When to Push Your Young Swimmer

. . . and how to know if you’re pushing too hard

One of the great parenting decisions we all face at some point is when to push our kids and when to back off. For each child there is a different answer and for each family a different story. However, with a little help from some industry experts and your SwimWest instructor, you may not have to push too hard for your child to not only enjoy swimming and swim lessons but to excel at it for years to come.

When is it okay to push?

We all want what’s best for our children. But our idea of what is best for them might not always be what they want or what is really good for them at the time. Finding that delicate balance between encouraging and pushing too hard is never easy especially when it comes to learning an important life skill like swimming.

As we talked about in our blog post Conquering Anxiety in Your Young Swimmer pushing our kids a bit out of their comfort zone can be a good thing as long as it’s not too fast or too soon. We know that being able to tolerate a certain level of discomfort is a necessary life trait that everyone goes through as they grow up.

But when is it too much? According to a study for the National Alliance for Youth Sports 70% of children quit playing sports by age 13 because it isn’t fun anymore and a recent Swimming Science article reports that specializing too early increases the likelihood of burnout and maybe even giving up.

Know your child

The most important factor in knowing when and how much to push is thinking about your child’s personality.

Amy Horvath, one of our most experienced SwimWest Swim Instructors, says that parents should push as far as they feel comfortable based on what they know about their child. As an instructor, she’s learned that each child is different, and works with parents to find that balance.

“When a parent pushes too hard they usually get the exact opposite of what they are hoping for,” she said. “Instead of an excited and more proficient swimmer, they end up with a resistant non-swimmer.”

How to help

Pushing your child to do something doesn’t mean throwing them (metaphorically and literally speaking) into the deep end of a pool and hoping they swim. According to Amy, when a child is not provided with clear expectations, it is confusing and frustrating for them. They can feel like they are floundering, trying to figure out which direction to go since they have been given no guidance. This does not make for happy and confident swimmers.

Instead, there are ways parents can encourage their young swimmers to help ensure they feel successful during lessons.

  • Prep your child by sharing your expectations before their lesson
  • Pay attention during their lesson and let them know you notice
  • Reward positive behavior and choices
  • Get really excited for successes!

The love of water and water-based activities is a wonderful passion to nurture in your child. If you help them gain swim skills at a young age, they are far more likely to feel empowered and confident in not only swimming but in many other sports. Pushing your child to do their very best during swim lessons is the right thing to do – how hard and how often you push, is ultimately up to you but talk with your child’s swim instructor, and together, you’ll get the best possible results.

Swim Safe!