I’ve recently had a few holes smashed into the Sheetrock of my hallway. They’re just above the baseboard, about the same height as a skateboard.
Skating is allowed in our house. You will be polite at the dinner table, we don’t have any video games and tantrums will not be tolerated. But rolling the hardwood floors is fair game.
“Like anything with children, if you tell them not to do something, then they’ll instinctively have to do it. And so every morning before school, and every night before bed, I whisper in my two sons’ ears, ‘Please, whatever you do, don’t skateboard. Play a team sport. Fit in. Do what everyone else is doing. It’s easier. You’ll see it requires a whole lot less thinking.’
“And then I strategically place a skateboard in every room of the house,” jokes Chris Nieratko, skate writer/dad/owner of NJ Skateshops.
“As I leave the house for work each day, I reinforce my reverse psychology and say, ‘Remember, boys, no skateboarding!’ By the time I get home from work they have pink hair, tattoos and are skating the ledges in our driveway.”
There are certain choices you make as a parent. And if surfing, skating and snowboarding are your Holy Trinity, you might not worry too much about a grom session in the kitchen. Here are a few tricks to getting the wheels rolling.
Push a skateboard, not your kidKids run hot and cold when you try to steer them in a certain direction. When I was 7 years old, I walked around stressed out about George Steinbrenner ruining the Yankees franchise. What kind of a childhood is that? Then one day I realized I hated baseball. I wanted to surf, and skating was a natural extension.
With skateboarding, you just have to present it. You can’t prop up a 2-year-old and start teaching them the fundamentals. You’re just like the Little League dad yelling, “Don’t drop the elbow!” Clearly there’s nothing wrong with organized sports, but let’s be real honest here.
Start on carpet. Your little ripper may start by rolling around on his or her stomach and eventually be pushing off the walls of your house. And then it’s on. Kids’ interests will wax and wane; just keep it accessible. By ages 4and 5 they can start to propel themselves. There are 6-year-old phenoms who can land seven-stair boardslides.
Roll deepYou can start with pretty much any board. Those plastic Penny, Kryptonics and Globe boards are nice when they don’t have grip tape. Might be easier on your walls, too.
The mechanics of pushing a skateboard are pretty advanced for a kid. If you get them gliding along, they’ll eventually want to do that on their own and mimic you. It’s human nature. Don’t push them until they learn how to jump off or fall somewhat fluidly.
Once you get them standing in a somewhat reasonable sideways stance — feet perpendicular, loose knees, looking over their front shoulder — hold their hands and slowly swing them forward. Maybe walk next to them and push them along. Just don’t be a jerk and push the board, which will cause it to jut out and your kid to crash backward.
As they start to push on their own, you can skate up next to them and give them a slow forward whip while rolling.
Hit the skatepark sooner rather than laterRolling around the street, the driveway or the basement is one thing. Going to an area with a bunch of teens and 20-somethings sessioning a rail can be intimidating to anyone.
The key to the skatepark is to get your kids there early, in both senses — early in life and early in the day. Up to a certain age, kids aren’t as self conscious as we are. Get them there young enough and they won’t care.
Make the effort to skate mornings or other times when shredders are at school or work. Kids get comfortable without getting run over. Then you just have to make sure to teach awareness of other skaters, which lessens your chances of being the irate Aussie dad who leveled the BMXer for accidentally colliding with his skater kid.
Slants are a great introduction. It’s far less tricky than dropping in on transition and teaches them to keep their weight forward. Even if your kid is just riding around the flats or dropping in on his or her butt, he or she is getting comfortable at the park.
And you both have to wear a helmet. Sorry. Suck it up.
Ramp upRolling a ramp is one of the best fundamental activities in board sports. You want a workout? Hold your kid’s hands and run back and forth on a ramp a few times. Way tougher than throwing batting practice.
Once they’re on their own, that simple pump of the legs is just like the swing set. When it’s time to kick-turn, let their momentum start to come down slightly before making a nice, easy turn. From there, you just pretty much let them learn on their own, the way every skater in the world has done — until one day, they nollie over the coffee table.