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Dealing with Bad Behavior in Swimming Lessons. Part 2

Dealing with Bad Behavior in Swimming Lessons. Part 2

Last time in Dealing with Bad Behavior in Swimming Lessons, we talked about how we should "Distinguish between bad behavior and fear"

This time I want to discuss how: Punishment Must be Pool Appropriate and Punishment Must Fit the Crime

Picture of a little girl in her swimming costume and goggles with the caption "Papa if you don't get these for our pool I won't come swim with you".  How Do You Deal With Bad Behaviour in swimming lessons.
How Do You Deal With Bad Behaviour?

It's A Pool Not A Playground

At some point all swim teachers have to acknowledge that discipline in a swimming class is not the same as outside the swimming pool.

For example: outside the swimming pool you may use a naughty corner as your primary discipline method of children.

If that were the case you would specify that a child of 4 years of age would spend 4 minutes in the corner for a punishable action or 5 minutes for a 5 year old etc.

When you have a half hour lesson trying to get a child to stay on the edge of the pool, even for three minutes for a 3 year old is like asking a bird not to fly: you are going to spend most of your lesson maintaining the discipline and not concentrating on the class.

The attraction of the water is so strong that the temptation to get in, is going to be overwhelming. Not to mention that your student's parent is at some time going to be disgruntled, especially if you have to repeat the discipline and if you have to ask the parent for help you loose your credibility.

Wait... Get Your Lesson Plans Here

Punishment Must Fit the Crime

In all my experience I have only ever come across two categories of misbehavior in a swimming call.

  1. Those that need the advice of the parent or guardian: Sick, cold, tired, hungry or have medically diagnosed issues. In this category are those who's behavior in the pool is beyond normal over enthusiastic play.
  2. Those that should be handled by Pool Appropriate responses: Anything that does not fall into needing advice from the parent or guardian.

1) Those That Need The Advice Of The Parent or Guardian

You or your supervisor should be taking the time to get to know the needs of any child in your class and the parent or guardian should feel comfortable to come to you about their child. If you have this relationship you will be able to circumvent 99% of all misbehavior problems in this category. Those that you can't may require a more considered approach.

Of course every swim teacher should get training on how to detect severe parental or guardian breaches and know how to handle them. Such training is well beyond this blog but I have no problems recommending training by kid power

However by far and away the best advice that you can get in the vast majority of cases on how to handle this type of misbehavior of a child, is from the parent. Being guided by them will mean that 99% of all your behavior problems in the pool should fall into "those that should be handled by Pool appropriate responses".

2) Those That Should Be Handled By Pool Appropriate Responses

Remember we are talking about genuine misbehavior here not children who are responding out of fear and it is important to pay attention to age of those you are teaching. Water is fun and children get carried away with that fun. It is imperative that you respond with that in mind and don't overreact. If you overreact you may damage your relationship with that child irreparably. Such damage will have a serious affect on your ability to teach and will only compound your behavior problems.

In other words all you are trying to do is curb over enthusiasm not rule with an iron fist. Therefore, in most cases fitting the punish to the crime is no more that making it pool appropriate.

Punishment Must be Pool Appropriate

With all this in mind personally I opt to only have a child out of the the water for 30 seconds at a time when I punish them form misbehavior. Thirty seconds is usually more than sufficient for the vast majority of misbehavior because the act of removing the swimmer from the pool is a big deal for them. The loss of face in front of their classmates and removing them from the fun and pleasure of the water usually have very sobering effects in themselves, given that you are removing the child from something they enjoy in front of their peers.

More than that it doesn't matter how old the child is, 30 seconds still works because of the draw of the water is usually so strong the children do not want to be out of it for any time at all.

The beauty of a 30 second removal from the pool is that it is repeatable and not only is it about 90% effective, with the possibility of it being done again it is a deterrent. Doing it repeatedly means that often the parents see this happening and they get involved: thus increasing the effectiveness to say 95% and avoiding the potential of the parent’s wrath because the child is not getting their lesson and the child is getting too cold.

Follow Through

Once you have established the rule however you must follow through. The best way to undermine discipline is to not follow through with what you say or to be inconsistent with your follow through. "Do what you say and say what you do" and never give more than two warnings if that (preferably only ever give one warning. It is water after all and the risks of poor behavior management in the pool are potentially and quite literally fatal).

Next time I want to alt about how:

Punishment must be age appropriate and that we should:

Praise Lots
Reward good behavior


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