Try to remember your first time holding a fishing rod, your first hunting trip, your first venture into the wilderness. Odds are that you weren’t alone. Most of us were shown the way by our parents, grandparents, uncles, and aunts. Whether you got this impression or not, they demonstrated a lot of patience and thoughtfulness to get us out there, and to keep us interested. And yet, so many of us grow to have children of our own only to wonder how we might keep the tradition going, where we might find the key that unlocks our child’s love for the natural world around them. The truth is that while many of us were fortunate to have a hunting or fishing mentor, few of us were told how to mentor the next generation. I’m the proud father of three beautiful daughters and I’ve been fortunate enough to see each of them grow into passionate students of the outdoors. With effort, patience, and care, you can find similar success. Here’s how.
1. Make A Proper Introduction
When introducing two friends, do you offer a tell-all recap of each person’s life history, or leave it at a name and let them take it from there? We all learn new skills and pursuits in our own time, so it’s important to allow our children to wade into their new challenge without feeling any outside pressure. The first few trips out, invite them to join as a spectator or camera operator. Take these opportunities to teach them the “why” behind the work you do in the offseason, and on each adventure. Give it some time and their curiosity will likely get the better of them.
2. Build Confidence
It’s tough to enjoy anything without confidence, and confidence comes with practice. Kids tend to be hard on themselves, and often expect early success. Because of this, it’s important to avoid setting the bar too high. Instead, work on fun drills and exercises that will leave your son or daughter with a series of small victories, and the belief that when it matters, they’ll carry their own.
3. Don't Rough It
There’s a ton of satisfaction that comes from persevering through challenges and hardship, and making-do with less, but that’s knowledge a person grows into. Most of us were drawn to our pursuits for the fun of it, and that’s what will keep your kid engaged. Bring snacks and a thermos full of hot cocoa, get them gear they’ll look forward to wearing, and if you can stomach it, stay quiet when they pull out their phones. Just like you did, in time they’ll learn that less is often more.
4. Remember, It's Magic
When it comes to getting your kid interested in the outdoors, most of the heavy lifting is done by mother nature herself. You and I keep going out there for a reason. We’ve discovered something that can’t be properly described or narrated. It has to be experienced, and when it is it’s magical. Often, we look at the wilderness as a chaotic world. In reality, it’s in perfect balance. The forests wake up each morning whether we’re there to bear witness or not. Observe it all along with your child, and act as a guide, but be sure to allow them to make their own discoveries and experience that magic for themselves.
5. Be Patient
Many of us venture outdoors in search of peace and quiet, or solitude. Those aren’t the goals here. You may have 50 years between you and your first hunting license, but it’s important to remember that we all started at the bottom. There’s a learning curve and your child will be more likely to push through if you offer encouragement and patient guidance. The more at-ease they feel, the better your odds of having them along on the next trip, and on many trips to come.