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Ask @DadandBuried: How Can I Help My Child Get the Courage to Dunk His Head When Swimming?

Ask @DadandBuried: How Can I Help My Child Get the Courage to Dunk His Head When Swimming?

Kids can sometimes be hesitant to dunk their heads under water when swimming, so how can you encourage kids without constantly trying to convince them?

Mike Julianelle, the 40-something father of two behind @dadandburied, is our go-to friend when it comes to parenting advice. He tells it like it is and gives us a good laugh along the way—and that's just what we need. This month’s question: How can I get my kid to dunk their head in the pool?

“My son just turned 7, and he loves to swim. The only problem is he’s scared of putting his head under the water, and it really limits how much fun he can have. How do I get him to take the plunge?” —Robert, Rye

First of all, I don’t appreciate the pun. But I’ll forgive you for it, because a few years ago, I was in the exact same boat. (Two can play that game!) My now-10-year-old was struggling with this very issue. Actually, I was the one struggling, because I was so desperate for him to overcome his fears and finally dunk his head in the swimming pool

His grandparents have a pool, and we are lucky to have access to it during the summer. My kid loves nothing more than to spend the day frolicking in the water, but the idea of getting fully submerged freaked him out. Playing with him in the pool was like playing with my wife in the pool, right after she’d gotten her hair done.

Anyone who swims knows that you’re not really swimming until you go under water, and I knew for a fact that my son would love it. Dunking your head opens up a whole new pool experience—one that includes jumping into the pool, riding water slides, getting thrown around by Dad, and more. I was begging my son to just rip the bandage off and dunk his head just once, so he would realize it was no big thing. Then the real fun could begin.

RELATED: How to Reduce Children’s Risk of Drowning

Of course, the more I begged, the more he resisted, and the more he resisted, the more frustrated I got. What should have been a fun milestone had turned into a vendetta, and suddenly our visits to Grandma and Pop-pop’s house were fraught with stress for both of us. Eventually, I realized he needed to work at his own pace, and he would come to it on his own.

I loosened my grip as best I could, stopped chirping at him every time he got in the pool, and tried to pretend I didn’t care. When he finally did it, I showered him (there I go again!) with praise. He realized that I had been right all along, that it wasn’t a big deal, and it was a lot more fun that way. It was a great moment for both of us, and he’s never looked back. 

One of the hardest things to do as a parent is to convince your kids to try something new. Kids are stubborn and getting them to try a new food, a new bedtime story, even a new movie can often be like pulling teeth. Even if you know for a fact that they’re gonna love it once they get their feet wet (I can’t stop!), convincing them of that fact can be just about impossible. 

Sometimes letting go is the best thing you can do. That’s also really hard to do, but if you can manage, it will probably pay off. And then you get to do the absolute hardest thing in parenting: not screaming “I TOLD YOU SO!” in your kid’s face.

RELATED: Find Swimming Lessons for Your Child

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Mike Julianelle


Mike Julianelle is the Brooklyn dad behind the popular blog,, and its Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.

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