Sunday, April 19, 2009

Relax, it is not that big a deal

What's not a big deal? Well anything really. Just got out of the water teaching today. The thought running through my mind is that parents of little ones today seem to place a lot of emphasis on success in everything their child does or attempts. And if the swim lesson or tumble gym class does not go well, the parent puts too much blame on themselves. They seem to think they are failing somehow or that their child is somehow acting developmentally inappropriately.

Let's look at a swim lesson. One day does not a season or lifetime make. Yet parents occasionally feel that if their child is not compliant during a swim class that they need to make sure the child gets focused or with the program. They may have had six or seven good classes in a row. Then one day the child is just off. Not quite as comfortable as they were the week before. Maybe they are squirming a bit more. Or maybe they, the child, has decided that today is not a swimming day. They may have had a rough day in the sandbox at preschool or may have watched too much Spongebob and are a bit over stimulated.

Now, I am not suggesting that when these occasions arise we abandon all parenting responsibilities and let our children act on their primeval independent instincts. I am suggesting that maybe we, as parents, need to change our expectations and focus and chill out. Rather than get into a physical or mental wrestling match with the child, this maybe the time to step back, relax and assess where your child is at the moment both emotionally, physically and intellectually. If he is tired, maybe we need to ask him to swim not quite as far as the rest of the class. If he is learning something new and is not picking it up as fast as the other children, maybe we need to back up and review some fundamentals. Or let him practice some things that are easier for him to help boost his confidence.

Occasionally, we'll have a child who is a comfortable swimmer just decide that she is just gonna be difficult today. My impression is that the parent then gets more anxious because..... "everyone is looking at my child act out". My view is that if mom or dad, rather than getting anxious would actually respond in a neutral manner or laugh or gently smile at their child's behavior, pretty soon he is gonna realize that he is not getting this huge reaction he anticipated and will eventually calm down. Any reaction, even a negative one is a reaction. And a positive, affirmative, supportive or humorous reaction is far better than ..." we're in swim class and you are gonna swim and pay attention NOW".

I remember years ago when my wife would talk about traveling alone with 5 kids under 8. The airline attendants would avoid her like the plague and then at the end of the flight they often approached her and made comments about how amazing it was that the kids behaved. At that point she had traveled enough with the older ones that she thought of airline travel as a way to get from point A to point B. In other words, she didn't spend weeks preparing and anticipating a 6 hour day of travel and the kids took it in stride, no big deal.

So my thought of the day is a question. Are you one hundred percent effective everyday in everything you do? Do you hit a home run at work everyday. Is everyday at home a blissful one? I would think not. So why do we as parents expect every day's swim lesson or soccer practice or school day or softball game to be the best or even better than the day or week before. Learning happens in many ways. Sometimes, you have to actually go two steps backward before you go one step forward.

So relax, whatever it is, is not that big a deal.

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