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“How do I help my kids become more adventurous?”
This is one of the most asked questions that people ask us. Are kids born adventurous? Yes…and no. More often than not, they are made. Honestly, it so easy for me to look at my older kids (ages 7 and almost 5) and just bask in all the things they can do. They can ski, climb, swim, hike, or pretty much anything else that we throw at them. Honestly, it’s awesome. However, I see the startling reality each and every day as I look at their younger brothers. So helpless, untamed, and wild. It seems like Mason and Chloe have instantly transformed into amazingly adventurous little people, but it wasn’t always that way. Yes, the days were indeed long, but the years passed in a flash.
Behind their confidence is years of experience. Hundreds of miles hiked. Countless days slept outside. Innumerable rides up the chairlift. I feel like in those few short years since I’ve been a parent, I have enough memories of our adventures together to last a lifetime. Thankfully those memories hide all the work. The late-nights packing for adventures. The sore back from carrying their load and mine (and often their little bodies as well). The tears and frustrations. It’s a lot of work!
So what has turned our kids into the fantastic little adventurers that they are? Here are some tricks we’ve learned:
LEAD THE WAY
By design, your kids are going to want to do what you do. If you sit in front of the TV during all your spare time, I’m pretty sure your offspring are doomed to be couch potatoes. Likewise, if you spend all your extra time on a bike (like these parents) or climbing (like these parents), your kids are going to follow in your footsteps. All you have to do is ask yourself “what kind of things do I want my kids to do”, and then go do them yourself.
If you adventure, they will follow!
Honestly, this is the biggest key to just about anything with kids. As you know, we’re big believers that your outdoor adventures don’t end when you have kids, so our kids are adventuring along with us since birth. They are constantly exposed to the outdoors, so much so that they’re often more comfortable there than they are inside. They learn by watching us, by experiencing life side-by-side with our whole family.
So many times out on our adventures, I feel like I was stuck in the movie “Groundhog Day”, living the same thing over and over. The progress was often slow, but the results have been amazing.
When you push a child to do something they’re not comfortable with, they will often push back and refuse to do it at all. Honestly, this is one of my biggest fears. We expose our children to so many adventurous things because we are incredibly passionate about them, and we want to share that with them (we’re big into raising passionate children). It would break my heart if they hated what I loved, just because I pushed them too hard too fast. Although it’s really hard, just focus on comfort and the skill and confidence will follow. Just remember, it has to be on their terms, not yours.
When my son jumps off a cliff into a river, do I yell at him? Well, not if he asked to do it first 🙂 No, we praise him for it. Praise him for being brave, for trying something new, for being safe, etc. By praising our kids adventurous accomplishments, they realize that we value adventure, and will do their best to keep doing more! Because honestly, who doesn’t want people to tell them that they’re amazing?!
To prove my point, here’s a story about my sweet Chloe. We’re a water-loving family. In the summer, we’re pretty much in the water 6 days a week. Between the local pool, the lake, and the river, we just can’t seem to get enough of the water. Although our oldest son has always been incredibly comfortable (aka crazy) in the water, Chloe was the opposite. She has always been timid. She always wanted us to hold her, didn’t like others to splash her. While her brother was racing to fling himself into the deep end. She was nervously clinging to her life jacket. Day after day, we kept at it. Slowly, she started to warm up. Eventually, she would swim a little on her own. Then she learned to take her life jacket off and hold onto the side of the pool. Yes, the progress seemed painfully slow. Then amazingly, a few weeks ago, she decided that she wanted to really swim. And wouldn’t you believe, she did. By the end of that day, she was holding her breath, kicking like a champ, and diving in the deep end with her dad. It was awesome. Nearly 5 years of work, finally shined through, all in that one day!