopped and now she is 5 and has just started having 'proper' lessons again and is doing really well, including going underwater.

With DD2 we just take her to the pool regularly and let her build up her confidence naturally.

Aranea Mon 10-Jun-13 18:22:15

The teacher sounds awful. The advice I was given by my DC's swimming teacher (which worked) was to practice getting the face wet in the bath, and then get them to practice putting their face in the bath to pick up spoons. Maybe with a star chart. I think forcing the issue is a horrible and self-defeating idea.

Aranea Mon 10-Jun-13 18:24:11

But in fact, thinking about it further, if I were you I'd back right off it for a few months until she forgets what a huge issue it is for her, and then try in a much gentler way.

tacal Mon 10-Jun-13 18:27:14

I stopped lessons and started taking ds to the local pool where he is relaxed and has fun. He is getting on much better learning things at his own pace. I am going to do the same as bestseller and start lessons again once ds is at school. I would say follow your instincts.

ShipwreckedAndComatose Mon 10-Jun-13 18:29:22

I'd stop it too. You can start lessons again in 18 months time. This sounds like its just going to give you the opposite effect of putting her off

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Mon 10-Jun-13 18:32:04

Your swimming teacher is wrong and if it is forced you will almost certainly end up with an adult who hates swimming and getting her face wet.

Just because she hates it now, at 2.5 doesn't mean that tackled gently and in her own time that she will always be that way. I had a small girl who went through a period of being absolutely terrified of swimming despite the fact that she had been since she was a tiny baby. We backed off, we still went to the pool but allowed her time and space to overcome her fears. Today that child still represents her county at swimming (she's now 23).

Lavenderloves Mon 10-Jun-13 18:32:46

Stop it! Goodness me, would you force her up the highest climbing frame whilst she was crying?

These classes are so expensive, you can do just as much in your local pool and have fun. She will never love it if you force her.

Reastie Mon 10-Jun-13 18:34:06

Thanks. I should say the teacher is lovely and kind and not a meanie at all but we seem to have differing opinions on this. I said if it were me going under the water in her situ I'd hate it too and she said that's different as I'm an adult and I think differently and children need to do things they don't like if it's good for them (she said all this in a nice way but I'm still confused ). I said I ask DD every week if she's going to go under water and want to respect that if she says no then she doesn't have to but teacher argued that she shouldn't have the choice in this. I'm nervous of putting her off forever and giving her a 'thing' about it.

DD otherwise when she knows she won't go underwater and trusts me has a fab time splashing around. She has a friend at the class and has a great time playing with her afterwards.

The teacher will always ask me before putting DD under the water and does respect it when I say no, but I do feel like I'm being talked/pressured a bit into saying yes and that I'm a bad mother for saying no (that's probably me being over sensitive though). I initially went along with her tactic as I assumed she was the professional so knew more than me about these things but it's so heart breaking and we have seen no progress from putting her underwater so far. Maybe that's because we haven't done it enough or maybe it's not the best thing for DD. I don't know if I've got it in me to keep trying though.

FWIW there isn't lots of underwater swimming like some classes, but the lessons do involve jumping in the water (so going underwater) and being dunked completely underwater and similar as part of some of the activities. It's all done in a toddlery way with fun songs etc.

aranea she has said to get DD with her head underwater in the bath and encouraging splashing etc in the bath, which we do and DD is much happier with as she can feel the bottom as it's shallow so feels safe. I love the picking up spoons with the mouth idea - might try that tomorrow smile

Thanks for the comments. I'm probably painting the lovely teacher out to be worse than she is, but in the regard of putting DD underwater she is convinced about her method. It's nice to know I'm not making a fuss of nothing and not the only person to feel like this though.

RussiansOnTheSpree Mon 10-Jun-13 18:34:28

2.5 is not the right age to do the underwater stuff. If you don't start before 6 months, you are best to wait until they are 4 or so, really.

With DD1 and DS, we started taking them to the pool as soon as they had had their jabs but we did the traditional floaty seat, floats, woggles thing, and then they learned to swim at about 4, they only had lessons once they could swim. With DD2, on the other hand, we did the chucking in the water at 12 weeks thing. And it was amazing, she swam right away and has never stopped. And she does adore the water, but if you looked at her now, at age 9, she isn't any better in the water than the other two were at her age. She is great, but so were they. The difference is, it made life easier for the family as a whole to have her swimming right from the start and not having to go through all that 'learn to swim' stuff when she was 4 - it wouldn't have gone down well with the other two. But that is the only difference.

Reastie Mon 10-Jun-13 18:35:08

hell well done your DD on the swimming smile

Stop the lessons! She is two, and she is not having fun. There is no other reason to do swimming lessons with a 2yo.

My elder two children started lessons at 3 and 5 respectively. They both got safe at swimming (as in, get themselves out of deep water if they fell in) at 7ish. And swimming properly at 8. I wish I hadn't bothered with lessons till they where 6! Ds2 is starting now at 5.5 cos he is desperate to be like his siblings - but he is doing the lessons cos he loves it. If he didn't, I'd wait longer.

Wait a bit and then take her to a pool that has a toddler pool she can stand in, take toys, have lots of fun. She may yet be winning swimming galas when she's 8!

I agree with Russians -- either start underwater as a baby or wait until later. Focus on enjoying "swimming"/having fun in the pool for now and then at four or five she'll almost certainly have no problem with being taught to put her face underwater.

hellhasnofurylikeahungrywoman Mon 10-Jun-13 18:43:14

I'd stop even asking her. It isn't going to happen yet so there isn't any point in my mind in setting that anxiety in her head every week. With good, fun swimming sessions/lessons you'll probably find that it happens naturally when your DD is ready, be it by jumping in or wanting to fetch a toy off the bottom like her friends.

chartreuse Mon 10-Jun-13 18:47:54

No! Please don't. At 2.5 you could put her off swimming for life. She can have fun in the water at her age and has the rest of her life to learn to swim.

yetanotherworry Mon 10-Jun-13 19:03:45

She shouldn't be choking. Do you blow in her face before submerging her? This encourages her to take a deep breath and close her mouth. I think if she has got to the point where she is terrified, you now need to take a step back. Is she happy getting water on her face in the bath? What happens if she its on the side of the pool and jumps in?

anchovies Mon 10-Jun-13 19:10:10

I would just take her swimming for fun, playing games and singing songs. Really build up her confidence. Does she like the shower? We were always quite haphazard about washing hair making sure faces get wet and it transferred to swimming smile

I'd stop taking her for these 'lessons' and just find a mum and baby/toddler swim session at a public pool.

We went to these with my children from about 6 weeks old, they just had fun, splashed about, then when they started proper lessons at 4 years old, they were confident in the water.

I learned to swim at 6 and spent all my life swimming with my face under water till I did an adult improver course at age 32!

Sorry that was meant to say I swam with my face

OUT OF the water

until I was 32.

SkiBumMum Mon 10-Jun-13 19:25:15

Babies have a reflex to "swim" underwater. I think they lose this quite young. My DDs can both "swim" underwater from £££££ years of Waterbabies (which we loved) but dd1 despite being a mermaid in disguise (apparently) isn't swimming on the surface any better really than her 4yo peers. I agree - just have fun.

Reastie Mon 10-Jun-13 20:53:53

yet yes we teach them to blow bubbles when going under water, and DD practices the bubbles (and we do it at home in the bath too) but when she actually goes underwater even when she knows it's going to happen and I've prepared her to blow bubbles she can't work it out/gets flustered/isn't able to understand enough to do it and so chokes.

anchovies she enjoys the lesson (which has lots of fun songs etc) aside from the worry of going under water. When she's confident she won't be going under the water she has a great time, if she thinks she might go under water (even if I tell her she won't if she's recently been underwater and lost confidence) she's like another child - crying and screaming and looks terrified and even appears to shake at points.

Nigglenaggle Sat 20-Jul-13 21:25:30

Found a really nice blog on this here


No dunking involved!! We just go to the pool once a week and watch DC gain in confidence smile Think it's hard to learn to swim if you are panicking

cory Mon 22-Jul-13 19:01:17

Totally water-addicted family here: every member of my extended family for 4 generations have spent their summers on an island with beaches all round, we all swim like seals and dive for pleasure- and I have never heard of forcing a 2yo underwater.

It doesn't achieve anything, it is not needed for anything, it won't make any difference to her swimming abilities when she is older. It's all about satisfying your swimming teacher's control freak tendencies. Don't do it. Let water be for having fun in.

lljkk Mon 22-Jul-13 19:10:19

DD was a coward about face going into water until she was nearly 6yo. I can't imagine how badly she would have taken it if forced.
She's 11 now & swims like a fish, has done for many years.
Find a different sort of teacher.

VerySmallSqueak Mon 22-Jul-13 19:15:41

Speaking as a qualified swimming teacher here - no way would I force a child to go underwater if they were so scared.
Nothing more to add really!

gintastic Mon 22-Jul-13 19:30:09

My DS is 3.5 and we have had exactly this. His swimming teacher said NO WAY to forcing him under and that he would learn in his own time, we just had fun in the lessons :-) he also hated having his hair washed, I ended up having to wrap him in a towel like you would a cat to get his hair washed when absolutely necessary shock. So we just persevered with playing - 2 weeks ago he suddenly 'got' the trick of closing his mouth and nose to stop the water getting in. Tonight he washed his own hair, poured water over his head and everything. It was bizarre to see when 3 weeks ago I was having to hold him down to wash his hair (he'd been sick so totally necessary). We had swimming this afternoon and he put his face into the water - since he turned 3 he's been in lessons without me in the pool.

Just keep the water fun and she will learn. And if she doesn't - well I guess she doesn't, does it really matter?

awwwwmannnn Tue 23-Jul-13 13:46:25

to be fair the teacher sounds like a right twat....i understand what she is saying, but she must also realise that scaring a child of something at this age can have such a detrimental effect on them!!

i take my DD who's 2.6 to the leisure centre every week for swimming - not through organised lessons or anything, just her me and DH and we have fun - at this age i just don't want her to be scared of water and to have fun in it. in our leisure centre the pool is like a beach so she walks in on her own and takes it all at her own pace....lately she has been venturing out further and will now quite happily go down the teeny slide into a shallow bit of water knowing her face will get wet but she loves it.

when she's older i'll take her for proper swimming lessons then - i don't want her to be an olympic swimmer or anything, just be able to hold her own if she ever fell in water.

stop going to the lessons for now but carry on taking her to the pool for fun - as time and her confidence grows she'll get braver and will be happy to try new stuff, including going underwater x

BornToFolk Tue 23-Jul-13 14:02:31

If she really enjoys the lessons, I'd carry on but have a firm word with the teacher and say that you've given it some thought and decided that, for the time being, you will not be putting your DD under the water.

DS had weekly swimming lessons from when he was tiny to about 3.5. His confidence was fine but he was never too keen on going under the water. We stopped at 3.5 as I had to go back to work but started again when he was 5 with after school lessons when he goes in by himself. He's had a couple of terms of those and his confidence has sky-rocketed. He's got no problem going underwater now, in fact he loves it!

Your DD will probably get it if she's given the opportunity to do it in her own time.

Fairylea Tue 23-Jul-13 14:06:42

Stop the lessons. It's being cruel if she hates it that much. There is plenty of time to learn to swim.

MoelFammau Tue 23-Jul-13 17:52:14

'She won't win swimming galas'???

Bloody hell, she's 2.5! Why force misery on a 2.5 year old? Or anyone else for that matter. You wouldn't like to be so small and vulnerable and terrified your beloved mother is going to dunk you underwater, would you?

I was dunked underwater. I was pushed in. My mother made swimming a misery. I hate swimming, absolutely loathe it. Never go near a pool. THAT is the result of turning swimming into a horrible experience. If it's important to you that she likes the water, let her enjoy it for heavens sake.

Sorry if I'm sounding harsh but really, I cannot for the life of me grasp the logic of parents who think 'life skills' such as swimming must be obtained regardless of how the child feels. They have YEARS to learn this stuff.


Nigglenaggle Tue 23-Jul-13 21:11:11

Really I see the main point of swimming lessons as teaching your child how not to drown. You can teach them a pretty good grasp of this without the face going under I think

DD is 6, has been doing lessons for 6 months, can now swim. I really don't think they need lessons at your DDs age.

DS was properly phobic of water. We didn't take himfor a year, left it till he was 3, then took him to a local pool, kids pool with wide steps. Gave him a toy watering can and let him sit on the steps and take it at his own pace. It took a while but he loves it now.

Good luck!

maja00 Tue 23-Jul-13 21:15:24

How ridiculous. Why does a 2 year old need to go under water? She's not going to be able to learn to actually swim til 4ish, so she should just enjoy splashing around in the water now.

I am a swimming teacher specializing in teaching pre schoolers (from 6 months to 5 years) to swim. Your post makes my blood run cold and I would start running from your swimming teacher and not stop. No child should ever go under water unwillingly. Please don't send your child to another lesson with this teacher woman. Long standing fear of water may result.

The twos are an age where fear of water is common and we use many many methods to help children gain confidence and overcome that. I live in a hot country where pools are everywhere, swimming young is the norm and most kids swim every day so its important to learn water safety and swimming from a young age.

I have helped children through this successfully, it can take months and progress isn't regular or linear but it works. We start by washing faces in the pool, putting our chins in, blowing bubbles, submerging up to our noses, dunking our ears to see if we can hear underwater, singing with our lips in the water, hundreds of little games with fun and encouragement. I even took an empty ice cream tub to one lesson with a fearful 3 year old, we had a chat about her favourite ice cream, what it felt like and tasted like before we filled the tub with water from the pool and touched it, played with it, imagined it was ice cream and eventually put our mouths in it to blow bubbles etc. it's a really long road but its built with small baby steps over hours of lessons sometimes. 6 months later, that 3 year old was diving and swimming 3 strokes, all with her face in the water.

It isn't necessary to swim with your face in the water but 2 year olds don't have the neck muscles to swim with their faces out of the water yet so most little ones are taught to swim face in, then lift head to breathe around 3 years old and beyond.

Please cancel all future lessons and let your dd enjoy water with her face out of the water for a long time before even attempting another lesson. If it were me, I would be reporting the teacher to her qualifying body too.

I must say that my dd2 and most kids I know who were born where we live were swimming independently by age 2 1/2 so swimming before 4 is possible and the norm here. Swimming is as natural as going to the park after school and every house has a pool, many are unfenced. Learning to swim here is as natural as learning to walk or ride a bike. However I appreciate that in the uk where swimming is less frequent and water hazards are less frequent, it's not as vital to learn to swim early on.

Regardless of age and location, water should be respected and enjoyed safely.

cjel Tue 23-Jul-13 21:47:57

i have never heard of forcing a baby to do this. I have lifeguard son who manages pools and is a swimming teacher, a dil swimming teacher and dd and niece who are trained to teach babies and under 7s.

Not only would I stop paying this person I would question her qualification and make a complaint to the pool or organisation she works for.

Skimty Tue 23-Jul-13 23:12:05

I had this a few months ago with a cover teacher (DS2 is 2,9) and she was telling me quite firmly that he had to go under the water. I was confident enough because he was my third it point out to her that I had never forced the other two and they were swimming well by the time they started school. Then, last week he decided to disappear himself and can now swim a few strokes, I honestly believe if I had forced him under water then he wouldn't be doing that now.
Also, with regards to swimming galas, DS1 was a lot slower to have swimming confidence but as a result listened and concentrated rather than messing around and diving under water and is now a very good swimmer.

DollyTwat Tue 23-Jul-13 23:18:17

My friend teaches adults who are afraid of the water. It's caused by people like this teacher
Just have fun with her - don't force her to do anything op

VegPatchLurker Tue 23-Jul-13 23:23:06

Teacher is wrong - no child should be forced to do this and it is a good way to put her off swimming for life.

Leave it a bit, take her to a shallow learners' pool and let her get confident at her own pace (if swimming hasn't been ruined forever for her already).

My DTs (3 1/2 now) learnt to swim at a learner pool over this winter - lots of visits, got some dive sticks and goggles - they love it and hey presto can swim a width no problems.

blueberryupsidedown Wed 24-Jul-13 11:50:08

I've got to get something off my chest. I went to the swimming pool last week and there was a mum with an 18 mo todder, the toddler could speak a bit, and the mum kept on insisting that she will put her head under water. I could see that the mum was very friendly and nice but your child keeps on saying NO and was getting upset and crying. I just wanted to say please please don't put her head under water! I have two boys, one who is a daulphin and has always loved putting his head under water, and the other one who didn't do it until he was 6 and about a year of lessons. They are now 7 and 8 and can swim really well. I think that forcing a child do put head under water is not productive, she might become even more scared (and stubborn!).

gourd Thu 25-Jul-13 12:02:39

We tried baby swim sessions at vast cost (£10 session in heated to 36-37 oC special (tiny) hydrotherapy pool), where they went under water etc from about 12 weeks old and LO always hated it. We stopped at end of the 10 week course as she clearly hated it and it had cost us £100. She has never enjoyed swimming really - we desperately wanted her to as we are both swimmers and I swam early on, and think it is a useful skill, but it never worked for our child. Have taken her a few times since then on and off over the last few years (she is almost 3 now) and she is still not keen. I would suggest paddling pool//baby pool and splashing with lots of toys etc just for fun. This ours will do for limited time - she gets more out of it if there are lots of other kids there also doing the same, and she seems to enjoy it more but she is still not mad keen (just about tolerates half hour of fun with inflatables etc and it costs me £4.50 as I pay for me even though I am not swimming!) so we don’t go very often as I’d rather spend my one day off a week with her doing something she actually enjoys. I asked people whose kids have supposedly been "swimming “ since they were babies, and at vast expense too, and it turns out that they don’t actually begin to swim lengths by themselves till around school age anyway. Simply aren’t capable physically of doing more than splashing about/floating till then it seems, so can’t see any benefit if they are not enjoying it, might as well wait till school.. I went to “toddler” groups with my mum but didn’t really swim till school age yet then swam at various clubs and at junior league level and am still a strong swimmer today…
I think the mistake we made was to assume that one size fits all. Waterbabies-type sessions whey they start very young (few weeks old) and go under water straight away etc just don’t work for everyone.

mumeeee Thu 25-Jul-13 19:33:07

Just seen this. No way should a child of any age be forced under water, This happend to my DH at school. It frightened him and put him completely off swimming. He. didn't learn to swim until he was 40. He's now 53 and still doesn't like getting his face wet.smile

hamab Thu 25-Jul-13 20:59:29

Our swimming teacher used to do this. And it made me really uncomfortable. So I found a new place with different teachers and they seem to have a whole different method and ethos which I much prefer. I'd try a different swim school.

PoppyWearer Thu 25-Jul-13 21:04:03

We stopped lessons for DC1 around 2yo as she started to be scared of the water due to the continual forced dunking.

Now slowly resuming (she has just finished Reception year at school) but the fear is still there.

We have done lots of fun swimming in the meantime but I am so angry about our decision to follow the previous lessons. We spent a fortune.

Amiee Fri 26-Jul-13 15:31:47

My daughter hated it too.
We encouraged her to blow bubbles in the bath by putting her face under water and she will do it now.
I agree with the general consensus. Don't water-board an unwilling toddler.

To be honest I really don't get why you would do this. Yes, children need to learn to swim, but at 2??? We have our own swimming pool, but none of my three learnt to swim until about 4 and a half. Before that they wore arm bands and enjoyed every minute of freely zooming around the pool (with head firmly above water!). At 4 ish they developed enough confidence to swim - and wanted to. DS (now 4.3) just learnt about 3 weeks ago and within a week of being arm band free was swimming like a little fish, diving down to pick up sinkers from the bottom of the pool. Let her be, let her enjoy the water, there is plenty of time to learn.

TheBakeryQueen Sat 27-Jul-13 20:04:00

You do not have to be cruel to be kind, no.

What you have described is very obviously cruel.

Like a previous poster mentioned 'water boarding', what you have described is not unlike water torture.

Obviously the teacher has made you doubt your instincts.

Trust your instincts on this one, and don't continue to do something to a child, which a) isn't necessary and b) is making her shake with fear. hmm

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now