When teaching new students I alway’s lead with positive language. The moments of youth I remember clearly was competition with my Dad. He called me Jean The great, over and over. It was his way to inspire me to race to the car, the chairlift ,or the end of the pool. The goal was to win/impress Dad and show off. It also helped me really feel proud of myself. Seeking a parents approval, is most kids goal. I use lots of toys and equiptment for success. When you have a high achiever child, it can be challenging, as it should be no one walk’n over your kid! But when they don’t want to do something you know it. Tiring doesn’t even describe it. Does your sweet angel look like these brothers?
Dad’s smiled when I was the strongest, fastest, bravest even rebellious. He never let me win, I had to earn it. One of my best tips is if your kid doesn’t sit still, I can work with that.I only ask questions that I know I’m going to get “yes” as the answer. I’m working with the caveman brain, save yourself , skillsets. I do a lot of racing with younger kids. It makes the lesson more fun and structured at the same time. They’re in competition with me… their teacher, someone 2 x 3 times their height, weight, and experiences in racing. I’m always talking about swim team in their future. Using a positive mindset of talking about all the fun they will have in water, before they even put their faces in, works wonders.They rise to the top, on their willpower to improve and be stronger than everyone else. When they focus on training and winning, there is no stopping them. This is my goal in class to coach and guide each child to be their best.
My lessons sometimes sound like therapy, and I do have swim therapy for some students who have extra fear or blocks that need a warm up point before the lesson starts. Some kids need more time. This is not all kids, this is probably 50% with DNA<parenting. But 20% no matter their situation, they are braver, stronger, more rebellious, or shy, scared and fearful. Basically everyone is different, and we have control of very little. I help kids be aware of the things they do have control of, making a plan before they start running for the pool.
As a master swim instructor ,I’m a tough cookie, no rhetorical questions, “crying is healthy”, and practice is super fun. When a kid is losing his or her mind, I’ll change the subject’What are you having for lunch or dinner?, is one of my favorites. I really do talk to everyone as If I’m their mother, sister, grandmother. But either way, I’m saying the same thing, which is I only reinforce good behavior, and you can get out when the 3 skill sets are finished. As a reward you can stay and play, if it’s ok with your parents. Keeping toddlers on point is a skill I have in spades. After teaching swimming for 30+ years, I have heard it all. These funny conversations , provide me with great joy. Kids say what on their minds at this age. Here are a couple of my favorite student video’s. They’re working on various skills and all beginner lessons.
Creating a positive environment and mindset are key to success, in swimming lessons and in life. I consider myself the first life coach of your kids. Teaching important skill’s that will be used outside the pool setting.I’m blessed to see the same students week after week, year after year. With relationships of trust at a very young age. Most kids haven’t been told what to do by someone besides their parents. Kids think that their parents are going to save them, if they cry run away are throw a tantrum. This is a rude awaking when they hear the words “Miss Jean is in charge.” The first lesson is the hardest for everyone. This is when habits to “get out of something,” doesn’t work. Keeping it positive and reminding them they can pick which skill they want to do first. They can ask for” a moment” or “wiggle time’. I give lots of breaks, but we always complete the skillsets.
I tell all my parents that their kids will be working as instructor and lifeguards for me some day. Teasing that they will get all their money back spent in lessons when their kids turn 16. You can become a lifeguard /swim instructor at 16. It gives them a chance to dream big. To think about their future, to visualize. All my children where lifeguards or swim instructor’s in their teens. I love pointing to the lifeguard chair and say”that’s my son lifeguarding over there. Lifeguards are hero’s like policemen ,or firemen someone you look up to and have to listen to. In fact most hero type jobs, start with teenagers who work for park and recreation jobs. I have some many parents tell me they where swim instructors, camp counselors and lifeguards themselves. I’m so blessed to do my life’s work right now, so proud of everyone out there trying to be themselves to the best of their ability at that moment.
CEO of Missjeanswimming, in Marin, and Bay Area. Operates at Northbridge Recreation Center, San Rafael, Ca.