Friday, 8 October 2010

You've got 3 seconds....

Wednesday night I took all the children swimming. Two of the kids have their lessons that night. I always find it interesting to watch the other parents deal with their children who want to keep swimming.

As you can imagine a swim centre is not the quietest place, three pools, lots of kids having lessons. But even with all this nice I could hear a parent bellowing "You've got 3 seconds! Three.....Two......" at which point the child reluctantly got out of the water.

About half an hour later I noticed another parent. He was doing a different 'come here now' tactic. He was closer to me so I could see the situation. He called out his sons name until the son looked at him. When he had eye contact he mouthed the words 'here, now' then put up his hand and did the one finger, then two fingers, then 3 fingers, and moved forward a few steps towards the pool as the son got out with a scowl on his face.

I had to turn away as I laughed a little. Not at the son or the dad, but for the whole counting to three thing in general.
It made me wonder, what would the parent do if the child just stayed in the pool? That made me laugh, as I imagine a child in the middle saying "Come and make me"
Then what? I imagine a lot of yelling is what, from the parent.
Or, the parent taking off their shoes and getting in the pool, but can't see that happening.

I remember last year a mother shouting so loud the whole centre went quiet. "I didn't drive you all that way to a lesson for you to not go in it, now you get over there now!" She was so loud that she frightened my then 3 and 5 year old. My 5 year old asked why she was yelling at the little boy. I told her she was yelling because she wanted the little boy to do something and thought threatening him would make it happen.

I appreciate it can be trying when a child wants to stay in the water and you need to get somewhere, or have them leave the pool. But to yell and shame them, nope, not on.

Over the years we have had struggles now and then with the same thing, I know it's hard. But yelling, threatening, bellowing is not the answer.
It took a while but we are a t a place now where the children get out of the pool when we ask, the first time, around 99% of the time.

Preparation, and lots of communication is our key. When we are in the car on the way to swimming I talk to the children about what we are doing after swimming and how it is very important that when I say time to go, they hop out. I also tell them that I will give them five minutes before they need to hop out.

I then remind them again right before we go in the centre. I know, a lot of talking, and reminding. But that is what makes it work for us. Children do not always have the memory that we do. Some things need to be reminded over and over, as well as practiced over and over until they are used to the routine.

It helps that the older children know the drill and hop out when we ask, as the younger children look up to them, and follow them.

We also understand that of course the children want to keep swimming, and I appreciate that. I would too. We can't though, so the routine at swimming is very important for us.
After the lesson they have some play time. When we are ready or need to get going we tell them they have 5 minutes until they need to hop out as we have to go shopping, have tea, see friends etc. This helps reminding them that we have somewhere to go.
In that 5 minutes I will get myself and the toddler ready.
When that is done I walk beside the pool call out to the children and start heading to the changerooom. The kids all hop out and follow.

The 1% when it doesn't happen is always the 4 year old. He is the cheeky one in the bunch! He mostly hops out when he sees us get to the change room door though. When he doesn't I go over beside the pool and tell him I know he wants to keep swimming, but we have to x, y or z and that we will back at swimming again in a few days.

Of course some days are better than others but overall the hard work and what can feel at the time as mundane reminding and talking about the routine has paid off.
The kids know how it works now and the experience is more enjoyable for us all.


Nat said...

Thanks for posting this. I take the same approach to you and it's (nearly) always worked for me. Sometimes I wonder if it's the parenting strategy that makes it work, or if I'm just lucky and got a compliant child anyway. Or maybe a bit of both? It'll be interesting to see how I go with the second one, who is obviously of a different temperament! So often I question myself and wonder if I'm doing the right thing, so it's nice to have my parenting style affirmed by someone who's been there, done that, several times over with kids who must have different personalities, and it still works. :)

Clare said...

I think it is a bit of both. A big dose being towards parenting each child uniquely based on their age, personality and of course how they are on the day.

Sounds like you are doing great, and ready for when bubs is older :)

Lauren said...

I remember when my twin sisters were little mum would always tell them they had 6 more minutes before it was time for became 6 more minutes after they asked one night if they could have 6 instead of 5! ha and it worked most of the time they went off to bed when mum told them it was time...and when I was a kid I would always do a few more dives under the water while I made my way to the side of the pool! Ha thanks for sharing it was good to find your blog through blogtoberfest!