Childrearing

Running Up That Hill: Why You Should Push Your Kids

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We’re wrapping up a family vacation in Colorado and had one last day to do something fun with my siblings and their kids. We decided to hike a prominent castle tower-shaped butte in our home town. It’s a fairly easy hike, as these things go, but our 3-year-old thought it difficult. She was forgoing a nap and slipped on some gravel early on. I held her for just a little bit and then told her she had to keep going on her own.

I knew she could do it. I knew that it wasn’t past her limits or anything and I even held her hand the entire way up the hill. My husband and I kept encouraging her. And encouraging her. And encouraging her. We had to, since she was whining, frankly, the entire way. We kidded her a few times, telling her she could stop on the trail and we’d keep going and get her on the way back. She said she didn’t want that. When she said she wanted to nap, my sister-in-law joked that she could nap with snakes right there if she liked. That got her going a bit more.

But when we made it to the base of the rock that looks like a castle, everything changed. She realized she’d made it to the top and she beamed with pride. She loudly announced that she’d climbed the whole way and that she could hike but that her sister (napping at grandma’s) could not hike. She ran around in circles and hugged her dad and said she loved him. It was a major accomplishment for her and she gained some confidence in her abilities. So much so that by the time it came for some of us to complete the hike to the top of the rock — something that even the 6-year-old couldn’t do — she figured she could handle it, too. She stayed behind but when we got back down, the whole family marched down the hill and she didn’t ask for assistance once. She knew she could do it.

Sometimes it’s hard, as a parent, to know when to make things easy for your child and when to push them. I don’t even get much opportunity to think about such decisions. But I think we all learned something about the importance of encouraging children to push themselves toward greater accomplishment.

Next up? Pikes Peak. Only an additional, what, 8,000 feet of elevation?

Image of my hometown butte via Wikipedia.