Courtesy: Elizabeth Wickham
Dear Swim Mom,
My child is 10 years old and she’s been swimming for close to two years now. When she started out, she always wanted to go. But lately, she’d rather stay home and miss practice about once a week. I’m worried that forcing her to go to practice will ruin her passion for swimming. If she doesn’t want to go, should I allow her to stay home?
Do you have any ideas on how to get her to want to go to practice like she used to? Is it better to let her miss practice or make her go?
Mom of Reluctant Swimmer
Dear Mom of Reluctant Swimmer,
I suggest talking with your child and saying you’ve noticed she doesn’t seem to want to go to practice as much as she did before. You can ask if anything has changed. Is she losing interest because it’s getting harder with less focus on fun? Does she have friends in her group, or have her friends started a new activity? One coach told me that young kids may not want to go to practice because of something as simple as the water being too cold.
Is your child passionate about swimming or is it your passion? If she doesn’t want to swim, there’s really no way she’s going to make it through the long haul. If she truly wants to swim, it’s normal for interest to waver. Sticking with it and improving may ignite her passion once again.
Whether to force your child to attend practice is a question of parenting styles and family values. Some parents follow their children’s leads and support their kids in whatever activities they’re interested in, while other parents will select their kids’ extracurriculars. There are parents who will take their kids to practice without question, while others will allow them to stay home whenever they want.
I spoke with Randy and Colette Anderson who have three daughters who swim including Olympic medalists Alyssa and Haley Anderson. When their kids were young, they’d explain they were signing up for the season. When the girls wanted to quit in the winter because it was cold, they’d remind them that they made a commitment but were free to quit when the season was over. Summer would come and they’d want to sign up for another year. The parents said they introduced their kids to lots of different sports and activities when they were younger and they discovered their interest and talent was with swimming.
We can encourage our kids to swim, get them to practice on time, but in the long run it has to be their sport. They need to take ownership of swimming and be intrinsically motivated. At 10 years old, there’s plenty of time to get serious about swimming and there’s time to try out other activities to see if she’s passionate about something else. We don’t want to put too much pressure on their results and performance or we can definitely squelch their love of the sport.
What are your thoughts for Swim Mom of Reluctant Swimmer about whether or not to force her daughter to attend practice?
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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.