“Why don’t you send your child for classes”

If you are a parent with young children (0-6 years old) and living in a big city like Kuala Lumpur, you are probably familiar with enrichment classes for your children – from music and movement, Right Brain education, swimming, language, sensory, arts and craft, Lego, robotics, coding, speech and drama, etc.  How do you decide what type of classes you want to send your child to and when?

From my past experiences as an anxious mom who wants the best education for her son, I started going for the parent-child music and movement enrichment class when my son was just 6 months old. I spent my time doing research online for hours after work on the types of classes and reviewing the comments by parents and experts. I had a really hard time choosing the right kind of classes or programmes for him. We also went to various trial classes to check out the centers, teachers, programmes, etc. before deciding which programme we wanted to sign up for. Even after doing the research, I also noticed that my son didn’t enjoy either enrichment classes or preschool.

I started to question my decision on the selection of enrichment programmes and preschools. I felt very sad, disappointed and demotivated. About five years ago, I engaged a Parenting Coach to help me better understand applied developmental early childhood psychology and how I can better understand my son’s needs. Since then, I’m more careful of his psychological and physiological needs. I don’t really push him for classes when he’s not ready.

Recently, many people around me started asking me these questions:

“Swimming is such an important survival skill, why don’t you send your child for swimming lessons?”

“The earlier you send your child for swimming classes, the faster the child can pick up the skills without fear of water.”

These questions came to me when they realized that I had not enrolled my son in any proper swimming classes with a qualified swimming instructor or coach. I understand their concern, and probably some of them are just sharing their own experiences. Deep in my heart, I really want my son to learn swimming as I’m not a good swimmer myself. However, I remind myself that his physiological needs are more important, and I need to hold a space for him until he’s ready to learn.

To be honest, my son had his first swimming trial class when he was just eight months old. It was a parent-child swimming lesson for more than ten parents with their children. As a parent, I just follow what the swimming instructor wants us to do with our child. In that 30-minute session, I sensed that my son had a lot of fears and discomfort when I submerged him into the water when using pool noodles to float independently etc.

Obviously, we didn’t sign up for swimming class back then. We just let him play with water at the swimming pool using arm floats, ring floats etc. although many friends advised us not to let children over-rely on the floats as it would slow down the learning process when the child attends swimming class later.

Early this year, my son expressed his interest in learning swimming. My Parenting Coach helped me arrange for an observation session, watching the swimming instructor coach her sons. Unfortunately, the instructor and our timing didn’t match. So, we didn’t pursue it any further.

After a few months when we came back from our world schooling trip, my son mentioned the swimming class. At one of the swimming pools, he saw other children swimming without floats. That somehow gave him the motivation to learn swimming.

When I signed up for the swimming lessons for my son at the swimming center (after the visit), he was so eager to attend the swimming class. One day before the class, he will pack his own swimsuit, goggles, towel and extra set of clothes.

When we arrive at the center, he will go to the changing room on his own, get himself changed and get ready for his turn. He will remind me if I don’t get out of the house early enough. All these are the signs that my son is READY to learn swimming.

You may be curious why ‘readiness’ is so important and what it looks like when I say holding a space for the child?

Imagine what would happen if the child was NOT READY and the parents felt that it was an important skill that the child should learn? The child usually will not perform to their best most of the time under these circumstances. He/she will take longer to complete the course. It causes so much stress among the children, teachers, as well as parents. To make matter worse, it can cause anxiety.

On the other hand, when a child a ready, he/she will be motivated to learn, ask a lot of questions, find out the answers, be more proactive or take the initiative on a regular basis despite facing some challenges along the way. In this environment, the child will optimize his/her learning and will thrive. Very likely, the child will be happy.

Bear in mind that ‘readiness’ does not go with age. As parents, I feel that it is important to look for the strengths and readiness of our child. Do not rush your child or compare them with children of a similar age group or skill. Respect them as a unique individual and allow them some space, especially when they are not ready for certain skills.