The secret to getting my son to go walking with me, I’ve learned, is to avoid framing things as a request. “Would you like to go for a walk with me?”, if asked while he’s watching The Cat In The Hat on PBS, invariably gets answered “No”. But, if I just say something like “go get your shoes on, we’re going to take Bosley for a walk”, he excitedly runs around and gets all his walking gear – his sandals, his scabbard and wooden sword, his nerf gun, and so on.
Bear in mind that I wouldn’t force him to go if he said he didn’t want to. The secret here is to make it fun, and forcing him to do it isn’t fun. (The one exception to this is when my wife and I are both going on the walk, since he’s not old enough to stay home by himself.)
Once we get out walking, another key to keeping him excited about it is to let him choose where we walk. Generally speaking, this means walking around our neighborhood. Why do I let him choose? Because it doesn’t matter to me where we walk, so long as we are walking, and because it lets him get out and explore. Because of this we end up walking on retaining walls, and checking out the tennis court (where he wants to go play), and walking over to his kindergarten so he can see if any of his friends are still there (generally they aren’t, not at 5:30 at night), and chasing small rock lizards before rolling down a hill and getting covered with grass.
In other words, we have a good time. And, equally importantly, I’m getting both of us to think of exercise as a fun thing you go and do with your family (instead of a tedious and painful thing you do by yourself, and get done as fast as possible). We have no set deadlines other than needing to be back to get him ready for bed, so we walk until he asks if we can go back because he’s getting tired (which generally happens between the half mile and three-quarter mile mark). Then we’ll play a board game (his current favorite is Thin Ice) or watch a cartoon, and then get ready for bed.
It’s nothing dramatic, true. But it’s a good day. And it was a good reminder that all of this exercise is being done for a reason, and that I need to stop getting so worked up over a few setbacks. Because weight comes and goes, but memories like this will last a lifetime.