/ Forced Family Fun
Myself and a group of friends were climbing at a new crag (to us). Easy access, easy grades, beach, sun etc made for a great area for family fun. However I was absolutely shocked at the amount of young kids (some looking about 3 years old) being harnessed up and pretty much forced up cliffs. I mean, I'm sure they agreed to go out climbing, probably to make daddy happy, and I'm sure they may have done a bit before, perhaps indoors, but nothing about their experience seemed enjoyable. There were tears, crying, dodgy down-climbing and parental free-soloing going on everywhere. Ironically, they seemed much happier scrambling around the low lying rocks and jumping onto the sand.
It all came to a head when some of our group were stuck on a multipitch with a family of 4 ahead of them. They were waiting at least an hour at each belay ledge as a little domestic was quietly breaking out between parents as they realised they had set off far too late, didn't have enough gear, sun was setting etc etc. (benightment was avoided btw).
I guess my point (or question) is that is this type of forced fun for the kids benefit, or for the parents?
Anyone else seen this?
I recall seeing a terrified kid aged about 8 half way up a single pitch.
“Real climbers don’t cry, Mungo” was the encouragement shouted up by the man I presume to be his dad.
I’ve a 3 year old Wintertree Jr. They’re capable of doing far more outside than most people think, and of enjoying themselves massively in the process. But they have to be totally on board with the idea, and the plan for the trip has to be totally flexible around them. Otherwise stress, misery and tiredness would ensue for both parent and child. What concerns me when I see that in other groups is just how much it increases the accident risk.
I've seen the same at Parkruns “Real athletes don't quit” bawled by pushy mum at tearful child. That's a PE teachers job...
A few week ago at the Cromlech a family showed up at the scramble approach to the Corner, it was a baking hot day and there were queues for most routes. The children were roped between mum and dad and belayed up the scramble, they then proceeded to climb Spiral Staircase. Non of them had helmets and the mother had to give the youngest child a leg up to reach the first holds on the initial traverse pitch. The children seemed happy enough but what if they were to short to reach a hold mid traverse? It all seemed like a badly planned day out and asking for trouble tbh. Parents like to see there children performing well but there's a time and a place.
Why would you set off up a climb with a family already on it, must do classic of crag maybe?
I remember seeing a small child in tears half way up a route as his dad was bellowing that he should stop crying and get on with it because he was embarrassing him.
I remember thinking that the dad was doing a pretty good job of embarrassing himself.
Top of the PYG track most weekends in winter. Little Timmy, crying and almost hypothermic, being dragged up the zig-zags, his tiny trainer clad feet barely touching the snow.
Haha, I knew it was Three Cliffs from your description!
I was there with my two kids a month or two back and had both sides of the coin. Kid #1, about six years old, would definitely been better off without a rope or harness just scrambling around on the rocks, we got him off the rope quite quickly when we realised he wasn't having fun then Kid # 2, 8 years old, and I went on an excellent mini-adventure over the Pinnacles.
What did I learn? For the nth time, as wintertree says, be flexible and be ready to can your plans when it stops being fun.
What's the answer to your question? I guess some parents want to share their passions with their kids but get the balance wrong. It's amazing how quickly even something as simple as a walk can go from being blissfully perfect to total catastrophe within about 20 minutes when hunger and tiredness levels are mis-judged.
What was the multi-pitch? East Ridge of Great Tor?
I've taken a 3 year old climbing before but wouldn't dream of having her crying.
She had fun for a bit and then played for a while.
My tip for such activities (apart from the obvious let them have fun and don't be a pushy idiot) is that minimum 3 adults is perfect, one on the rope, one at the top and one alongside. Then 2 adults can climb and one play for a while and swap.
> It all came to a head when some of our group were stuck on a multipitch with a family of 4 ahead of them. They were waiting at least an hour at each belay ledge as a little domestic was quietly breaking out between parents as they realised they had set off far too late, didn't have enough gear, sun was setting etc etc. (benightment was avoided btw).
Your friends did choose to follow them, leaving the responsibility for the delays on their shoulders, not the family's.
That may be fair enough for a relatively short route like Great Tor, but it's a bit less clear cut in general. If I see a party 2/3 of the way up a long route then I don't really have any reason to believe I will catch up with them, and most of the time I won't.
It still happened to me on Sunday though. A family group, who were actually moving reasonably well, though cautiously and not having any meltdowns. It wasn't a problem and they kindly let us through when they were all established on a belay and safe, but it's hard to avoid that sort of thing unless you go very remote.
Lol, if kids at that age don't cry at least once then it's not been a good day out.
They've got to suffer a bit.
> Why would you set off up a climb with a family already on it, must do classic of crag maybe?
Yes absolutely. The only multipitch in the area, so a must do. I'd had a go on it earlier in the day and had warned them there were two people in front of us, and two behind, so potential for queuing, but I don't think they ever anticipated what was going to unfurl ahead of them.
In fairness, they came back buzzing from the route - just some of the antics on the route were a bit questionable.
Worst of all, they had the bunkhouse key! We had to stay for two pints instead of one waiting for them!!!!!
> Your friends did choose to follow them, leaving the responsibility for the delays on their shoulders, not the family's.
in essence, yes. They had wind of a slow group, but that was their only opportunity, so they were going to do it regardless.
But, If the parents had organised a bit more they would have been more efficient. For example - when already on the route, the leader called down saying "how are we going to have enough ends of rope for all of us?"
> I've taken a 3 year old climbing before but wouldn't dream of having her crying.
> She had fun for a bit and then played for a while.
I've got two young girls (7 and 5) and I take them climbing indoors every now and again during the winter for a treat. And they love it. Myself and my partner roped them up once on Dartmoor when all the factors aligned for a good day out, but I'm really holding them off regular climbing until I know they'll fully enjoy it and not have a potential detrimental experience. Both are quite timid.
This might be me being too cautious, but I don't want them to be bored with climbing when they're 12. They need to be belaying me until I'm at least 65!
Are you a parent - have you ever tried to achieve the right balance ?
My lad has been climbing since the age of 3 - and I have to say there have been some crag tantrums, which I have been more embarrassed by than him. We've had even more tantrums at the dinner table when he objects to eating his salad.
But we're battling through it - still trying to get the balance right. 2 wks ago our 5 day trip to Siurana was averagely successful - though I know he would have appreciated a warm river pool for a daily dip. Notably he's just starting to clean up on 6c toprope - which places him a notch closer to leading me up hard routes in 10 years time.
Had a few blow-outs indoor recently - usually connected with grades, frustration because a route *should go* at the known grade. Much discussion about the subjectivity of grades and route-settering !
I guess 'Mungo' just about sums it up
Certainly kids shouldn't be terrified and it might put them off for life. Never force them or get them into frightening situations IMHO, the instance of youngsters on Spiral Stairs mentioned previously would have been quite awkward if one had become stuck traversing without a rope from above (of course the parents might have known their own offspring would be OK). I've also seen a dad trying to force his approx 10 year old to coasteer from Hedbury to Dancing Ledge, kid was quite frightened and ultimately refused. The parents have probably convinced themselves that their kids will enjoy the experience but should be prepared to back down. Speaking for myself I'd always have selfishly wanted to do anything to get on some rock on a family holiday, but realized it could be counterproductive for both of us. A quick bit of soloing or half a day off walking or scrambling was the best compromise.
Friends should have offered to put one of the kids between them. 2 threes, will move smoothly, less rope spaghetti and allow more stance space than a 4.
There were tears, crying, dodgy down-climbing and parental free-soloing going on everywhere. Ironically, they seemed much happier scrambling around the low lying rocks and jumping onto the sand.
i'm pretty sure the parents didn't plan it to go the way it did, but you gotta go and try or else you'd never have any adventures. Taking the kids climbing is unpredictable - the same route can be smiles one day and tears the next, so I have some sympathy for all concerned.
> i'm pretty sure the parents didn't plan it to go the way it did, but you gotta go and try or else you'd never have any adventures. Taking the kids climbing is unpredictable - the same route can be smiles one day and tears the next, so I have some sympathy for all concerned.
Yes taking them is unpredictable. However, when the tears were coming, it was still "you can do it" rather than the parents looking at each other and realising it was all a bit too much too soon. It really seemed to me that their kids were going to climb that route no matter what!
> Are you a parent - have you ever tried to achieve the right balance ?
Yes, ...and always!
I have no issue with anyone with their kids climbing, as long as they're enjoying it. What I'm saying is that every family at this crag seemed to be forcing their children into things they weren't comfortable with. If it was a one-off, not worth the post, but it really occurred to me that this wasn't an isolated issue.
For me, I'm holding off with my kids until I know they'll benefit from it. As said above, both my girls are a bit timid, and sending them up routes at 3 would have knocked their confidence for a lifetime. I'm patient, and thankfully so are they.
> Yes, ...and always!
But no, and never ! You have never tried to do this so you cannot know ! Children can learn rope confidence from an early age and once done then a tight rope opens opportunities to play. A lot of tantrums arise simply because kids get tired.
Balance accepts occasional failures. Its like saying ' I know that I can't climb <the next grade> because I will fall off, and thats too frightening. Give them a push, and then if they get frightened give them a hug.
Knowing that its <the right thing> some occasional stress from the need to eat salad will pay off in better health over the long term.
Wow, chill out dude. You don't know me and what I have and haven't done with my kids in terms of challenging them. This is nothing personally against you ok?
No worries - nothing personal, but I'm going on your statement:
> For me, I'm holding off with my kids until I know they'll benefit from it.
We're all entitled to deal with our kids as we like (bar the obvious), my manner of writing is simply to pose a differing view which incidentally is representative of my own parenting.
What this highly contentious thread needs is the wit and wisdom of 88Dan to pour some oil on troubled waters - I suspect he'd advise avoiding the use of Decathlon equipment and ensuring any female participants were well covered in (presumably branded) loose fitting clothing...
On topic I've only taken my own children (8 & 6 at the time) sport climbing, on top rope, at at a deserted French crag with some nice low grade routes, but even this elicited the odd tantrum from my youngest; afterwards she said she loved it and wanted to go again but was annoyed her sister had got to do a route first. I don't think children's tantrums are necessarily a good indicator of the suitability of route choice given they can be caused by anything from hunger to sibling rivalry.
That said, 3 Cliffs on a bank holiday weekend is a very public location for a tantrum and therefore not somewhere I personally would choose to take young children out of consideration for both the general populace and my own sanity.
Pushy parents are trouble, no doubt about it.
That said (and I've no real interest in getting mine into climbing) my Three often ask if the can have a shot. They've dabbled with scrambles in Glencoe and the Lakes and done little routes here and there. Sometimes, if the snacks are good, they have a great time. But occasionally one of them will have the screaming abdabs and lay off for a while. I always feel like a right tosser when they have a bad time though.
I always thought Gower was a good option because there is plenty of beach to play on instead of climbing. That only works for short things of course.
I'm thinking of trying to get my daughter out as she loves climbing things but a big sandy plan b seems prudent. I think Caswell may be a better choice than three cliffs though, as there are few climbers and some amenable boulders.
At the moment she loves her harness because I can use it to swing her around.
When our kids were young, the youngest being 8 or so, I used to take them climbing, in various ways. Roped climbing easily becomes tedious for young kids so we didn't do too much of that with them, but more often either went on scrambling adventures or did one Diff pitch somewhere nice. A picture on my profile shows us doing a combination of the two, at Porthguarnon Cove. Another memorable day out was to go right along the base of Bosigran main face then out at the seaward end descent route. That is a fantastic adventure.
I have a great picture somewhere of several small people tied to something and swinging around.
That does sounds great. Nice scramble, finished off with a climb and then an easy walk out. One ot put on the list for a couple of years time!
Tears, crying and dodgy down climbing sounds like my average attempt at a route.
We"ve taken our little one to the crags since she was a few months old. She loved to explore the bottom of crags, and she soon wanted to hang around and later climb. If she's in the mood, she'll climb a whole lot, sometimes she says she's in the mood an doesn"t like after two meters. We"ll usually say that this was in her range once or twice, then lower her an d she'll play and keep us partially busy... Buildung "wellness stations for bug" (her word and idea, not ours!). Somtimes she joins us and solemnly declares at the crag, this was a parents climbing day).
One thing is for sure, you never know what you are in for. We try to get and keep her interested in the outdoors... Sometimes we are probably off with our tries. But in general we very much have the feeling she enjoys being out and about with us.
> I always thought Gower was a good option because there is plenty of beach to play on instead of climbing. That only works for short things of course.
I'd generally agree but as someone pointed out earlier it depends on the ratio of adults to children, the location and / or the age of the children. If there's more than one child and they're at an age where they need supervising on the beach you arguably need at least 3 adults (one to lead route then belay child, one to belay the leader and tie first climbing child into the rope + check harness, one adult to perform lifeguard, referee and general entertainer duties for remaining children); more is ideal less is doable but increases the risk of daft mistakes due to distraction in my experience.
3 Cliffs is one of my favourite beaches in the world but you've got a river with consequent rip current, sand dunes, cliffs and (at low tide anyway) a large expanse of beach for children to wander off on; add in how busy it is on a BH and I wouldn't choose to take my children (9, 7 & 3) climbing there unless we were part of a larger group.
Don’t be too hard on the parents, none of us is perfect, I’m sure they were doing the best they could and i’m sure they know their kids better than you do!
We just took our 5 year old outside on a rope earlier this week and there were quite a lot of tears but she also loved it!
Tears, crying, dodgy downclimbing.....yeah I do this every Saturday and I'm 48. Nowt wrong with it.
Me and my partner, 'Crusher', went to climb on Lembert Dome, in Tuolumne Meadows. We went to climb the Water Cracks which are a single pitch of 5.8. We got there to see a family climb it. Bloke goes up first, then a kid, about 8 years old, and the missus. Once they were done, were about to set off when the child abseils down, except the rope is 5m short of the belay. Petrified kid. We climb up and lower him off. Same happens with his mum. Unbelievable.
A Canadian guy watching says "They should rename this place Wanker Dome!". We decline to help the bloke when he too reaches the end of the rope, wondering where his beloved family are.
Wanker Dome...never forgotten it
I just took mine for her first indoor session. She seemed mostly happy so long as she was unroped and within a metre of the ground. Things only went down hill when she overheard someone saying the word "pudding" and new priorities were installed.
> Things only went down hill when she overheard someone saying the word "pudding" and new priorities were installed.
Knowing when to prioritise cake over one more climb isn't a bad attribute. She'll go far. The crags will always be there, but the cafe might close.
Prioritising cake is fine, but the other stuff suggests I might have a boulderer on my hands.
> Prioritising cake is fine, but the other stuff suggests I might have a boulderer on my hands.
Wouldn't worry it's just time and confidence. Ours started like that aged 4 and 6, even roped up they didn't want to go higher than 8 or 9m before asking to be lowered, content with half boulder / play. 3 years later they were happy to go full height on auto belay and just leap off etc. Just go at their pace, volume and difficulty are irrelevant, if they leave with a smile then it's a winner.
There is other evidence, like hats! ;-)
If this was Three Cliffs a few years ago with a 6 year old it could have been me and my daughter. Her and a couple of other kids having a great time clambering round on on boulders and playing with gear, then she wanted to have a go at a big climb so I set up a bottom rope on one of those Diffs on the pinnacles. It was well within her ability and all went well until she got 3/4 if the way up, found a tricky bit and had a meltdown. She refused to lower off because her cousin had succeeded, so a long tearful negotiation ensued. Eventually she made it to the top, but it wasn't pleasant for those around us. Sorry. These things happen with kids, and I definitely wasn't being pushy!
> There is other evidence, like hats! ;-)
But don't be concerned, let them get it out their system now and they might mature as normal climbers, it's just a phase. Ours have a similar thing now wanting to snowboard instead of ski, you can't fight it.
We only took up climbing around 6 years ago when our son was 4 so he has learnt his skills alongside us. He loves climbing especially outdoors and as even done a few (very) easy short single pitch leads.
But for us the main focus has always been on going at his pace and he has never been forced to do anything he didn’t want to. Initially lots of setting up top ropes and plenty of days when he hasn’t done much, alongside days when he has been the driving force for us to go climbing. The downside is that now he wants to do things that we aren’t comfortable with him doing, given his age.
Interestingly, lots of people have said their kids like bouldering, my son has never been keen and gets far more nervous bouldering (even inside) , than he does leading! I often wonder if it’s because when he was really little and starting out, I used to panic once we went out of arms reach and he subliminally remembers that.
rest assured it wasn't you! it was last weekend. And I never said it was three cliffs
The trouble with taking kids skiing is that they generally overtake their parents by the age of 8. You get a slightly longer grace period with climbing.
> The trouble with taking kids skiing is that they generally overtake their parents by the age of 8. You get a slightly longer grace period with climbing.
So true. Ours are 10 and 12 now, in the last few years I've done a couple of 1 to 1 lessons, to erase some bad habits and up my game.
Perhaps the family concerned had not read this article, or the book it is trying to sell
Imagine taking kids out in the outdoors, shocking!
> Imagine taking kids out in the outdoors, shocking!
This is a great article. And nearly every child in those photos had a huge smile on their face. Perfect!
What my point was raising was that nearly every child that we encountered did not. And when they were unharnessed, playing in the sand and low lying boulders, they were much more content. I just don't think you need to rush children into climbing seemingly against their will. Some of the comments above have shown that it has worked wonders for their children so in no way am I saying "don't take your kids climbing" just make sure they are ready for it.
Thanks for the article link too. Can really relate to it
> This is a great article. And nearly every child in those photos had a huge smile on their face. Perfect!
Well yes but I'm not sure what that proves, it's hardly likely they'd publish a book with a load of pictures of unhappy crying children! Probably wouldn't make a best seller...
> What my point was raising was that nearly every child that we encountered did not. And when they were unharnessed, playing in the sand and low lying boulders, they were much more content. I just don't think you need to rush children into climbing seemingly against their will. Some of the comments above have shown that it has worked wonders for their children so in no way am I saying "don't take your kids climbing" just make sure they are ready for it.
I think all parents have at least slightly different approaches to how they bring up their children and their assessment of their children being 'ready for it' might just differ to yours.
It can be really hard to watch others doing (in your own subjective opinion) a bad job of bringing up their kids but it's almost impossible (unless there's a clear and present danger) to do anything about it and more over there's always the possibility you are just wrong about their approach. Maybe their children will grow up to be more resilient or achieve more and be more fulfilled than if a more laid back approach is taken? The point is neither I or you know and I don't think children crying is necessarily an unambiguous sign of a parenting miss-step.
Crying also takes place if the tablet is taken away after a while;-) found parenting quite challenging trying to bring all the interests in the family together. And still, sometimes things go wrong, even if everything was planned or intended to perfection.
Back to the cake and pudding, the problematic effects can more often be seen at the waistline of older climbers. I suffer.
I think a bit of crying is ok, because sometimes that just happens. But, the macho approach of some people to their kids is damaging, in my view. I've been at an indoor wall, where a beefcake dad was shouting at a really tiny kid - 2 years old? - because he didn't want to climb above 2 or 3 metres. They were with an instructor, and after a minute or two she had to have a word with the dad because it was all a bit much...
I've taken my half-sister out, aged 7, now 8 - and found it quite challenging, to be honest. The second time there was a lot of rebelliousness and some fake crying (which can turn into real crying). I realised over 3 sessions, and another with a friend's kids (4 and 7), that you often have to take a very different approach to that which you might take with adult beginners. It all went much smoother when indoor bouldering/climbing was turned into a game (e.g. get the handkerchief of the hold) rather than when the aim was simply to climb. Beyond that, I realised that any plans I had could only really be possible options to be picked up and dropped as attention and energy levels peaked and dropped. I also learnt how unpredictable children can be... and I guess that is both the joy and the potential difficulty with taking them out!
Great thread and lots of good opinions in there.
Do parents mess up? of course we do.
Do kids cry? yes, sometimes for a reason sometimes not
Should we as climbers want more people to be in love with the outdoors? absolutely, the planet needs as many activists as possible and children having positive associations with the outdoors has got to help that. I've had my two climbing since they were able to and have had great crag experiences, and hard gym experiences. The biggest thing i think could improve them was if we as a community built up those around us. The random lady crushing in the gym that looks over at my girl and says shes doing great. The uni group at the crag that move their rope over to let us squeeze in. The couple that offer to share some crag cake with my family. Super macho climbing Bruh who acts all goofy when he realizes his grunts are freaking out my 3 year old. You can't always help out another family at the crag, but you can almost always try.
I don't see the problem. Young Tiffin and Clementine seem to have coped with it OK. Not my problem that Mungo just needs to man up a bit and push on.
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