Thursday, June 30, 2011

When Hard Work Pays Off

My son has been swimming on a summer league for about four years. After last season's final swim meet, he was determined to figure out exactly how to do breaststroke correctly. He worked and worked. Asked for instruction. "Am I doing it right?"
Yesterday he swam in his first swim meet of the summer. He did great on backstroke. Then came breaststroke, which was once his WORST event. I watched his stroke. Then came the tears. He was doing it! Pull, kick, glide. Pull, kick, glide. And he was moving forward! I literally was so overwhelmed for him that tears came to my eyes. He got first in his heat, but only 14th overall. I told him now that he knows how to do the stroke correctly, he can practice, practice, practice, and get stronger and better and faster. I love it when kids learn that their work will pay off! Such a great lesson in perseverance!

(After the swim meet we went to the Y pool to start working on getting those swimming muscles. My son worked REALLY hard. I swam a lot, too, after not swimming for a quite a while. We were supposed to go back to the pool this morning, but when I asked him if he still wanted to go, he said, "NO! I'm sore!" I don't blame him. I am, too! Sometimes hard work hurts!)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

When Parents Don't Parent

I almost hit the roof today. I knew it was coming. I'm not sure why I let it get to me so. Perhaps the anxiety of whether or not I will be able to pay my bills has gotten to me. I don't know. But when my daughter came to me today and mentioned that her dad said he hoped that he could take her and her brother out of town for a week to see his parents this summer, I about lost it.

Seems like a reasonable statement if you don't know my situation. There are only a few problems wrong with it. First of all, why wouldn't he discuss this with me before getting her hopes up? Makes no sense. Secondly, he is about $10,000 or so (I have lost count) behind on child support. How can he afford to go out of town for a week when he is that far behind?! I can't afford to take a vacation...does he really think he's entitled to take the kids to his parents so that he can show off all the hard work I have put into them ALL BY MYSELF?! That's right...I have them 24/7, drive them to dance class, taekwondo, ball games and practice, doctor and dentist appointments...take care of them when they are sick, etc. I worry about keeping a roof over their heads, food in their mouths, and that they learn what they are supposed to. He does not parent them at all whatsoever. We have moved an hour away, but even when we lived in the same town he hardly saw them and didn't come to their games. I don't know...this just doesn't make sense to me. It's SOOOOOO frustrating.

Thanks for letting me vent.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Teaching Your Child to Swim

If you are a stay at home mom, chances are you look for ways to save money. And even if you don't, teaching your child to swim yourself is a great option as long as you and your child are both into it. Many parents are intimidated about teaching their child such an important skill. I can understand, since I was nervous about teaching my kids to read. Even with a teaching degree, I felt like I wasn't equipped to teach a child to read, simply because I had never done it before. And when there are people who are trained to do something, whether it's teaching someone to read or teaching someone to swim, we assume that in order to do it, it requires training that we don't have. Not true.

People have commented that trained teachers are better than parents trying to teach their child. This is a misconception. I mean, who trained your child to go on the potty? Or ride a bike? Or how to tie his shoes? A parent IS a teacher. And no matter what you want to teach, you can do it if you want to learn the skills yourself. Swimming is no different.

The most important thing to rememer about teaching your child to swim is that they MUST spend time in the water, almost daily, in order to become a proficient swimmer. I've seen parents take their kids to swimming lessons, and then never take them to the pool. Summer after summer, they still don't know how to swim. My kids taught themselves how to swim at about ages 4 and 5. The local pool was within walking distance of our house, but it was more convenient for us to have a pool in the backyard. We just happened to purchase an Intex pool on clearance the summer before for about $75. It was the biggest pool they made, and it was perfect for my children. I could adjust the level of the water. As they got better in the water, I added more water until it was at a level where it was quicker to swim from one spot to another than it was to wallk. Having the pool so convenient made it possible to go swimming multiple times each day.

Oddly enough, my younger child (girl) learned how to swim before my oldest (boy). Once he saw her swimming, he was determined. But he could not progress because he did not want to put his face in the water. If you have ever tried to swim with your head up, you know how difficult this is. So one day, I purchased a mask and snorkel for each child. My son put his on, looked into the water, and I could hear through the snorkel, "THIS IS AWESOME!" We were at the public swimming pool and he could see EVERYTHING under the water. Immediately, his feet came up behind him and he started kicking. He was swimming. If your child has an aversion to water in his face, I suggest doing the same thing. My son is now 10 and still HAS to wear goggles whenever he swims, but he's swimming! My children have been swimming on the swim team for 3-4 years and now know all four strokes!

So you might be wondering where to start. If you break down the lessons, you will need to go in this order:

1. Submersion
2. Floating
3. Kicking
4. Arm movement
5. Breathing

Techinically, by step 3, your child is "swimming." Steps 4 and 5 teach them how to do the front crawl, or "freestyle" as it is commonly called. Please remember that these lessons are slow and calm. The children in the video obviously already know how to do the skills demonstrated. Your child might be tense, panicky, and difficult to work with. Use a calm voice and help him relax. Take it slow. Work on one skill at a time and work at your child's pace. Also, review the skills each time you get in the water. For instance, once your child is able to dive for toys, start with that next time.

The links above are videos on how to teach each step. I hope you find these helpful and have an enjoyable summer in the pool. If it's as hot where you live as it has already been here this spring, you will be spending a LOT of time at the pool! Have a great summer!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Are You an Overprotective Parent?

As a parent you obviously want to make sure your child is safe from harm. You take precautions early on, as soon as your baby starts crawling and walking. You plug up all the electric outlets, block off all the stairs, lock the cabinets, and hunt for small objects hidden in the carpets. But if you are the type of parent who then hovers over your child even though you have taken all necessary precautions to keep him safe in your home, you may be an overprotective parent.

If your child is in kindergarten and you still hover over her, you definitely ARE an overprotective parent. Why does it matter? She will be safe, right? You can protect her, right? Wrong. As a matter of fact, an overprotective parent can stunt a child's development and handicap him for the rest of his life.

An overprotective parent is uncomfortable when her child is out of her sight. She does not want her to be involved in anything dangerous, even if it's dangerous only in her mind. She will not teach her child things that may result in pain, such as ironing, using the stove, or even a knife. On a playground, she will be ready to catch any fall and will hardly ever have both hands off her child. If her child leaves her homework at home, she will make a special trip back home to make sure the child does not suffer the consequences of not having the assignment. With an older child, this parent will lie to cover up something the child has done to avoid prosecution or legal trouble. See where this is going?

The problem is that no matter HOW much we try to protect our children, we will fail. And in our attempt, our children suffer. Children have drowned right in front of their watchful parents. They have fallen off the monkey bars the second their mom looked away. Horrible things will happen. And hovering over them is not going to make a difference. But hovering over them will keep them from expressing their natural desire to climb, jump, run, and slide because YOU fear that something will happen. Eventually, your fear becomes your child's fear, and he will not want to try new things because he now has a real fear of getting hurt, or even worse, of failing.

When children have freedom to explore and learn and gain independence, they see their own limitations, abilities, and consequences, which are all a part of life. Not allowing a child to fail on his own will turn into an adult who still needs you to bail him out of real, adult problems.
The younger you let your child be responsible for his homework, for instance, the younger he will be when he realizes it's his job to keep up with it and get it turned in. The quicker he gets that there ARE consequences in life, the earlier he will think about them before doing something stupid!

Personally, I don't get not wanting to teach your children things as soon as possible. The quicker they are taught things, the more helpful they are. Children who are not taught age appropriate activities are not given opportunities to gain self esteem in a natural way. Instead, parents feed them false compliments, even though their child really hasn't accomplished anything. These children are often less mature and less developed than their peers.

If you are wondering if you are being overprotective, ask your friends. Chances are, they have already seen it and will be more than happy to tell you. But be ready to hear the truth, and take steps to change what might need to be changed. Your children will be happier, and so will you. If you are unable to stop your overprotective behavior, you might want to consider getting help from a psychologist to help you figure out why.

When do children lose their baby teeth?

This question came up recently because I've come across a family with an eight year old who just lost her first tooth. Her younger sister is six, and has not lost a tooth yet, either. I remember having a neighbor who was the same way, and I started wondering if my children were weird...or were these other kids? My son lost his first tooth just after his 5th birthday. My daughter's two front teeth were coming in by age six (she lost them both in a fall early on). My son is only 10 and already has his 12 year molars. Of course his baby teeth came in beginning at three months, so he is odd...but what is normal?

Kids begin losing their baby teeth between five and seven years old. By around ages 12-13, all baby teeth should be replaced by permanent adult teeth. The process begins later for some children, and there seems to be some correlation between kids who get their baby teeth early and when they start falling out.

For more information on the care and keeping of children's teeth, here is an article I wrote about our journey with cavity prevention in children.

What to look for in a lifeguard

For most communities, summer began Memorial Day weekend, and at this point all public swimming pools and lakes should be open and active. But are they ready for you and your children? Good Guard Bad Guard will help you see what most parents don't- whether or not you should put your trust in the "guard" watching your child. A must-read for every parent!

Tom Woods