The secret is out! Climbing is kind of a thing now, and your kid has a real chance of becoming a pro, or at least a serious athlete. It could be the 2024 Olympic Games, sponsorship deals, travel or just years of adventure.
But beware, hockey dad-turned-safer: your child’s passion can be crushed if not carefully cultivated. Here are nine tips for not messing it up.
1) Your child is nothing special.
Even if she is the best of the best, she is still a child and will need freedom and structure to grow into a decent human being. That can mean giving her a chance to play around on the rock or in the gym and explore in her own way. It also means teaching her ethics like respecting other people’s space, waiting her turn to climb, and generally being considerate of others. Think about your child’s long-term growth and remember that climbing is just one part of their life. Ultimately, achievements will not foster maturity.
2) Don’t force anything. Serious.
If you’ve been in the climbing world long enough, you’ll have seen it: the parents belaying at one end and the kid 20 feet up, yelling his eyes out and saying he wants to come down. If he wants down, let him. If he’s tired and asks to leave, then get off the rock. And if he wants to move on, then move on. The point is that when it comes to sports, children need to be self-determined, especially when they are young.
3) To appear.
To be there. Children want to know that you are proud of them. The best way to show them that is to actually stick around while you train. Watch as they broadcast their projects. Back them up, film them, take photos, whatever. just be there
4) Don’t make comparisons.
Do you like to compare yourself to others? Do you think your child likes it when you compare them to others? Enough said. Children grow in their own time, so it’s not productive to wonder out loud why Mary can climb and Sam can’t. Instead, try asking your child what they think they could have done differently. Or ask her what she learned from that experience.
5) Keep your child’s focus on controllable things.
This includes the basics – getting enough sleep, eating right, warming up properly, and most importantly, focusing on your own routine (remember #4). As children progress in competitions, they may become nervous or distracted. Giving them a mental checklist for the day that focuses on their own personal processes encourages them to stay present and can even boost their confidence.
6) Don’t focus on results.
Competition results are fleeting, relatively meaningless moments compared to the training and dedication it took to get to that moment. Instead, encourage children to focus on how they might develop as climbers and competitive people. What kind of memories do you want to go home with? Ask them to choose goals that aren’t related to outcomes, such as “I want to look back and remember how hard I tried” or “I want to have made a bunch of friends.”
7) Speak openly about your own experiences.
Based on what you’ve learned from pursuing your own passions, teach them healthy ways to do the things they’re motivated to do. Were you fond of soccer as a child? How did you train to get better at it? What were some healthy takeaways? And how are you applying those lessons in your life today? Remember: monkeys see, monkeys do.
8th) Let her try other things.
If they don’t want to just focus on climbing, then sign them up for soccer practice or piano lessons. They are at a crucial stage of development, so don’t constrain their style with your own possessive goals. Also, diversifying your activities will actually help them climb, especially when they are young, because it helps them develop new muscle groups, coordination, and body awareness.
9) It’s supposed to be fun.
Climbing can be done from 2 to 90 years. It’s a sport for life, so let kids be kids. It’s not worth projecting and even competing if it’s not really fun. Otherwise, games like add-ons might be a better alternative. Or just take them to the climbing park and set up a rope swing.
By the way, as a former World Cup participant and youth climbing coach, I have seen everything. My own parents didn’t have these foolproof tips advertised to shape my fledgling career, but their day-to-day advice stuck with me: “Just do your best.”