Although we are not starting our official Family Microadventure Project until the New Year, Jay was keen to set himself a personal cycling challenge.
He was quite specific about what he wanted to achieve, a cycle ride to a particular point along the coast. He went on about it for a while and was quite steady in his resolve, so we set out together on a gloriously sunny and chilly Sunday morning in December to attempt his personal challenge.
The ride covered in total a distance of about 14 miles there and back, mainly on the flat along the Adur Valley, following the river to the seafront then along the seafront cycle path for another mile or so to the point he had decided he wanted to reach. We planned to meet the others for a coffee and a play in the play park then we would turn back and cycle all the way home.
I love being out on bikes with my boy. At 9 he can easily keep up with me (in fact I have to work quite hard to keep up with him) so its a good workout for both of us. But what I really love is seeing his ‘happy kid’ face, the face he gets being out in the fresh air, blowing off the cobwebs. It’s refreshing to witness him fully engaged in an activity that doesn’t include some kind of tech, and I get the bonus of a more relaxed and contented child at the end of it. Its an activity we both enjoy which gives us a connection. I see that connection makes him happy too, it feels like real quality time together. Which we need because to be frank I’m not the best at connecting with him on the level of the tech he loves.
It was an interesting ride. We stopped to admire the houseboats from the bridge at Shoreham and met an elderly chap on the beach who showed us some fossilized dino poo and other artefacts he had found. The cafe at our halfway point provided lovely hot chocolate, tea and the obligatory Coca Cola to refresh us before our return trip.
An aspect of this little adventure that really appealed to me was that Jay created an opportunity to create his own goal and find the time and motivation to achieve it. Afterwards I thought how useful learning to set and complete targets for your personal growth is, and how it can help with building self esteem and develop problem solving skills. It creates opportunity for success and almost more importantly failure. Teaching kids to be ok with failing at a task, then to pick themselves up, figure out what went wrong and try again (and again if necessary) are key ingredients for future happiness and success. It’s true I think that many of us are afraid to fail, so we don’t put ourselves out there too much.
Yet when you look at some of the most successful people the world has known (and by that I don’t just mean financially successful) they have often walked a long path of repeated failures before finally reaching their goals. (Look at JK Rowling, Einstein, Jim Carey, Bill Gates… I could go on!) What sets them apart is that they didn’t let their failures define or completely dishearten them. They kept going with determination, patience and resilience and learned from their mistakes. That’s a great recipe for future happiness. If we’re beaten at the first hurdle, if we don’t reach for our dreams because we’re afraid we might fail at them, then we’ll always opt for the ‘safe’ path and likely not reach our amazing potential.
So how can we encourage that in our children? I admit I struggle with this one. I’ve tried the “Don’t give up, try, try again” clichéd verbal encouragement route which goes down like a lead balloon. So after a bit of research and some pondering, here are some tips I’ve discovered and am going to try and implement as time goes on:
Model goal setting and share your aspirations
This one I do quite a lot. In fact I would go so far as to say the kids are quite sick of mummy banging on about her family travel and personal adventure aspirations!
Help your child create their own plan to work towards their goal
Let them make it about what they love, (as opposed to what you think they need to be working on!) Encourage them to do things that make them happy.
Assist them in gathering the resources they will need
Help them make the necessary preparations and teach them the importance and power of setting positive intentions.
Track their progress and encourage them, but without creating pressure to succeed
This isn’t about succeeding, its about learning the process and seeing it through to completion.
Celebrate the successes and the failures!
Jay was really chuffed to achieve his goal. He came back glowing and chatty about how much he enjoyed his challenge. For the rest of the day he was at his best, relaxed and positive, a joy to hang out with. A different child from the one who has spent an hour on the Xbox!