Why Does My Daughter Suddenly Hate Her Swimming Lessons?


I need a little advice, folks.

My daughters are currently enrolled in the Lenny Krayzelburg Swim Academy at our local JCC. It’s a great program, and I’m very happy with it (and not just because I don’t have to get in the pool with the girls!). My younger daughter (almost 3) is very happy in her private lesson, but my big girl (age 4.5) is, well, not so psyched about her group lesson. 

She loves her teacher, as well as the three other kids in her class. She liked the lessons quite a bit early on, and then thanks to the croup, ear infections, and a spate of other annoying winter illnesses, we missed several weeks and it just hasn’t been the same since then. She’s generally happy to hang out in the pool with her friends, but she refuses to try many of the things her teacher asks her to do (float on her back, put her face in the water, etc.)–all of which she has willingly and successfully done in the past!

I’ve tried a number of tactics, including bribery and threats, coddling and frustration. (If you want to feel better about your parenting, come on over to the JCC pool Tuesday at 4:30 and watch me try to figure out how to deal with this situation. You’ll walk away feeling like Mother of the Year, I promise.) None of it seems to make a difference, and I’m not really interested in paying for her to spend half an hour standing on a platform in the pool. I’m not entirely sure what’s wrong and she can’t seem to verbalize it.

So, wise parents, I bring this to you. What should I do? If it were anything but swimming, I would happily let her quit (which would be my husband’s preference at this time). But it is important to me that she learn to swim, and I don’t want to communicate to her that she can whine and complain her way out of things she doesn’t want to do. On the other hand, I do want to be responsive to her needs and preferences, and I don’t want her swim lessons to be a negative experience that turns her off from swimming forever. I’d love your thoughts.

Carla Naumburg

Carla Naumburg, PhD, is a clinical social worker and writer. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post,The Huffington Post,,, The Jewish Daily Forward, and Psychology Today. She is the author of two books, Parenting in the Present Moment: How to Stay Focused on What Really Matters (Parallax, 2014) and Ready, Set, Breathe: Practicing Mindfulness with Your Children for Fewer Meltdowns and a More Peaceful Family (New Harbinger, 2015). Carla grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the Bay Area of California, and she currently lives outside of Boston with her husband and two young daughters. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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