My Darling 6yo Daughter has been doing swimming lessons for the past three years. Her Little Brother didn’t take formal lessons, but I was allowed to get in the water with him and we would splash around. It’s been a good experience. Last year they were both in classes and excelling amongst their peers. They were having fun, we were proud of them and obviously we are amazing parents, tight?
Oh how do the proud fall so far from those lofty dreams? At 4 and 6 years old, they can bathe, get themselves dressed, and even do some chores – they are practically ready to step into the adult world of responsibility. In fact, they are so close, I merely need to hover over them for encouragment and support.
My Wonderful Wife took them swimming on Monday – it didn’t go well. My perfect, obedient, self-motivated children didn’t want to swim. It clearly was mutiny spilling over from the OccupyWallStreet protest spreading global. Of course that’s one theory – the other thought is that they are tired, scared, and cold.
“After about 10 minutes of this, we were still in the same geographic perimeter where we started…”
So when I heard about opening day jitters, meltdowns, and failures – I knew I was going to have step in as Captain Hammer. So, after sizing up my opponents, I decided to go after the small, shy one first. This may have been a mistake because Darling Daughter is a strong leader and whatever she says, Smiling Son usually does – mostly because he’s afraid of getting whacked up side the head. On the other hand, there isn’t anything like a pitiful crying little brother to send super big sister into the fray.
I have some tricks up my sleeve:
- If I use love, tenderness, and compassion I have three potential outcomes. First, I’m most likely be seen as a wimpy Dad with no
ballscourage. I’ll urge, I’ll seek first to understand, and I’ll ask for kisses and hugs. Meanwhile the kids will ignore me, cry, whine, and generally escalate this charade to a point of no return. (For the record, I only started offering cookies, but the next thing I knew, those little rug rats had convinced me to buy ice cream and pizza too.)
- I scored some points with the tenderness track, but geographically, we were still far from the water. At that point, if you’d been standing next to me, you would have heard a mechanical sound – a little like when the Rifeleman cocked his rifle. I now urged, coaxed, and demanded. After about 10 minutes of this, we were still in the same geographic perimeter where we started.
- I sent Smiling Son to a short time out. Because of this great cloud of witnesses (all of the opposite gender I might add), I moved slowly and compassionately. Not that I wouldn’t anyway – but I was very aware of the scrutiny.
” I scooped him up and told him I loved him…”
- After the timeout, he wouldn’t look at me, nor approach me. I scooped him up and told him I loved him – over and over – I told him of my love for him, 0ver and over. Accompanied with hugs, squeezes, and kisses! I put the task out of my mind and focused solely on my Smiling Son’s need to be loved – “all the way to the Moon and back.“
- And finally with a little reminding of the cookies, ice cream, and pizza – and lots and lots of encouragement – he got in the water!
I wonder if these steps – or principles could work all the time?
Am I destinied to be a “Helicopter Parent?” How do you get your kids to do things they should, but are not a matter of life and death?
I mean, if it was about chores, safety, or simple obedience it would be another story. But swimming (soccer, dance, party games, etc) is supposed to be fun. We don’t want our kids to miss out on the opportunity, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they did. In this case, long-term, my kids need to know how to swim, but does it have to be today – this month? Or even this year?
“I mean, if it was about chores, safety, or simple obedience it would be another story. ..”
And yet, on the other-hand, sometimes they just have to do it, even if they don’t want to. Where is the line – and what point do I push, when do I back off, when do I beg, and when do I just give up, go home, and plop down in from of a flickering blue screen?
How do you do this?