Exasperating Eights

The terrible twos don’t come close to comparing with an enraged almost 8 year old. Every Thursday, my boys have a swim class. They’re at the same level but Taylor, the younger, is about to achieve his next “ribbon” and Benjamin is not. Benjamin learned this fact last week. Now showing: "Rage at Swim Lessons".

When I arrived – Benjamin was arguing with the instructor at the front desk about how he hates swimming and it’s stupid and he’s been working on the purple ribbon for over a year and he should have it. Privately, I completely agree with him that a year for a ribbon is too long between positive reinforcement events and I had spoken with the school about the pace. But my son was being disrespectful of his au pair who had asked him to swim and the instructors who were trying to teach him.

My approach was twofold: first, I asked the instructor when Benjamin received his prior ribbon and she confirmed September 2008. I asked Benjamin to tell me the current month and year and then confirm if a year had passed. Not quite. Second, I gave Benjamin a choice – he could sit on the bench next to me and not swim (and I was clearly not going to be warm and cuddly) or he could get in his trunks and go work on his purple ribbon. He chose to swim.

He’s a strong swimmer – he just prefers to play. Taylor, on the other hand, likes to practice sports until he masters skills. Different personalities lead to different outcomes. The instructors watched Benjamin closely this time and determined that he had all the skills – he just had to stop goofing off in order to be tested. It’s hard to be shown up by your younger brother – I understand Benjamin’s frustration.

The Talmud says we must teach our children to swim “Swimming both protects the child physically (from drowning) and also acts as a metaphor regarding independence.” (AllExperts.com). My son is learning that independence (the choice to play rather than practice) is earned and not always fun.