It has been so long since I trained small children that I have forgotten many of the little details, but as I observe my children now training their little ones, I am reminded of the small things that make a big difference.

The other day I was down at the creek swimming with about eight or ten of the grandkids and their parents. Several of them are at that two- to four-year-old stage where they are just learning to swim. The five- and six-year-olds try to be helpful in ways that are not always welcomed by the tots still fearful of getting in over their heads. I observed two different mothers tell a five- or six-year-old, “Do not do that if he doesn’t like it. When he says no, respect his rights.” It brought to mind how I related to my kids when they were learning to swim. I was careful to never betray their trust, to never be the source of consternation or fear. If they wanted to “swim” the two feet from shore to my hands, I always provided that certainty of safety, never allowing them to become desperate. They always felt I was safe and trusted me to protect them. I see that the grandkids now view me the same way. If Big Papa takes them out into the deep water, he is going to protect them. If he says, “Jump,” he will be there to catch them.

Three weeks ago, two-year-old Parker didn’t even want to stand close to the water. He is now confident in wading up to his neck. Next week he will be putting his face in the water, and by the end of the summer he will be trying to dog paddle. It is loads of fun to observe the progress of all twenty grandkids. As the swimming kids observe us parents and grandparents carefully protecting the rights of the little ones, they develop a respectful worldview of their own. More is caught than taught.