Helping 4Year Old Dunk Head Underwater

Updated on June 25, 2013
S.S. asks from Los Angeles, CA
13 answers

My son had his first swim lesson today and his instructor had him dunking his entire head under water which he'd never done before. He complied but was super scared and crying. when we got home i took hm to the pool and he was fine but refused to practice putting his face in. I'd like to get him desensitized so he's not traumatized by his next lesson...any way I can help him get over his fear? I tried to spray water on his face while showering but he didn't want to do that either...Tia!

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answers from Grand Forks on

My older son didn't like putting his face in the water when he was little, but once I bought him goggles he had no problem,

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Wausau on

"He complied but was super scared and crying."

It is the hallmark of a terrible swim instructor that would have a terrified child do more than he is ready to do. I would pull him from lessons with that person immediately and DO NOT try to force the issue youreself. You think you're helping, but you're creating a worse fear and will delay his ability to learn.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Orlando on

Change swim classes/instructors. He is not ready and should not be forced to do this. This traumatized my son at age 3, I had to stop the lesson and physically remove my child from the pool. I knew my child, the instructor didn't. It took him another two years to not be afraid of the water. Ended up getting him private lessons and he was finally swimming on his own at age 5.

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answers from Houston on

My twins HATED putting their faces in the water!! They always had to have a washcloth in the shower for their faces, too. When they took swimming lessons, they didn't do well with putting their faces in the water because they blew the bubbles out of their mouths and then water would go up their noses. We practiced in the bath tub. At first, I went on and on if they just put their faces in the water. Then we worked on blowing bubbles in the water with our mouths closed. It helped a lot.

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answers from Wichita on

One of the things that we have done before at swimming lessons is have everyone sing the "I'm a Little Tea Pot" song, and when they say 'Tip me over and pour me out" everyone would go under and back up (and to be quite honest, it was more the parents helping to quickly 'dunk' the child). The child knew when to expect it (on the word "Tip"), and the song made it kind of fun.

And just so I clarify, I kind of feel like the word, 'dunk' implies mean things...but like you, I couldn't think of a better way to say it. :) The dunk isn't by force, but parents do help the child to go under and back up right away.

First days of instructions have always been quite painful in our days 2, 3, and 4, things have always been much better for each of our children. Hopefully the same will be true for you and your son!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Goggles are a good idea, as is possibly a nose plug....

Work with him showing him how to blow bubbles in a sink...... just dipping in his chin, up to his lips, and so on....

It may take a while, but that might help.



answers from San Diego on

Your kiddo will get over it.
We went to a pretty tough swim instructor that just said SWIM and shot the child off toward the side.
He coached us to use his method and that was all.
There was tons of crying and trauma but eventually our child (the one with head wet issues) got over it.
He now dives to the bottom and retrieves toys. That's after only 4 lessons.
Give it time.


answers from San Diego on

It will just take time. Our son was the EXACT same way. He had hated his face getting wet since he was a baby. HATED IT! And, never wanted to dunk his head. We took him to swim lessons and he too would comply begrudgingly. This year (he turned 5 in April), we decided to get him into private lessons where at least they could work with him one on one. We were put on a waiting list. A couple of weekends ago, we went to Palm Springs with some friends who has a boy a year older than him and loves to jump in the water. He's not a great swimmer, but is fine jumping in and getting his head wet. Out of the blue, our son decided to he wanted to try it - no crying. We made a big deal of him going under the water. Then, he and I were on the lazy river together and our innertube flipped over and our son went under and swam/reached for the edge. I made a huge deal of how he just swam to the edge by himself - no crying! Then, it happened again when the other boy tried to get on the innertube with him and he swam to the edge again (both times I was right there btw) and I made another big deal of him swimming to the edge - no crying.

When we returned from our trip, we got an email that there was a private class available. We took him and he started dunking himself - no crying, no problem at all. The weekend was June 8th and as of last weekend, our son is literally pushing himself off the wall, face and head in water and dog paddling to us or the edge of the pool.

What's my point? It will come. It will happen - naturally. Just keep getting him in the pool as often as you can this summer and with kids who also aren't afraid of the water and are learning or know how to swim. When kids see other kids doing it, they gain the confidence that they can do it too.




answers from Columbus on

I agree with Jill K - we had an instructor who insisted on dunking the kids. My son was traumatized by the third or fourth lesson and refused to get in the water for over a year. She was eventually fired.



answers from Los Angeles on

I went to the class first where moms can go & tried to get him used to things. You could still do that.

I will tell you that even that I did that w/2 consecutive rounds when I did
the class where moms weren't allowed it was a difficult adjustment for my
son but he definitely grew by leaps & bounds afterwards. I tried having
him practice putting his face in water at home. First in a huge bowl of water then the bathtub. Blowing bubbles etc. It took time & he resisted but I tried to help with the process by practicing at home, encouraging, explaining why we were doing it.

I, also, would take him for a special treat afterwards each time to reinforce the positive side. Most times we would go to pick out a new Matchbox car etc.

I would even set up play dates at friend's houses that had pools to help along the process of feeling comfortable.

We'd have him wear a life vest & go to the lake to hang out so he could play in the shallow part.


answers from San Diego on

We always practice in the bathtub. Smaller body of water, safe area, they have more control over everything.
Have him put his head in and blow bubbles there. Maybe get a shallow bowl in the bathtub so it's an even smaller area put his face in to blow bubbles in.



answers from New York on

Give him some time. What is the big rush? See how his next lesson goes. Leave it to the professionals. I would not try things at home. You might scare him enough that he won't want to take a shower or bath.



answers from Los Angeles on

I wholeheartedly agree with the people who said goggles. My son didn't like putting his head under until we got goggles. I looked up reviews on several kinds, then went to Sport Chalet so he could try them on and make sure they were comfortable. Then I bought the ones he liked on Amazon (for like $10 less than Sport Chalet). We used them in the bathtub during the week before his Saturday lesson. Made a huge difference.

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