I am a childless uncle who just became very worried about the water safety of my nephew. Whether this is my business, or not, I'm thinking of making it my business:

My nephew (who is 4-yrs old) recently finished "swimming" lessons. However, he can't roll right/left to breathe while moving forward. And, he can't float on his back. All he does is swim out to a person standing in the pool; breathe; swim back to side of the pool.

This Thanksgiving weekend, I was at a bar adjacent to a huge pool at a resort. On the far side, my nephew was taking leaps into the pool and "swimming" out to my father. Then... rather than take a leap, he turns left and starts running along the side of the pool. It was a cool day, very few people were out, and no one was near where my nephew was running.

  • Am I wrong in thinking that this was a life or death situation? My sister is blowing me off about this. She is proud he can "swim".
  • Am I wrong to think that a child needs to know how to float on his back, or be afraid of the water? My nephew is currently fearless of "swimming". That is incredibly dangerous?

I've read the opinions of the haters of "ISR infant swimming survival". They argue that "ISR" terrifies the child. Yes, it is terrifying. And, that is how it should be. If you can't get on your back a float, you should not (get in) / (fall in) water deeper than you can stand. That's obviously common sense, right?

btw: My first memory is the "final exam" of my ISR training. I was innocuously asked to put shoes on. Then the instructor sat next to me, tied the shoelaces together, and threw me in... That was torture. I found the name "Dr. Harvey Barnett" in the "about" page of infantswim.com . My instructor's name was "Harvey". If that Harvey taught swimming in central Florida in the late 1970s, I might have found my man. I do forgive him though. He made me into a strong swimmer.

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    I'd never suggest encouraging a child to "be afraid of the water," since that can potentially cause problems for further swimming lessons. Teach him to respect it, and ensure he knows water safety rules (let an adult know if you're going near the pool, wear a life jacket while on a boat, etc.) -- and if you're going to critique your sister's handling of his water skills, you should be willing to step up to teach him floating, head turning, and treading water. – Acire Dec 9 '14 at 16:49
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    If you know how to breathe in the water, please tell me, I'm very much interested. ;) – user7953 Dec 9 '14 at 22:24
  • Please do not use edits to attempt to remove your question. This is considered vandalism. – user420 Dec 10 '14 at 2:19

A four year old shouldn't be unsupervised near a pool whether he can swim or not (or anywhere else for more than a couple of minutes), but it also sounds like he wasn't unsupervised. It sounds like he wasn't as closely supervised as you believe is necessary, which is an important distinction.

In general, I wouldn't insert myself into situations like this if it's something your sister knows about - ie, you simply disagree with her. She's the parent; unless this is to the point that you think it is child endangerment (which it doesn't sound like it is, but that's hard to pick up from some words on the internet), you're going to make things worse by interfering. If it's something she's unaware of - ie, she didn't notice her son being off by himself near a pool - then certainly mention it casually; but it sounds like here, you simply disagree with your sister's judgement and want to substitute your judgement for hers. That rarely ends well, in particular when she's the parent and you're not. It also sounds like (from the emotion in your question) that this is something that's sort of a sticking point for you; you probably should be aware of that emotional side, and recognize that your sister doesn't have to have the same opinions.

My mom actually had something of the same issue with me and my younger child, and we handled it well (so far!). She saw some videos I posted of him climbing on some age-inappropriate (but, in my opinion, my child-appropriate) playground equipment, and was concerned that it wasn't safe. She told me her opinion, once, and I told her that I was nearby (within catching distance) and was comfortable with the safety given my nearness and his shown ability to catch himself. I didn't tell her her concerns were invalid, and she didn't push it any further - just made it known how she felt. That went pretty well for both of us, I think, and it seems like a reasonable model here; if you made your feelings known to your sister (which given you said 'she is blowing you off on this' it sounds like you did), that's the appropriate thing to do, and then leave it at that, as far as pushing your opinions.

What you can do, however, is watch him yourself when you're around. If you're concerned that nobody is close enough to him around the pool, you can very easily change that by yourself being close to him. Be the fun uncle that loves playing at the pool, and follows him around and does silly things. You obviously can't be around every time he's near a pool, but you can make things safer when you are there.

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    I agree with this answer 100%. I'm glad to see it's the accepted answer. My brother in law used to live with us and doesn't anymore bc he attempted to override our judgement about which activities were safe for our children. We had no objection to his opinions right up to the day when he threatened to burn down our swing set (in earnest) and then "fired" our nanny and locked our kids in his room for the day under his "proper" care- all bc she/we allowed our kids (age 2 and 3) to slide down their slide by themselves. – Jax Dec 11 '14 at 14:54

Yes, there's no way that child should be unsupervised near a pool unless he's demonstrably able to do more than simply swim to someone who then puts him in a position to be able to breathe.

Even if he does learn this, a child shouldn't be unsupervised in a pool until very confident and able.

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