When our 6-year-old son first came home from camp asking that we write him a note exempting him from swimming, we sort of blew it off, thinking it would pass. By the second day, we probed a little further. Was someone making him feel badly? Was he tired? We didn’t really get a clear answer, other than that the chlorine hurt his eyes–this from the kid who stays in a pool for hours on end on the weekend. We stuck to our guns and told him we wouldn’t write the note. As the days went on and the complaints mounted (“I don’t like changing in front of the other kids”) we started to question our insistence that he swim. It stands to reason that you can’t give in on these little things, unless there is a serious problem, lest you fall down a slippery slope of accommodating your child’s every like and dislike. My sister, who is a therapist, says “It’s important that the child experiences the satisfaction of having survived a moderately uncomfortable situation.” It is this resilience that allows them to tackle both little and big issues in life with confidence. This makes a lot of sense to me, and yet, you can’t help but wonder if pushing them to do something they really don’t want to do when your child is pleading with you. I’d love to know how you all  handle a situation like this.


You Might Also Like

Swiss Delivery
The Lightest SLR Out There
The Story of a Sneaky Summertime Illness

Comments (5)


  1. Posted by: Melissa

    We are experiencing the same exact situation with our 6-year-old. After some of the same excuses your son used, the truth came out: most of her friends have passed the deep water test, and she hasn’t yet. She is really close, but she finds it humiliating to take it again and again. I told her she’s definitely not passing if she doesn’t swim. I feel bad for her, I know she must feel inadequate, but this is just one of the times that she will have to push through the discomfort.

  2. Posted by: Camille

    Gah, what is it with swimming?! We enrolled ours in swim lessons at the neighborhood Y and the first session she had a major meltdown. I mean, screaming, sobbing, the whole 9. So we just left. I debated not going back, but fortunately my husband insisted. The second time got a little better and the third a little better still. Today is the fourth lesson and I hope it’s finally easy. She said she didn’t like it because she “didn’t know anyone,” which I just don’t think warrants allowing her to quit. I understand, because I’m an introvert too, but I agree with your sister that sticking it out will be good for her.

  3. Posted by: Fiona

    Similar situation here. The root cause, is familiar, my 5 year old does not like loud and uncontrolled situations (like waiting in the hallway for school to start) and you can imagine a situation where 30+ campers all jump in the pool at the same time and lifeguards are blowing whistles. I have told him that if he isn’t going to swim, he can’t just sit and feel miserable, he should take a book, or some other activity to keep him happy. Because he loves swimming, I feel that eventually he will decide he is kissing out and overcome his aversion. Sticking to this line is hard on me and him – I want to stick your sisters words on my fridge as mantra. He has had to overcome LOTS of moderately uncomfortable situations – wish I could make him realize how good he is doing!

  4. Posted by: Heija

    I generally just throw a tantrum, it usually makes the averted activity look more attractive by comparison.

  5. Posted by: Christine

    We also have had trouble with swimming with our son. He’s eight now, and every summer it is a challenge to get him to lessons. My sister and I practically grew up in a pool and are both very strong, confident swimmers, so I’ve wanted him to be the same. He resists thoroughly, says he doesn’t like being pushed to do things so much, but then, once he’s into the water, seems to do well and excel when he works on it.

    I think in general he is a much more cautious kid than I was when I was his age. I feel for him because it has to be hard for him to take on something that he’s obviously over-analyzed. But, I also want him to be confident in his abilities and also take on new, uncomfortable situations (as we’ve said, things are hard because you’re learning new stuff). I just try to really praise him and show him that he is progressing and doing something new and fun when he starts to move out of that comfort zone and let himself be “pushed” to try new things.

Leave a Reply

Yor email address will not be published.
Required fields are marked *

Sign Up

Email Sign Up
We promise not to bug you -
it'll only be good stuff, pinky swear.