This past week I headed to a newly-opened Las Vegas with one of my three kids. It was the first one-on-one getaway with the older of my boys since early fall of last year. I do have to say it was a great few days. He was super excited to fly again, and we really enjoyed the time together.

Well…I enjoyed all of it. He enjoyed most of the activities. There was one particular item on the agenda that sparked quite a protest.

Hiking? No Way!

During our first full day in Las Vegas we spent some time in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. I took our older kids here a couple years ago, and we enjoyed a quick hike to a small waterfall at Lost Creek Canyon. We hiked the same trail this trip, plus a second, longer hike. The weather was amazingly cooperative for Jun. It barely hit 80 degrees. Although my son isn’t keen on hiking, he went along anyway. I was proud of him for pushing himself to do something that he doesn’t really enjoy all that much.

But that wouldn’t last. During the morning of our final day, we hiked a second trail on Mt. Charleston. And he would have none of it this time.

The protests started immediately after we exited the car: “My foot hurts. My leg hurts. My head hurts. I’m tired. Are we there yet?”

Although I’ve only been a parent a few years, I’ve generally learned when the kids have an actual complaint versus when they are feeding me a load of BS. This was entirely the latter. Rather than argue with him each time he protested, I simply acknowledged it and kept walking.

This had the desired effect. It curbed the protests a bit (and also kept me sane). I knew he could finish the three miles, no problem. The kids have walked miles before each day when we’ve traveled, no problem.

This brings me to my main point…

do hard things while traveling

My rather unhappy (but entirely capable) 9-year-old.

Kids Need to Be Pushed, Especially During Travel

Our three kids really like to stay in their comfort zones. It makes total sense. Things that challenge you are uncomfortable, and they do not enjoy dealing with that discomfort. I’ve noticed this trend with all three of them over the years.

This is exactly why I push them at times. Certainly not all the time, as this would aggravate them. But they need to know that they can tackle challenges, and learning on the small ones is the best way for them to build confidence. Hiking in the summer heat might seem like a small thing, but overcoming it will help them cope with bigger challenges later.

Travel provides some unique opportunities for pushing my kids out of their comfort zone, and I make sure I do it at times. This isn’t to say that I want them to enjoy themselves while traveling. I do. It wouldn’t be fun if they were miserable. But whether it is trying a new food, attempting to ask a question in a new language, or simply hiking three unwanted miles, travel provides opportunity to stretch them.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, I want my kids to face challenges head on in life. Learning to persevere in the face of adversity is something that will serve them well in life. Starting small is the best way to do this.

At the end of the day, the fight over hiking was all in my son’s head. Last year he summit ed the tallest mountain in Taiwan in 80-degree heat with significant humidity. I knew he could do it. He just needed to know he could as well. This was the lesson of the day, and it is the sort of lesson I hope to repeat many times during our travels.