Today Master 3 had a different swimming instructor and immediately he worked his way towards terrified and couldn’t think straight.

Whilst the common reaction is to brush him off, say ‘come on, you’ll be fine’ and drag him to the pool, thankfully I had read ‘Reading your spirited child’ (Mary Sheedy Kurcinka).  The chapter on ‘negative first reaction’ actually features a case about a child struggling to get into the pool.  I had also read ‘The whole brain child’ (Daniel J. Siegel, Tina Payne Bryson), a fantastic book in how to deal with children’s growing brains, especially when they are thrown into chaos.

  1.  I gave Master 3 time.  This immediately took some stress away when I didn’t rush him.  I showed him this by pulling him into my lap.
  2. I didn’t say ‘it’ll be okay’. I acknowledged how he felt – ‘it must be scary. You don’t like change do you?’.  He agreed and calmed down much more that he was able to trust me.
  3. Now that Master 3 was calm and much better able to use his brain, we talked about what the other boys were doing and how he had done this before (aiming for him to see that it was nothing different or scary) and whether there was anything in particular about the instructor that was worrying Master 3.  Once I knew there really wasn’t anything and it was probably just ‘negative first reaction’, I decided to work him towards the pool.
  4. I suggested we go sit over at the edge and to distract him about that, I mentioned things he liked doing in that direction (eg. the watering can on the edge and the kickboards they were using).  Master 3 said he wanted to see the watering can, so we went over and I made sure he sat with his feet in the water before he got it.
  5. He played there happily but I knew he would need some more encouragement.  At this point, the swimming instructor came up with moving him to the step which was brilliant as I was struggling a bit by then to think of the next move!
  6. Master 3 happily played on the step and of course was fine after that.
  7. So much so he told the instructor during the class, ‘this is really fun’ and said ‘I liked him’ after.

If I’d started by brushing Master 3 off and rushing him into the pool, his stress levels would have gone through the roof and from previous experience, I would never have gotten him to come around.   Knowing that Master 3 is ‘spirited’, I know that he soaks up stress as soon as there is a hint of it around.  By playing it cool, I was able to get him to think calmly and logically and happily participating in the swimming lesson!

To read more about what makes a spirited child, you can access my post here

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