Why Struggle is Good for Kids

“The struggle you’re in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow.”

I reflected on this Robert Tew quote after a lifeguard at the public pool called us out after he noticed T struggling in the water.

The outdoor pool has been our savior the last two summers. We are there every other day to soak up as much summer as we can, while allowing T to burn off his excessive energy.

T is in his element in the water and the outdoors.

We park ourselves at the corner edge of the rope that separates the shallow and deep ends.

T likes to jump into deeper water. He enjoys sinking to the bottom and pushing himself back up. This year, he began to do front and back rolls.

T doesn’t know how to do proper swim techniques but he is very comfortable in the water. He can doggy paddle or float kick on his back from one end to the other.

Due to the pandemic, we have not enrolled him into lessons and our focus is building his confidence and comfort in the water, so he is ready for lessons when they resume.

One way we do this is to let T explore freely in the water. We stay close by but don’t micro manage every movement. T knows to, and does, ask for help when he needs – and one of us would immediately hold him up.

This week, there was a new lifeguard at the pool. He was stationed at our corner and he noticed T with his head titled up, as usual, as his arms and feet flailed, his way of treading water.

“I think you need to move to the shallow end,” he said.

I knew the lifeguard was well intentioned and was just doing his job.

I politely told him that he is doing fine and that we are keeping a watchful eye on him. The hubby added that we’ve been doing this the last two summers.

The lifeguard then added that T looked like he was struggling.

I explained to him that we would not let our child drown and this was our routine. It was my polite way of telling him to buzz off.

As we continued to swim, and later into the night, I thought about the lifeguard’s comments.

I understood and appreciated his concern, but I also balked at the idea that we shouldn’t allow kids to struggle.

“Struggle” is a trigger word for me, as I am sure it is for other special needs parents.

I often think, and have already experienced the last five years, about the ongoing struggles that T will have in his life – at school, in relationships, with future work and with self concept.

I don’t know what the future holds and every child is different, but struggle is a common thread for individuals with an invisible disability.

As a parent, the instinct is to hold them close and protect them from the negative emotions and moments associated with struggles.

But the hubby and I know that this is not helpful.

A little struggle, incrementally experienced, is good for everyone – special needs or not.

As this Big Life Journal article so nicely articulates, struggle is important and helps kids develop perseverance, problem solving skills and confidence – as well as build emotional regulation and a growth mindset.

I’m thankful that T mostly likes to try to do things on his own – like the monkey bars, completing a level on his Switch, or making his way around the water or through a difficult hike.

We always remind him that it’s ok to ask for help if he needs to and that we are close by. He has so far not been shy about asking for help.

As if he was trying to prove our point to the lifeguard, our encounter at the pool ended off on quite a hilariously empowering note.

Immediately after our conversation with the lifeguard, T floated on his stomach and started moving his arms in a circular motion and kicked his legs.

The movements were choppy and far from polished, but there was no doubt that he was trying to do the front crawl. He did this from one end of the pool to the other.

He had never done this before! The timing felt more than a coincidence, it was poetic.

The hubby and I gave each other a surprised and delighted look.

Not being able to resist adding his usual smart ass commentary, the hubby said out loud, so the lifeguard could hear, “Struggling, my ass.”

28 thoughts on “Why Struggle is Good for Kids

  1. I like the approach to just learning to be comfortable in the water and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. We had a pool growing up and this is the way we first learned to swim. It wasn’t until we were a bit older that our mom enrolled us in proper swimming lessons. I’m also a believer in enduring a bit of struggles to learn and grow, as long as you have a good support network, which T most certainly has. Take care. Linda

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Linda! Your moms approach was a sound one. T is certainly too young for lessons and his ADHD is going to make them an interesting challenge for himself and the instructor! 😅

      The pools close Labour Day weekend which is coming up. This summer is just flying by way too quickly!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can imagine!! It’s sometimes fun being able to figure things out for yourself though. And it’s like you said, helps build confidence. I’m sure all the flailing around the water helps tire T out by the end of the day. I can’t believe the pools are closing so soon. You might as well make the most of it while you can!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Way to go, T! Declan is by no means a pretty swimmer and there were times I wished he would go back to the shallow end. But he persevered and has the skills needed to navigate deeper waters after sticking with it and figuring it out. Good point – struggle is good for kids!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Struggles makes us stronger. It prepares for the worst and appreciate the best. Thank you for the inspiration. Beautiful and amazing images and words. T is very lucky to have such very supportive, generous , and loving parents. It is true, how how children conquer the world and it’s challenges begins with a childhood grounded with the right values, attitude , thinking. Happy Sunday my friend. Regards .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you as always for the supportive words. We don’t always get it right but always try to do our best to do right by our T.

      Good luck with your return to work today!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As parents, you know your child best. It’s good that the lifeguard was attentive but of course you wouldn’t let him drown! You’re right about struggle being important for learning, if we wrap our kids in cotton wool they won’t be able to solve problems on their own. We have a Big Life Journal too 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Juliette! The cotton wool analogy is an apt one for sure.

      I’ve never heard of Big Life Journal. Is that a platform like WordPress? I just thought it was like a news/magazine site. That’s cool that you’re on many platforms.


  5. “Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” – Bruce Lee. I couldn’t agree more. Encourage and praise effort, not only the results. This is the best way to foster a growth mindset. Wishing you well Ab 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, AP. I remember you sharing that Bruce Lee quote before. And it’s for sure an appropriate one. We wish for our little T to have the strength and skills to endure and conquer the challenges life will throw at him.

      Take care and enjoy your week ahead!

      Liked by 1 person

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