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Kids Swimming Lessons: Stubborn Children and Back Floats

Kids Swimming Lessons: The Stubborn Child

Not every instance of screaming children in your kid's Swimming Lessons is one of Frightened, Screaming Children.

Wait... Get Your Lesson Plans Here

Sometimes you have to know how to handle The Stubborn Child.

I am diametrically opposed to forcing children to do swimming lessons. Previously I have written a whole series on it (linked above) and talked about a variety of techniques to deal with it.

I talk about one technique where I will just walk up and down with the child comforting them for as long as it takes. But I am only ever likely to do that in a drastic instance where for example; the parent has insisted I take the child or even handed them to me and walked off; both as an act of last resort and enormous trust of me. These are cases were, as one teacher described it to me: "they ain't going to cry anymore"(than they already are).

Image of a female teach and child in the water with the child coming out of the water crying: This article is about Kids Swimming Lessons
Some Times You Have To Press The Issue

Pressing The Issue

Sometimes however a teacher does need to press the issue with a child and I am not against that but the teacher has to be very comfortable with a child laying on their back screaming at you and be sure that you are not hurting or making the child fearful or setting the child back in any way. You have to be detached and confident in what you are doing to do this.

Let me be clear here, I am not talking about a child that is new to the water and is terrified. I am talking about dealing with a child the is mealy being stubborn.

I know of no way to teach this except to say, consult with the parent. Unfortunately, the parent isn't always correct in their assessment and the only other alternative is a good professional Kids Swimming Lessons team of experienced swim teachers to help you.

Even with all that, you are better off taking a long time and using every skill you have to talk the child into doing what they need to do.

Having said that and provided that you are convinced that there is no other avenue left to you; other than giving up, here are some ways that I have found work for getting a stubborn child to lay on their back.

Getting their ears wet or laying on their back for instance.

Be absolutely sure the is no medical condition that would be exacerbated by them getting their ears (or whatever skill you are trying to teach) wet.

Be absolutely sure the parent is OK with this. A parent to hands you their child and says: "here, you do it" is a pretty good signal that the parent is OK with it but you still have to watch the parent to make sure they are not stressed.

I am talking here about when you have tried for several weeks using all the techniques you know to convince the child that they need to get their ears wet but without success.

If you are at that point you need to be prepared for a very gradual, minor step by minor step, approach.
    For example:
  • Step 1: wet the back of the child's ears
  • Step 2: a single drop in the child's ear
  • Step 3: a single drop of water in each ear (Do Not Tilt Their Head you do not want the water to go in their ear hole)
  • Step 4: gently lay the child back on your shoulder
  • Step 5: gently lay the child back on your shoulder until the child's ears tough the water
  • Step 6: gently lay the child back on your shoulder until the child's ears are in the water
  • Step 7: move the child away from your shoulder
  • Step 8: move the child further away from your shoulder
  • Step 9: move the child even further away from your shoulder
  • Step 10: full float
At each step, the child may choose to scream in your ear. You have to be prepared for this. You have to be detached and confident. In fact, it may not be you that is able to do it. It may be the parent. But more often than not I find that it is the teacher that is detached enough to be able to put up with it.

Each step will only be momentary and the child has to be comforted and made calm immediately after. It must NOT be prolonged. And you Must not continue to the next step until the child is comfortable with the step you are up to.

Note how very gradual the steps are. You may find that you have to repeat each step over and over until the child is comfortable with it or you may find that after the first lesson with the first step everything is fine the rest of the way. But you must not go beyond the point where the child becomes resistant. You should only continue if there does appear to be some progress (i.e. if the child is calm when you repeat the step you are up to.


Stop! if the child gives the impression they are becoming fearful.

If a teacher or parent is not comfortable with any of this they should not force the issue with a child. Your approach needs to be long term by finding the thing the child will co-operate with and building on that. The one thing you can't do is leave a child near water unsupervised no matter how comfortable they are in it.


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