At the core of it, children need love, trust and guidance,

then willingness, compliance and play is born.

Choice Fosters Trust

I wanted to share this story with you because it has been a real teacher for me this past year, as a Behavior Interventionist who specializes in outdoor play, I require a certain level of trust with my clients so that we can adventure further and farther together and feel "safe."

When I am invited to work with a child or youth, within 1 hour I can determine if we are going to work well together. I watch how their parent interacts with them, and the idiosyncrasies they have, then I ask them questions, and eventually ask them to do something different and see how they respond. Sometimes it takes 2-3 sessions to see if it's a good fit.

After 3 years of adventuring with Alex, I am witnessing growth in his independence and our trust.

Trust can be fostered in many ways

Providing opportunities to choose, often

Banter and getting to their level

Being kind and relatable

Holding your boundaries even if they hate it

Being with them through having a "Moment"

*This list goes on, AND NOTE that this doesn't all work for everyone, yet generally, those I have worked with, this is true.

This winter his family and I really wanted to get him up skiing again. He loves skiing, or we think he does, yet we think he has a hard time transitioning with the cold. And if you've been up the mountain these days it's been pretty snotty and not good puffy snow conditions, so... instead of pushing him through a hard transition and getting him out skiing no matter the conditions, I decided to try something different.

When we arrive, he can choose to

Stay in the car OR go by the fire at Raven Lodge and have hot chocolate (can you guess which one he chose?)

Then in the lodge, next to the fire under the blanket on the couch, looking out at the snow, we allow them to get to a place of boredom, yup boredom. Once a child meets boredom, they want to be entertained, move their body, do something. It takes every child a different amount of time to just sit and people watch before they want to do something else. It's not my job to entertain a child, it's my job to teach them life skills. (Maybe don't bring video games because kids don't get bored of that.) But something we have added is headphones with classical music. Very calming.

Then once he feels warm, and the anxiety of getting up the hill with all the gear and having to put on noisy pants and tight shoes in front of all those people with bright snow and crunchy sounding foot steps, dogs, smells, birds that try to eat your hand, bathrooms that we still don't know how to navigate... after all that feels less stressful... we are ready do adventure.

Now, I prepared his skis this fine day, it was the best day for skiing we had yet. They were already lined up on the rack outside the front door, so all we had to do was get them on and go. We don't talk about if we are skiing, we talk about where.

"You choose, do you want to ski this way or that way?" And he chose that way.

Let them lead, and if they cut the trip short, be ready for that. Make it boring if they don't continue, but still, build the trust and ignite some of that internal motivation for them to want to come skiing again.

I see a problem all the time in climbing gyms with young kids the parent is so focused on them getting to the top that they aren't watching how much that kid LOVES to tarzan off the wall with the rope. They keep saying "just keep going, a bit further. Aw come on buddy you almost had it." These statements are not helpful. They don't feel celebrated, they feel pressured. This is a form of shaming. They don't even say "good job!" they say "don't you want to climb higher?" "awww maybe next time." To them they don't relate. To them climbing 6 feet is like climbing over your head. That's insane for them to do without you holding them with your hands, yet for you... it's nothing. If we make it feel like the first time you did something... you'd be so stoked. I digress... back to skiing.

Another little trick has been, if it's a snotty day, sideways wind, raining, horrible... go up anyway, but have a back-up plan and just watch the weather from inside the Raven Lodge. Play games, or just chill. stay there the whole time anyway, because I believe they have the same understanding as adults. We don't want to go adventuring in snot. Being cozy inside feels way better, we don't want to struggle. And we get to witness the weather, so that when it IS a good day, we are excited to finally get outside.

Oh and if they ask for a cookie, say "If we go skiing you can have a cookie." You could call this bribery, I call it internal motivation, because it's what they asked for, and is now their identified motivation. Bribery is "I'll give you a cookie if we go skiing." Internal motivation is key.

3 Things to Remember for Getting Kids Outside:

  1. Prep the gear and have it ready for play
  2. Give them lots of choice, even if it's just go this way or that way
  3. Allow them to get bored, boredom ignites internal motivation

Story written by Jamie Black MA, BI

Jan 23, 2024


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