Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham
Swimming is a sport that requires balance: balance in the water in terms of body position, balance with academics and a social life, and balance for busy parents and a family life. Because of the demands of swimming, parents need to be engaged but not take over. Swimming requires a level of commitment from parents—as well as our swimmers.
Someone commented about the problems of “under parenting” in a recent article I wrote about how to avoid being a helicopter parent. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve seen parents who hover over their children constantly, but on the flip side, some aren’t involved or interested in their children’s education or sports. I remember one mom saying she couldn’t stand being at the pool and would drive off as soon as her child left the car. Needless to say, this child didn’t stick with swimming for long.
Here are four tips for finding the right balance between “helicoptering” and “under parenting:”
Does your child know you appreciate their hard work?
We can encourage our kids without taking over. We want our kids to enjoy swimming, take ownership and be intrinsically motivated. We can let our kids know we’re proud of them for their effort, not just a great performance. If you’re never around to watch them swim, your children’s hard work will go unnoticed and be undervalued. Show interest by asking a few questions about practice, like what did they like about it or who was there.
How do you volunteer?
Are you the parent who can be counted on to jump in and help wherever you’re needed? Or, are you the parent who disappears and has to be hunted down to fulfill a timing obligation? Our kids learn a lot from how we approach volunteering for the team. We’re modeling how to help out in our community—and at the same time, they’ll know we are enthusiastic about their sport.
Do you go to meets and enjoy them?
I’ve seen parents drop their kids off at meets and not go inside to watch their kids race. They use this time to get work done or run errands. I’ve also seen a swim mom or dad at meets but never their spouses. Other parents find rides for their kids and they’re never seen. Swim meets are a perfect place for balance. We don’t need to get so wrapped up and treat meets like they are life or death. Yet, we need to be cheering for our kids and let our swimmers know we love to watch them swim.
Do you get your kids to practice consistently?
If swimming isn’t a priority for you or your family, then most likely swim attendance will be spotty. It’s the type of sport that isn’t easy if your kids aren’t consistent. Then, it’s tougher for them to improve and make progress—which is key for children to feel good about swimming. Also, if they’re frequently late or don’t go often, chances are their coaches will be frustrated or less enthusiastic. Children will know if it’s a hassle for their parents to get them to practice and it’s a task they’d rather avoid. In that case, it would be hard for any child to want to swim.
How do you find the right balance as a swim parent?
Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.