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Yes, it seems that you are headed for an "all or nothing" situation if your not careful. It's good to have high expectations, but if something has happened that has made your son hesitant to even jump in.... well.... telling him he has to swim all the way across the pool may get you the opposite results of those you want.
I would love to do this by phone, but Just Answer's agreement that we agreed won't allow us to.
Anyway, I think that taking him to the pet store is a great idea. I would just frame his expectations such that he sees taking smaller steps to achieve his goal.
In other words, let him know that jumping in is step one, taking his first stroke is step two and so on.. In my experience, using visuals to "explain" is great.
Is your husband to boys natural father? If not, then by all means tell him to butt out!
If he is the natural father, telling him to butt out is not OK. However, telling him you have a plan for helping your son achieve dads expectations might get dad to "go along with the plan" if you will....
Yes be positive and this is KEY....
...... get you son to tell you what HIS expectations are. Get HIM to articulate what would be a reasonable and good "trophy" for jumping in.....swimming one lap, two laps and etc.
He will take ownership of his day and you will see how this is a big part of the "battle" Remember this for other things that are challenging for him as he grows older as well :)
Get dad to read some literature on how the (positively) spoken word can build up and the (negatively) spoken word can break the spirit. This could be challenging.... if dad feels he is being chastised, he will not take it well. The trick is to make him think it's his idea.
I have dealt with many parents in my years, so I am imagining dad is like many I know :)
How am I doing so far? It sounds like you are on your way.
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