My husband I talk often about how why we do the things we do (like “make” our kids ski and hike and camp and get outside). We are constantly keeping each other in check about our motives – is this about US or THEM. What are we truly aiming for? What do we really want them to learn from this all?
While there is no guarantee on any particular day, we have to ask ourselves, “In general, are they having FUN?” If the answer is no (which, to be honest, sometimes is), it’s up to US to step back and reevaluate things.
There’s a fine balance between opening up doors and opportunities and then helping them get past the initial fear or apprehension of something new, and forcing them to do something they don’t want to do.
At this age, we certainly can make them do what we want them to do (more or less). But, if they’re kicking and screaming and hating life, there is no way that a response from us that is anger and frustration is going to do anything positive.
The goal right now is twofold: Give them opportunity and make it fun (that second part is so key).
And yes, it’s easier said than done.
Toddlers are fickle. Preschoolers change their mind every 2 minutes. School-age kids are a ball of emotions. And, as parents, we are stumbling along trying to keep up. Not to mention when we are outnumbered by them vs. us. Let’s just say that it keeps things interesting.
Half the battle is listening and knowing your kid.
We have one that just has to get over his initial fears and then he’s super happy (and sometimes that mountain of fear and anxiety is incredibly huge). We often work to push that one just a little bit more because that is what he needs.
We have another that will be 100% ready to roll and then totally crash claiming he is “too tired” to pretty much do anything at all. We’ve learned that we just need to give him a break, give him some food and make sure he at least THINKS he is the one making the decision about what he wants to do. He’s the one that needs a lot of choices.
Then we have another that pretty much wants to do whatever the other two are doing. She is our first kid that has thrown a fit about sitting in a trailer or backpack and we have to have like 20,000 tricks up our sleeve to distract her. And we just know that her sitting in the lodge or NOT skiing or hiking isn’t an option. She needs a chance to get out too (and who are we to stifle that?!?!)
While we are constantly learning how to do this better, as a couple we have agreed to the following:
- Bribing for good memories and associations is an ok thing. We fill our pockets with hiking/skiing/snowshoeing-only treats and allocate as needed.
- We stay positive and tag-team when one of us is falling off the “patience wagon” (this is me, more often than not, so I am thankful for a husband that keeps me in line!)
- We know our limits (the hardest one for us). If we spend a day skiing, we know that the next day needs to be a lower key “rest day”. This may mean some local sledding or ice skating right now, but doesn’t mean having to poke and prod them down the trail.
- Sometimes (but not all the time), we give them a choice. We discuss it as a family and let them decide what we do that day. Sometimes that means anything at all. Sometimes that means they get to choose from a few options.
- We hold them to their commitments (if they want to do ski lessons, for example, they need to at least try), but also step back and let it be about them and not about what we wish they would do. Sometimes that means Mtn Papa is throwing on his skis and joining the class as a “liftie helper”.
This parenting thing (especially when you’re trying to do it “right”) is not for the faint of heart!
Sometimes I feel like I’m running a daily marathon. Many times I fall into bed wishing I had done something different.
But, I also give myself some slack – I am not perfect, they are not perfect, life is FULL of ups and downs (and they need to learn that reality too).
How do you “guarantee” (in quotations because, really, is anything ever a guarantee) happy outdoor kids? What’s your biggest frustration??
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