How does swimming break bad habits in children?
We are aware of the benefits of swimming and reasons why swimming is good for children. And we are aware of the fact that our children are much better off after swimming. The lessons we learn from swimming are priceless both for children and us as parents … This is why it is preferable for children to get into the water as soon as they can and swim. Not in order to become “top swimmers”, but to build healthy habits.
The question is: How can we make our children develop a healthy habit of swimming and enjoying it at the same time? Easily. By giving them an example. By swimming. Because only “good habits, developed in youth are those which make us different from others”.
The things we teach our children by the age of five are things which define what they become later. This is why it is preferable that children build their healthy habits as early as possible, since those habits become the basis they upgrade later in life. Here I don’t mean taking up five activities at once, learning three languages, playing the guitar, training football, or swimming.. which could make then burn out at the very young age.. What I have in mind are actually those everyday healthy habits which can only help them be better for themselves, their family and other people later in life. Why? Because, once those bad habits set in, it will be easier for them not to veer off the right course. On the other hand, it is never too late to transform the bad habits into the good ones. The thing is, such a thing requires much more time. It is up to us to choose what we will «serve» to our kids!
I won’t advise you here how to teach good habits to your children by telling you what they are. You already know that. I am just going to try to tell you a story from my personal experience about how swimming can help your children channel bad habits into good ones.
Swimming towards healthy habits
When I worked in the SC Vojvodina, an elderly gentleman would come for swimming every Wednesday. He would swim for thirty minutes and then he would just sit aside for a couple of more minutes observing other swimmers. There was a boy coming with him every time, but the boy never got into the pool, he would just sit there observing other people swimming. One day, the gentleman approached me with the following words: “This is Lav, my grandson. He is 11 and he knows how to swim. What he doesn’t know is how to handle his laziness and “bad” influence of the modern world. What I want to do is to give him “healthy habits” as a present for his next birthday!” I remained confused for a moment, but then I got the granddad’s idea. He needed additional support to get Lav away from bad habits, and he had recognised swimming as a good one.
The responsibility was big. The challenge was even bigger…
I knew I could work together with the granddad on creating healthy habits in his grandson through swimming. That process, however, required time, commitment, patience and a strong will.
I didn’t have a magic ward, I had a good plan instead.
We agreed that Lav should swim twice a week for one year. With no exceptions. With not being late. That he should bring his equipment and be ready for swimming lessons like other swimmers. We agreed that in case he didn’t feel like swimming, he could just sit there and watch the training. Of course, many of these happened… he was late, making excuses that he forgot the equipment. He was a little rascal in development, but a charming one. I was patient.
For the period of one month he still didn’t want to get into the pool, not even once, but he kept coming regularly. I still remained patient. When we met in our tenth training, I gave him a notebook and a pencil. I kindly asked him to bring the notebook and the pencil every time. So that if he felt like drawing, sketching, writing… whatever, while observing others, he could do it, it wasn’t for getting a mark from me. I was waiting for his reaction. I was hoping that he would at least open the notebook or finally get into the pool. But nothing happened.
Two months passed and still nothing. I knew I had to motivate him somehow. I introduced him to the older swimmers preparing for the swimming meeting. We needed his help with the award ceremony. He did everything obediently but of course with eye-rolling and making faces. Despite all that, what I found most important was him being on time, respecting the things we had agreed and respecting the swimmers as well.
When the third month was about to start, I finally heard the voice of his will! The eleven-year-old Lav approached me with the question: “What are we swimming today?”
He jumped into the pool and started swimming. He would swim all his trainings ever since until he turned twelve and even after it. His granddad brought me his notebook I had given to him at the very beginning of our friendship. It was full with words and drawings. Our plan of “swimming towards healthy habits” gave results. Lav learned how to set his goals and reach them easily despite all the obstacles. He gained self-confidence and realised that every “small” victory required continuous work and commitment as well as healthy habits.
Today, the hero of this story is 29 and is still swimming, and also teaching others how to swim and how to use swimming to further develop healthy, good habits. What are actually healthy habits if not daily micro victories which prepare children for “swimming their hardest races” later in life.
This is why you should enrol your kid in a swimming school today, or swim together with him/her.
Because life is better when you’re swimming!