Help! My Son Wants to Quit Swim Team

Question

My 6-year-old son is refusing to participate in swim team, because he says it’s hard and that he wants to quit. In the past, we’ve allowed him to quit activities, but he was told he would do swim team and he agreed.

I’m incredibly frustrated because he won’t even try. Both my husband and I are on the same page and agree that he needs to finish this out. What do we do?

Answer

Thanks for reaching out to Parent Guru. Prior to your actual question ("What do we do?"), you share information that could be impacting your son's reaction regarding the swim team. You say, "In the past we've allowed him to quit activities." Though I do not know how many times you have allowed him to "quit" an activity, he understandably feels that same response can apply to the current situation. Secondly, you state that "he was told he would do swim team." Then in the same sentence you note that "he agreed." When a child is told by his parents to do something, it is a directive, not open to the child's agreement or disagreement. All this is to say that you may well be sending mixed messages to your son.

Though a six-year-old is old enough to participate on a swim team, not all six-year-olds are ready. You do not indicate the degree to which your son has previously been involved in swimming 'lessons' nor his level of comfort in the water. Still young, it may be that he would benefit from spending additional time taking swimming lessons versus being on a swim team.

As water can be daunting to children, in order to build their skills/confidence, it is important that they feel secure with their swimming instructor. Assuming the swim coach is experienced when it comes to working with young children, I would seek his/her opinion regarding your concerns. Even though you and your husband feel that your son needs to continue on the swim team, the coach may/may not feel the same. It may be that for the time being sitting on the side observing others may actually have some benefits. At any rate, the goal should be for your son to learn how to be safe in water and (hopefully) enjoy swimming in the long term.

Sincerely,
Sharon Lamberth, CLPC
sklamberth17@gmail.com
www.parentwithconfidence.org

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