The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

Swim Lessons Parents

Last night my wife overheard a swim instructor tell one of her swim lessons student’s parents that “he was not listening very well today.”  She could be mistaken, but she believes that was pretty much the beginning and the end of the conversation.   The swim instructor, in my opinion, is otherwise fabulous!   But I want every one of our swim instructors to remember  that PARENTS WANT TO HEAR GOOD THINGS ABOUT THEIR CHILDREN TOO!  By no means am I saying that the parent doesn’t need to be aware of a behavior issue, but they also need to know that YOU (the instructor) still enjoy teaching their child and that you recognize the positive things about their child too.

In our swim instructor training, we train our teachers to do three things with our young students every class:

1.  Warmly greet your students, hold their hands,  and walk them up to the pool.

2.  Teach Like a Pro!

3.  Walk them back to mom or dad, and ALWAYS tell the parents about something good, i.e.,  any improvement, something funny their child said or did, or simply how proud you are of them.

These three simple steps go a long way in establishing customer loyalty (your students will come back to take more swim lessons with you).

I also want to challenge instructors to do the following when you have a behavior issue:

1.  EVALUATE YOUR APPROACH!  Were you clear on your “START SIGNALS?”  Did you keep children moving and limit downtime?  Did you communicate your expectations clearly?

2.  ASK FOR HELP!  If you are struggling with behavior issues, have a senior staff member or manager observe your class.  Sometimes another set of eyes can give you a different perspective.  My wife still does this for me all the time even when I don’t ask for her opinion, LOL!  Although I’ve been teaching for 30 years, her insight always makes me better.  In fact, she’s the one who inspired this blog.

3.  TALK “WITH PARENTS” vs. “AGAINST” THEM!  If you come across as confrontational(especially this day and age),p arents will be quick to defend their child.  If you come across as “someone who really cares and is looking out for the best interest of their child,” they will love you for it.  Say something like this:   “Nolan’s skills are really improving.   I am just amazed by his progress.  I did want to ask you though, do you have any advice for me?  Sometimes I feel like I could be doing more to keep him on task… any suggestions?”  And then listen.   Then say: “Thank you so much.   That is helpful.   I can’t wait to see him next class!”

I hope today’s blog will help you and or your staff!   OH!  One last critical tip:  ALWAYS keep your conversations on the professional level.  Avoid talking about personal matters at all costs!  Also, when a parent asks you how you are doing, always respond something like:  “I’M GREAT, THANK YOU!” NEVER RESPOND: “I’m making it or I’m getting by.”   If you’re having a bad day, never wear it on your sleeve.  As the saying goes, “fake it until you make it!”

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May 4, 2012 at 4:42 pm Comment (1)

Swim Lesson Rules

Keep in mind that when teaching kids swim lessons, that children will actually feel safer when they know what the rules are, especially in new or exciting situations.   If a child is scared, they will have a hard time having fun.  So when you kindly, but firmly give children rules or boundaries and let them know it’s to keep them safe, you start building trust.

Discipline is the gift of responsible love.  Discipline and rules and punishment are related, but they are not the same.   Discipline is  the continual everyday process of helping a child learn self discipline.  No child is born with it.  It has to be taught.

Disciplining a child “includes” making rules or “setting limits.”  Good ones have these characteristics in common:

  • Serve a purposes
  • Within a child’s capacity
  • They are consistent
  • They are express a concern and/or ensure safety.

What do you do when the rules are broken?  First, I want to stress the importance of showing appreciation for what children are doing well, because this is often more effective than the punishment.   But when you do have to punish, here are some do’s and don’ts:


  • React irrationally
  • Retailiate with force
  • Verbally abuse the child himself


  • React with a calm, firm reminder that you don’t approve of the behavior.
  • Remind the child that there are consequences for unacceptable behaviors
  • Be understanding (in some cases) but certain behaviors still warrant consequences

Reasonable consequences  in a Swim Lesson :
1.  Warning (with reminder that the next consequence will result in time out of the pool)

2.  Time Out (with reminder that the next consequence will result in you and child having talk with parent)

3.  Talk with Parent (with suggestion of further revoked privileges at home).

At home, you usually hear that time outs should be about “1 minute per year old.”  For swim lessons, however, I usually go with about “30 seconds of time out per year old” because the parents are paying for the lesson AND 30 seconds out of the pool probably feels much longer than a minute to a child who likes the water!


Love is at the root of all healthy discipline.  The desire to be loved is a powerful motivation for children to behave in ways to please you.

There are many other swim lesson techniques that will also have a huge impact on the child’s behavior.  For example, the way you use feedback, the way you allocate practice time, the way you minimize downtime (when kids, especially boys,  get into trouble), your class management skills, etc.  Learn more about these in the Swim Lessons University Instructional DVD “You Can Teach Like a Pro !”

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August 23, 2010 at 7:00 pm Comments (0)