Children are amazing. Fatherhood has changed my perspective on many things, but nothing more than the concepts of teaching, learning and training. I used to think that simply having repeated exposure to something was enough to engender interest in that subject. It turns out that HOW you teach something is far more important than HOW OFTEN you teach.
Swimming is Fundamental
I have two kids. My daughter just turned 5 and my son will be 3 in a few weeks. We’ve managed to build a nice healthy environment for them with my in-laws watching the kids after they finish school. My father-in-law, who we affectionately refer to as “Ah Gong” is an avid swimmer. Since my daughter was about 8 months old, he has had her in the water. First it was a small tub and then she graduated to the downstairs swimming pool by her 1st birthday.
It seemed like it was a great fit. Ah Gong is enthusiastic about swimming for health and safety reasons. It’s a great exercise that keeps you fit and knowing how to swim could prevent an accidental drowning. When our son was born two year’s later, it was only a matter of time before he too joined Ah Gong in the pool.
Both kids were in the pool 3 or 4 times a week and seemed to be making good progress. Then something changed.
Around my daughter’s 4th birthday, we realized that she was still scared to put her head beneath the water. She could manage to use an inner-tube or arm floaties to amble about on her own, but putting her head beneath the water caused her serious anxiety. Our son was only 2 at the time, so we didn’t expect him to know how to hold his breath, but our daughter should have been able to submerge her head briefly without a panic.
One size doesn’t fit all
My father-in-law is a self-made man. He grew up in Indonesia and built an import-export business mostly out of nothing but hard work and grit. He has a healthy disdain for rules and government and he also has an old-school mentality. If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying until you do. For my daughter, if gentle coaxing to dunk her head didn’t work the first time, then perhaps it would work the ninth or tenth time? Perhaps literally throwing her in the pool would help?
When we finally discovered the reason for my daughter’s change in mood towards swimming, we started to ask questions. We learned that her aversion to swimming was specific to Ah Gong and his approach to teaching. Of course, this is a delicate matter. My in-laws have raised 4 stellar children. They have more experience with child-rearing than I will ever have. That being said, it’s possible that what worked for one child, won’t work for another. It’s also possible that what worked in the 1970s and 1980s won’t pass muster today.
So after a few personal observations at the pool and some good conversations about our overall objectives (health and safety), we all agreed that the time had come for the kids to go to a pool with paid instructors.
What a Difference a Coach Makes
Unlike swimming when they went solely with Ah Gong, my wife and I accompanied our children to the new lessons. It’s entirely plausible that this alone made a difference, but I’m doubtful. The instructors are all twenty somethings with Teacher of Swimming designations from the American Red Cross. In addition, they are nearly all CPR, AED and First Aid certified.
Within two lessons, a week apart, my daughter was giggling and putting her head beneath the water’s surface by herself. The coaches were able to build a rapport and comfort level with my kids immediately. This school had a technique to assess the child’s individual level of proficiency and then adjust their lesson slightly. They had a cap of 5 parent-child pairs in the pool for each lesson which meant there was relatively low teacher-student ratio. They could give almost individual attention to each child.
Our kids have been at this new swimming school for almost a year. Their progression is nothing short of amazing. My son who is now approaching his third birthday is starting to do the front-crawl and has no problem holding his breath. In fact, his problem is sometime forgetting to come up for air!
Swimming, Music, Gymnastics…the examples abound
Had the above example only happened with regards to swimming, then it would be hard to extrapolate. In fact, I have two other instances of a similar phenomena with my children.
We started taking our daughter to a music school recommended to us by our friends. We made the mistake of signing up for a 10-week course without first doing a trial class. This was a huge mistake. Our kids had no exposure to music beyond simple songs we sing at home. Neither me or my wife play any instruments. Although the class was targeting children, and the advertising material suggested it would be age-appropriate, the lessons seemed to focus on technical things (e.g., the names of musical notes, etc…) rather than music appreciation.
You can imagine my consternation when trying to get my 2 year old boy to sing songs with few hand or body movements. He barely understands the words and has no interest in learning the parts of piano. He can barely speak in complete sentences for crying out loud.
As soon as the term ended, we switched to another music program. My wife did a bit of research and found one using the Suzuki method of instruction. I was familiar with the Suzuki method as two of my nephews had used it to learn violin starting from age 3. Again, the difference was visible within about two lessons. Granted, I think my son has a good ear, but the other class didn’t give him any chance to practice. It was all about him listening to the teacher. The Suzuki method focuses on the basics (e.g., singing, clapping and percussion instruments). After two lessons, he can hold a steady beat and I’ve heard him singing to himself more and more.
The Suzuki method is far more comprehensive and requires the parents to keep a journal and read about the pedagogy. It seems far more intense than the other music class and I suspect my children will get more out of it.
To Run, First You Must Crawl
The last example I have of teaching as a skill comes from gymnastics. This is probably most similar to our experience with swimming. We started taking our daughter to a reputable gymnastics school. It’s professionally managed and has coaches who have competed at high levels.
After about a year of classes at that school, we noticed our daughter hitting another plateau. The teachers were good and she liked her classmates, but she wasn’t excited about going to class. At the recommendation of a friend, we tried out another gym class.
Gym class number 2 had didn’t have fancy equipment. They didn’t have fancy uniforms. All their staff are volunteers, but the training was fat better. In fact, my daughter was doing both programs for about two weeks in parallel. When I asked her which one she preferred, it was gym class #2 without a question.
She thought the teachers were nicer and the exercises were more varied. She looked forward to going to that class every week. It’s now been several months and she’s in love with the new program. Our son has joined as well in a class geared at toddlers. He doesn’t always follow instructions, but the teacher is so good with children, it doesn’t matter.
As parents, we think we made the right choices and found the appropriate programs for our children.
Finding the Right Digital Marketing Agency
Searching for the right agency can often be a similar experience. As a business owner, you are looking for experts to help you solve a specific marketing problem. A problem you either lack the time or expertise to tackle on your own.
Not all agencies are the same and not all solutions will work for every business. If you have engaged an agency, and they aren’t providing you with the added value you think you deserve, then switch. There’s no point in throwing good money after bad.
An agency should work with you to help you solve your business problems. Recently, I wrote about how you can change your website look and feel without having to change to a different theme platform. A good agency will look at your specific situation and help you without having to sell you solutions you don’t need or understand.
They will also explain to you who different channels work in concert to help you generate leads. They might be able to show you the importance of email in your marketing mix or the importance of Title Tags in SEO.
At the end of the day, if you’re still learning how to swim, do you want someone pushing you in the deep-end before your ready? I didn’t think so.