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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How To: 6 tips for raising an active, outdoorsy kid

 by Derek Taylor
Tailor your approach to the individual child
Every kid is going to respond differently to different environments, so adapt your program to your child’s needs. “Some kids actually enjoy pressure, and other kids don’t, so you really have to tune in to who your kid really is and what is going to motivate them,” Gaffney says. “My daughter and son look for different things when we are backcountry skiing, hiking, or camping. I make sure I spend ample one-on-one time with each of them and join them in what they are looking for in the experiences.”
6 tips for raising an active, outdoorsy kid
The trials of getting there over, Robb and Noah Gaffney share a peak experience. Photo courtesy of Robb Gaffney
Don’t push too hard
While we all need some motivation sometimes, it is possible to sour your kids on an experience if it constantly feels like a fight or a job. Gaffney says, once imbedded, negative memories can be difficult to erase. “Whether it’s conscious or not, your mind remembers those experiences,” he says. “They’re hard to overcome unless you start coming in to the sport from a different angle and having positive experiences that draw you back in.” It’s also possible that the child is putting up resistance for a reason. “My son has pushed back many times and some of those times I’ve left him at home,” Gaffney says. “Several times when I probably pushed too hard, I found out several days later that a cold or strep throat was blooming.” 
Insert rewards into the experience
One way to reinforce the positives of the outdoor experience is by inserting age-appropriate rewards into the day. “Gummy worms every 15 minutes on the trail will make most kids want to keep going,” Gaffney says. “As they age, the reward might transition into other things like destination cliff jumping, fishing, ice skating, or simply getting one-on-one attention with their parents who are often too busy in their day-to-day to sit and engage them.” It may sound like straight bribery, but Gaffney says it’s also rooted in science, the same way we harness the bad memories. “When the kids are uncomfortable, throwing in the reward in the midst of that is really important for the neurological process of attachment,” he says. “It’s not just a wives’ tale. There is actually a neurologic wink that creates an attachment between the two things.”
6 tips for raising an active, outdoorsy kid
Tailor your outing to your kids’ needs, and you’ll both be winning. Photo by Robb Gaffney
OK, push a little
Every child will resist going outside, so don’t let this discourage you,” Gaffney says. “I am a firm believer that you also have to help them push through the resistance they might have. Help reframe challenges of being in the outdoors as a positive: ‘This is what real life is like, getting up and over these little hurdles. This is what makes the good times all the better.’” Gaffney says that around ages 11 or 12, kids become more insightful of themselves, and that you can start to talk to them about the concept of overcoming challenges. “It’s really important to help them push through some of those difficult times, and do things to engage them so that they feel like you’re on their side,” Gaffney says. “As long as you can get them through that and they can get to the top and have a peak experience, they’ll always remember that they can get through times like that. It’s such a great life lesson.”
Power down
These days, parents and kids alike are addicted to our phones and tablets—parents doubly so because we use them not only to stay connected and entertained, but also to distract and entertain our kids. Putting an iPad in front of your kids on a long drive is fine, Gaffney says, but when it’s time to go outside, it’s time to power down. “With my kids, if we’re going to go out and do something, I insist that they turn off the devices,” Gaffney says. “I think it blocks their ability to really get into the experience and have the peak experience in whatever they’re doing. Unless we’re driving for many, many hours, I’ll actually have them leave the devices at home for the entire excursion.” Gaffney also recommends taking extended vacations without electronics so kids learn they can live without them.
6 tips for raising an active, outdoorsy kid
“Dad, this IN actually smells pretty nice!” The Gaffneys head out on a tour. Photo courtesy of Robb Gaffney.
Admit, and mock, your own mistakes
Parenting is difficult, and no one is perfect at it. Don’t be afraid to drop the armor around your children and show off your shortcomings. “Every parent makes mistakes along the way,” Gaffney says. “When you do, admit these to your children in a joking and humble way. In doing so you’ll invite them into joining you in your own exploration of the parenting process.” Gaffney relates a story about how he was insisting on buying his daughter a certain pair of skis, claiming his “instincts” told him they would be right for her ability. “It turned out the skis I was about to purchase would not have been good for her. She joked, ‘your in stinks.’ Now she uses that one any time she finds me insisting on something that she sees much differently. And she’s often right.”

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