Praise & Encourage. During your hike make sure you notice whenever your little trailblazers are doing well. The goal is to build up their self-confidence for their ability to hike. Praise in a way that brings attention to how strong and capable they are hiking. For instance:
“Wow Adam! You have hiked all the way from the car so far and I haven’t even heard you complain once! You must have very strong legs!”
“Elizabeth, I just love how you are showing your little brother how to be a good hiker!”
Even if later on in the hike the whining and complaining begins, redirect attention to how well the child did earlier in the hike. Don’t scold for not enjoying the hike at the moment, either ignore, encourage, or try to divert attention. For instance:
“Sara, remember when we first started this hike and you climbed over that big rock without any help? Wow, I was so impressed! Where did you learn those climbing skills? Did your teacher show you how?”
“Justin, remember how you hiked all the way up to the big view where we ate lunch? That was SO HARD! Mommy’s legs were sore, but you kept hiking so good! How did you do that? Was it your super shoes?”*
*Note: please make sure your comments are age appropriate. Telling your sulky tween that they have ‘Super Shoes’ may not produce desirable results.
After the hike. So you made it. Your first hike! And everyone made it and everyone enjoyed it enough to consider doing it again! Congratulations! You are on your way to creating a family culture of wilderness lovers! Now the fun part, reliving your experiences! Around the dinner table is a great time to talk up the hike. Remember how STRONG little trekkers were! Remember how there was hardly any complaining even though the trail was SO LONG or SO HARD or SO STEEP! Remember how someone found the cool stick, or the neat rock! Remember how someone fell down, scraped their knee and HARDLY CRIED AT ALL! Remember and build up all your trekkers! And most importantly, Remember how YOU – brought your family out hiking – and YOU survived! Now that’s something worth toasting!!