Gentle philosophy versus aggressive survival and backfloat swim lessons
Build the stage around the show...Little people 6 months through 4 years old, deserve special "handle with care" treatment. Nurturing the needs of each child, allowing them to unfold at their natural pace. To optimize your aquatic classroom for learning, combine an interactive curriculum with a well organized, yet spontaneous lesson plan. Together with mom and dad, through games, songs, laughter and engaging activities, you can create a warm, loving and safe environment.
Baby swimming has many positive benefits, like sunken treasures beckoning to be discovered. In order to unveil these awaiting treasures, we need to build the stage around the show, to adapt the class to the level of experience and understanding of the children involved. Introduce skills when the children are relaxed and ready, and only skills that are age and developmentally appropriate, accommodating for individual differences. Patience, consistency, play, repetition, commitment and positive parenting are the pillars of a successful program.
However, these treasures of the water are just as easily denied if children are not treated with dignity, understanding or respect. The program needs to be taught from the childs point of reference, teaching them the way that they would want to be taught. Placing adult values and compressed time frames on infants and toddlers creates an imbalance and undue stress on all parties concerned. If skill acquisition becomes the only goal, meaningful learning on many levels can be lost. The priority must be focused on the positive development of the whole child, with swimming skills mastered as the child's capabilities and "readiness" allows. Parents should never let panic (the fear of drowning) dictate an aggressive/intensive course of action in swimming lessons. "To avert an even graver outcome, great care must be taken." (Omega) We must distinguish between short - term quick fix remedies and long-term responsible positive cures. A comprehensive strategy for water safety needs to be implemented, of which swimming is a part, however, the well being of the child should never be sacrificed in swim lessons to meet this end. Parents need to be well informed and implement all aspects of water safety. (i.e.. supervision, barriers, pool safety fencing, CPR and child centered swimming lessons).
Swim lessons were never meant to be grim. Infants and toddlers should never be exploited in swim lessons to fulfill the accelerated expectations of a teacher or parent. Whether created out of a fear of drowning, compressed time frames, financial short-cuts or impatience. Parents need to realize that they can not live vicariously through their child's accelerated achievements. Children should feel safe, be comfortable and experience trust. Pressuring children as a "necessary evil" to submit to rigid techniques and skills in swimming lessons that they are not ready for lacks compassion and understanding. This should not be a race for gold medals or a quest for imposed survival swimming. Often these "firm but gentle" techniques fueled by fear, place more emphasis on the firm than on the gentle. Society has learned that perpetrating violence or aggression toward children, perpetuates a cycle of violence and aggression. An adult simply would not tolerate such unrelenting acts of domination when used against them. Babies are not capable of fighting back. The emotional well of an infant runs deep; they possess a keen awareness of what is happening to them. Often the only avenue available to communicate their distress is through crying or non-verbal symptoms. These protests are not manipulation as their fears are real.
Parent's, go watch an infant swim program before signing up. As a parent I would go unannounced, so you can see the actual lessons in progress not just the end result. Know what you are getting your child in to. These folks can be very convincing! Be aware of manipulation and distortion of the facts. Do not be under informed. Do not be misinformed. Do not be mislead. Do not be deceived. Beware of the "Trojan Horse" , who says that their swim lessons are enjoyable, but may be in fact be just the opposite. As the saying goes, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck .............
Do you wish your child to be treated in an impersonal manner, often with a blind eye to the babies feelings. Do you really believe that your infant or toddler is unaware of the cruel ordeal they are being subjected to. Beware of the justification of the use of force or dominance against your child in order for them to become "drown proofed". Beware of methods denying oxygen to babies until they will flip on their back. If a teacher tells you to have your child "avoid breakfast", head for the hills. If this type of abusive behavior in the swimming lesson was occurring in a land based program or a public school classroom, would you sign up? Don't let your decision be determined by fear. These methods are telling young children in their formative years that aggression is OK. Possibly passing from generation to generation. It also erodes trust... mom and dad are putting me through this. What we need now is peace and joy in our children, peace in our world. The job of an "aware" teacher is to assist frightened children to playfully overcome their fear, not cause or create fear.
Too much stress to the innocent child can lead to a surrender and malnutrition of the spirit. Science has documented the fact that the seeds we sow in infancy, both negative and positive have a profound influence on the development of the mental and emotional blue print for the child's entire life. Dominating or forceful methodologies fail to see the whole picture or the whole child. Intended to give parents "peace of mind", they throw the child’s "peace of mind" right out the window. It is crucial to approach baby swimming more in human terms and less in clinical terms. The ripple of a pebble in the pond's smooth waters, radiates outward in multiple concentric circles. So to does our teaching influence, affecting our young students on multiple levels. Not only must we seek the beauty of aquatic motion, but also tap into to the beauty of the child. Those individuals committed to this endeavor must be devoted to the highest good of each child with whom they come in contact. Let children enjoy their childhood.
Sadly, it is becoming more common for us to assist by deprogramming those children (and their parents) who have been traumatized by aggressive infant swimming survival programs and imposing infant aquatic back float survival programs. Nothing is worse than the opposing forces of an unrelenting, aggressive teacher colliding head on with a defenseless baby that is distressed and who is simply unable to handle the dominating agenda imposed upon them. "Do no harm". As we enter the new millennium, parents need to be conscious of the fact that the subjugation, forcing or traumatizing of their child in order to learn how to swim, is archaic, stressful to the child and simply unnecessary. This reactionary approach, fueled by a psychology of fear, could result in "today's solution ending up being tomorrow's problem." It's the "get it done now, I don't care how you do it", mentality. Imposing unchallenged manipulation on infants and toddlers with force and tough discipline, demonstrates a great lack of knowledge, experience and understanding of teaching and caring. Teachers and parents need to stay in touch with the feelings and perceptions of the child as the immediate and long term consequences of their actions can impact the child for life, both emotionally and mentally. What is expedient and what is ethical may be two different things. Making infant swimming "survival" back float an imposed priority to unwilling infants and toddlers or children of any age can have a devastating effect on the well-being of the child, as well as society. The same holds true for forced frontal submersions and guaranteeing children to swim or to be "drown proofed" in compressed time frames. Let it be known that crying, distress or the surrendering of one's spirit are not prerequisites to learning how to swim. These young souls need to be treated respectfully and not violated. Wise parents know that there are better choices. "Teach me, don't hurt me". Teaching should be inspirational and love based, not fear based. As parents and teachers our intent must be focused on sowing the seeds of kindness which will bear fruit of a most wondrous kind-beautiful, caring human beings.
Below is a quote from the Hattiesburgamerican.com 6/7/2008
"Am sure that the instructor cares about children - ALL moms and teachers do. As to 'survival swim lessons' - hopefully she does not use back survival floating (or aggressive pre-mature frontal submersions) for babies & young toddlers.
Back survival floating is an obscure method which has been discarded by American Red Cross and YMCA despite recent media attention to the acrobatics of babies performing the skill. The skill is viewed as cool but do you know what they have to do to your child to get them to do it???? They don't bop them on the nose with a newspaper - worse - they are allowed to get to the surface only if they turn correct way underwater. Don't accept the pitch of those who exploit parents fears of drowning. Use sensible drowning preventatives and get your children (when they and you are ready) to a YMCA or American Red Cross program or any program (gentle swim school) where they treat children respectfully rather than slam dunk them. If there are screaming children, throwing up, traumatized kids - steer clear of any such programs." signed Sensible Parent
Here is a link to a story on 60 minutes Australia contrasting two swim teaching philosophies, that of the legendary teacher/coach and swimming safety advocate, Laurie Lawrance and that of another approach. Some programs use fear and parental guilt to promote and validate their insensitive and harsh teaching methods. Other programs goes as far as to exploit parent's emotions by showing interviews of parents whose children who have drowned and then imply that their program is the only way to solve the tragedy of drowning. However, there are many proactive positive, happy swim methods available, as well as effective water safety strategies to prevent drowning. Click on this link to view the 60 Minutes Story. Troubled Waters You decide.
Below is another comment from parent in Louisville, Kentucky on the WDEF News 12|News website
Below is a quote from Beatriz from Melbourne, Florida January 13, 2011
Children should enjoy the water experience from day one, providing a rich, supportive setting allowing them to develop into healthy and happy individuals, as well as competent swimmers. Parents (and teachers) need to be relaxed, in tune with their child and create a positive, proactive and happy atmosphere. It is important that they too enjoy class. Children need to be comfortable and confident above water before they can ever begin to swim with their face in. Celebrate each small step along the way. Create an environment that unlocks the sunken treasures, generating a life long love and respect of the water, as well as, a life long hunger for learning and exploration. All serving as a catalyst, planting a seed, for the child to reach their full potential.
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