/ Fear of heights/failure/falling cures???

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ElArt - on 25 Dec 2017

Thanks for reading & Merry Christmas.

So Ellie my 9 your old has a fear of heights (I think). She can't get more than 15ft on Autobelays or top roping at the Wall. She did abseil but was scared going over a rounded edge at 30ft onto a sloping wall.

I think she is scared of the feeling of being at height.

My 7 yr old boy, Arthur got over his fear (actually said the words) in time and someone else told me that it was just a matter of time and perseverance.

This would indicate that her fear can be cured/fixed by practice (nurture beats nature).

Any top tips would be appreciated???


Yes before you ask, I'm the same and I need a lot of practice and can be OK at height but didn't start till I was 16 and didn't have a climbing family or UKC Forums!

teh_mark on 25 Dec 2017
In reply to ElArt:

Is it an innate fear of heights, or a distrust of the system? Let's face it, realising you're trusting your life to some small shiny bits of metal and some nylon can be quite daunting to begin with until you've had enough experience to get used to it and trust that it works. If it's that, then perhaps it's just a case of persevering?
helix - on 25 Dec 2017
In reply to teh_mark:
Whenever our kids have been freaked out by some aspect of climbing, we’ve backed off a bit, and only tried again after a while and gently. Which I guess is the opposite of persevering. Otherwise there’s a risk they’ll turn against climbing, and maybe even you.
tingle - on 25 Dec 2017
In reply to ElArt:

Controlled falls might be the best if you can persuade them to do that? Even my first fall on an autobelay was jarring and I had been climbing for a while and use a similar inertia device at work. Also maybe walking them through the safety aspects and how much force each component can take, that way they can learn about how it works and learn to trust it.
thepodge on 25 Dec 2017
In reply to tingle:

Maybe get an older friend or adult to throw themselves off a wall a few times to demonstrate it's safe.
stp - on 25 Dec 2017
In reply to ElArt:

Maybe she'd prefer bouldering?

However if she wants to persevere then just support her, let her stop when she wants to and don't try to push her.

Having small goals, like just going up one more move might help. That way she'll get some reward for achieving something rather than failing all the time - which will probably put her off climbing altogether.

But generally at that age climbing is just playing so she'll play the way she wants to. I'd say give her as much freedom as possible. The most important thing for both long and short term is that she's having fun and enjoying herself. If she's not enjoying it then maybe climbing is not for her.
defaid - on 25 Dec 2017
In reply to ElArt:
Merry Christmas!

How about some regular and frequent jumping- off practice? Perhaps start a couple of feet off the ground (measure it off and compare it with the height of things she's familiar with: bed, car bonnet or kitchen table?). If her feet are level with your waist then her eyes are a lot higher and the ground will look a long way off. Let her land on her feet when she wants to. Knees apart maybe in case she breaks a tooth... Do it on top-rope with no slack. When she finds that easy, suggest that she goes a couple of moves higher.

If she wants some slack for a fall, don't pay it out yourself-- let her climb a move further so she's controlling the amount of slack but explain why she'll fall past her last point.

Beyond a certain point it's probably advisable to phase out the landing on the feet (there was a screaming smiley here but it uploads as a bunch of question marks) but if you have a boulder mat it would be worth her getting familiar with how that feels (and looks-- they're awfully small from fifteen feet up...)

It will take up a lot of time that could have been devoted to climbing but if you don't do it then she probably won't be climbing much longer.

Whatever you decide, ease right off whenever she stops enjoying it. It was working for me at the start of the summer after a fifteen year absence. Until rain stopped play, which is when I stopped enjoying it...

Post edited at 14:07
Stone Idle - on 25 Dec 2017
In reply to ElArt:
My youngest was most nervous til she got to 12 or hereabouts. Now strolls 6b. Let her do what she feels is good. The grandson climbs 5 at the age of five but the then he is a monkey
ElArt - on 25 Dec 2017
In reply to ElArt:

Thanks very much for all your help. The backing off advice is pretty much Universal advice and I do but I will try and remember to do it ALL the time. She did get half way up the wall when she thought I wasn't looking so thats proof it works. If there was a magic bullet I suppose there'd be no need for a thread.

I think its the height and not the trust in the system with Ellie.

Anyway I will post best cures if I find one!! Im guessing backing off and getting them out with my climbing partner Sam will be good so I'll try to that.

Off to Christmas Dinner!!

Merry Christmas.

LeeWood - on 25 Dec 2017
In reply to defaid:

> How about some regular and frequent jumping- off practice?

I would say - not jumping off but suspension. My lad and others have responded well to suspension and playing just above ground level with 'abseil posture' - then progressive elevation. If she doesn't feel comfortable above a certain level don't push her to finish the climb.
springfall2008 - on 25 Dec 2017
In reply to ElArt:

To be honest it's pretty normal and sensible (if you think about it).

I'd suggest the problem will resolve itself with more practice. A few things that might help are:
- Make it clear she can go as high or as low as she likes, leave her in control
- Avoid auto-belays as they tend to drop you, instead get her on a top rope where she can dangle around.
- Take her regularly until she overcomes the fear
Wayne S - on 25 Dec 2017
In reply to ElArt:
Hi Billy,

My daughter has/ had a similar issue, she somehow decided how high was high enough and then wouldn’t climb past that point. I think when it came down to it it was a lack of trust in the rope system.

In the end I stopped worrying about trying to encourage her to go higher but instead made jumping off on top rope a fun game, building up a bit of slack each time.

Eventually I was getting asked for slack beyond my comfort zone, and we kinda forgot about the self imposed hight limit once we got back to climbing.

Equally I never describe climbing as safe or easy as a form of encouragement, if that makes sense.

JohnV - on 25 Dec 2017
In reply to tingle:

Persuading them is interesting. How often have any of said (in the safe and controlled environment of an indoor wall) “go for it” or “you’re safe just jump off” to someone who is scared and about to fall? That person is making a subconscious link between the feeling of being scared and falling off.
Better is to treat it like a game, have fun, and try to make associations between enjoyment, and the act of falling off. I now have a fun song which I sing in my head when I am climbing something I may fall off. When doing fall practice I make sure I only let go when I have got myself into a relaxed and comfortable state. I might even tell myself a joke before letting go so I associate laughing with falling off, or being relaxed and at ease with falling off.
oldie - on 26 Dec 2017
In reply to ElArt:

Similar to some of the other replies. Bottom roping only at first. Get them to "fall" off at a couple of feet to see its safe then, over many visits if necessary, increase this height. Distances can seem much greater when you are small.

I often have a problem bottom roping with adults as I prefer to use a waist belay for this! Many think it will be impossible for an old codger to hold them (they can't even conceive that even a falling leader would be OK). I just get them to try dropping off at a very low height.
jayjackson - on 26 Dec 2017
In reply to ElArt:
I run some coaching headgame workshops for both adults and children; one of the most common things people identify as a psychological barrier to their performance is an aversion to heights, exposure or falling - Ellie is not alone!

There are of course loads of drills and techniques (that can be dressed up as games) that have already been suggested, and as has already been suggested as long as Ellie wants to go higher, then simply doing more and being gentle will probably do it, supported by you being there to explain or demonstrate how/why she is safe.

Something I always focus on with people is to identify exactly where they get scared, then identify how close to that place they can get without being scared, then spend lots of time going to that place they’re not scared in - if that’s half-way up the wall then fine - on her go she gets to climb to the middle twice, she still does the same amount of climbing, but she’s not developing a habit of being scared or associating climbing with fear.

If she enjoys climbing, her curiosity and impatience will probably mean she chooses herself to go a little higher and you’ll see her start to grow the boundaries of her comfort zone. This can be facilitated by asking her to re-identify where exactly she gets scared, or even “would it be scary one hold higher? If you’re not sure let’s go up there and see what it would be like”

Sorry, rambled a bit there!

Hope something useful there for you!
ElArt - on 27 Dec 2017
In reply to jayjackson:

Jay, That’s interesting I will try getting her to go nowhere near where she gets scared and get her to climb twice.

I think it’s just keeping her going and enjoying it that’ll do it. I will try and make it more fun too.

Thanks again.

Jon Greengrass on 28 Dec 2017
In reply to ElArt:

You should let Ellie stick to traversing, of course this may mean she ends up as a boulderer, but is that really so bad?
When she wants to climb up high she'll let you know.
summo on 28 Dec 2017
In reply to ElArt:

Just let her enjoy the climbing she does, as high as she wants to go. I'd forget all the falling training stuff. She is only young and confidence with heights will either come with time & experience, or it won't. I don't think you can force it.

Our youngest never went above 7 or 8m max when younger, then something clicked and they were off up to 20m on either a rope or self belay. An adult knows and understands the strength of metal work and ropes, taking it at face value. I think some kids like to develop that trust themselves over time. Even now on the self belay on first climb up, she might jump off at half height, just for assurance all is well, before climbing to the top.

Give it time. We climb for pleasure after all.
ElArt - on 01 Jan 2018
In reply to summo:

Thanks everyone the general concensus seems to not push at all which I don’t necessarily agree with but I think I will do. She performs better separately anyway and as most people said she should be able to enjoy it.



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