Family Adventure: Outdoor Parenting

Outdoor Kids

Outdoor Parenting: Mistakes I’ve made and lessons I’ve learned

Kristen Lummis, braveskimom.comHiking

Like many parents, I have made plenty of mistakes. Words have been spoken, threats have been levied (only to be forgotten) and teachable moments have slipped right by me. Quick thinking and even quicker reflexes are necessary parenting tools, but so are discretion and patience. It seems that qualities rarely fire at once and so I make mistakes. Unfortunately, some of my worst mistakes have backfired onto the activities I love the most: Biking, hiking and being outdoors.

Here’s what I’ve learned from my mistakes.

1. Know Your Goal. The goal of many outdoor parents is to instill a love of the outdoors in their children and to enjoy their outdoor passions together. Most children take to the outdoors naturally. What they don’t take to naturally are parents, who, after years of pent up desire, have unrealistic expectations for what kids can do. Remember, it only takes one frightening mountain biking experience to bring an end to family mountain biking (been there, done that). Don’t highjack your own goal.

2. Don’t Push Too Hard, Too Fast. Outdoors is not the place to get your children in over their heads. Introduce them to your favorite activities, but choose trails and activities appropriate to their ages and abilities.  If your children express discomfort or fear, stop. Let them rest and talk about what’s bothering them. If they are frightened, don’t push them. Don’t cajole them and bribe them in hopes of getting them to “finish” the hike or ride. Finishing the activity under duress might get your child to the end of the trail, but it usually won’t make your child want to do it again. Don’t go there.

3. Know Yourself. My husband and I are goal-oriented and we don’t like to stop until we’ve completed the trail, climb or ride. We also enjoy being outside together as a family. The problems arise when our adult-goals don’t mesh with the kid-goals. If we want a strenuous workout, we shouldn’t bring the kids along. There are times to be an outdoor family and there are times to be outdoor adults. As our children have gotten older, these times seem to coincide more and more. For this, we are thankful.

4. Set Them Up For Success. One of my goals in teaching my kids to ski was to ensure that they grew in confidence each day. I did this by (mostly) keeping quiet and letting them progress at their own pace. When they told me they wanted to ski a black diamond run, I let them. But I chose the advanced run that I thought would ensure success. By taking their lead, and structuring it for the best possible outcome, I tried not to say “No, you can’t do that,” or give them any reason to be fearful.

Fortunately, Kids Are Forgiving

Last year, I was sitting with my younger son on the eve of his birthday. I was proclaiming my love and telling him how important he is to our family. This was embarrassing for him and he was getting squirmy. Suddenly he looked up at me and in verbal shorthand said, “Can’t choose parents. You are good parents.”

Luckily, mistakes and all, kids forgive us, and over time, will even go back out on the trail.

Have fun!


Enjoy the outdoors together

Erica Lineberry,

Regardless of how you squeeze it into your routine, you are doing your family a big favor when you make time to enjoy the outdoors together, by setting your child up for a lifetime of healthy living and appreciation of the natural world. Aside from scary statistics (did you know that 2 out of 3 Americans are overweight or obese, and that obesity rates in children have more than quadrupled in the past 30 years?), here are 5 practical reasons why getting active as a family is essential!

1. QUALITY TIME – Working out as a family is a great way to catch up on the day’s activities. Our family likes to take a spin around the neighborhood with the jogging stroller on days we aren’t at the climbing gym – it not only gives us an opportunity to recap to each other about our day, but also makes the run go by faster since we’re talking through it.

2. TIME SAVER – If we all go together on a jog or a bike ride, it takes about 45 minutes to an hour. That’s a lot less time than it would take for us to take turns watching C while the other parent drove to the gym and rushed through a workout. Not only will working out together prove to be a timesaver, but it will also free up more time in the evening for family time.

3. GOOD ROLE MODELS – Kids by nature are active and into everything. But older children can be tempted to get lazy and stay inside just like adults, especially if they see mom and dad laying around on the couch. How can you expect your child to adopt a healthy, active lifestyle – practice what you preach, and let them SEE you doing it!

4. IT’S GOOD FOR YOU – The benefits of consistent, regular physical activity are certainly no secret. Active people are healthier and happier than their couch-potato counterparts.

5. IT’S GOOD FOR EVERYONE – Exercise is not just good for adults. According to the CDC, children over the age of 6 should participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.


Being in the Zone

Jen Charette,

There is a standard in this society that kids should be good at everything. It’s the way traditional schools are set up. Kids are expected to take a variety of tests and do well on everything.

After school they are often in a number of activities yet few specialize in one thing and get really good at it. Being brave enough to let your child really focus on something gives them the skills they need to specialize later in life. Your child may decide they don’t want to be a pro cyclist after years of racing and training but they learned how to do something well and those lessons will pay off later in life.

When they are doing something well they are in a state of flow. In sports they call this “in the zone.” Current research shows that being “in the zone” or in a state of flow is linked to greater happiness. It is both demanding and rewarding. Of course, specializing in a sport needs to be your child’s decision. You may think she has the skills to be a world class ski racer but if she does not have the desire or passion pushing her will ensure burnout before she even makes it to that first race.

Last modified: June 20, 2013

One Response to :
Family Adventure: Outdoor Parenting

  1. Tanya says:

    Like the part about knowing the difference between being an outdoor family Vs. outdoor adult. Very true!

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