Your children actually adore you. They watch you. They want to be like you. They copy you. Yes, even the teenagers. Scary, huh? What you say and do on a daily basis is being absorbed subconsciously by them. Sponges.
What does this mean? It means we have a grand opportunity to mold another human being. As parents, we are blessed to be tasked with the responsibility of creating brand new adults. We are not creating children; we are creating adults. The habits, values and ideas we instill in them today become the habits, values and ideas of tomorrow’s culture.
Staying exclusively on the topic of fitness, what do we want to achieve given this opportunity? Considering the discussions I’ve had with other parents, it seems everyone wants their children to live healthy lifestyles, to be active, to be disease-free (as far as is under their control), to be productive, to be joyful. If you are a parent who feels that being fit gives you these things, you naturally want the same for them.
How do we lead them in the right direction? Have you heard the saying “Do as I say, not as I do”? Well, that almost never happens. Whether we like it or not, our children will pick up our habits: good and bad. Have we nagged them about lying around the house? About eating too many tortilla chips? About not choosing enough vegetables at the dinner table? Have we told them to “go outside and play”?
Have we focused on everything they are doing wrong, while conveniently ignoring the fact that WE should or shouldn’t be doing those same things? Instead of focusing on THEIR fitness habits, I propose we focus on OURS. What are WE doing to improve our health? What food choices do WE make? Do we exercise? Have we groaned about exercising or “having to go to the gym” or are we excited to get there every day?
If we’d like our children to be interested in fitness, WE need to be interested in fitness. Be positive about your health and fitness journey. Be enthusiastic about it. If you want your children to be active, you be active. Walk the dog, go to the gym, do relays in your yard with the kids, play Simon Says using stretches, lunges and jumping jacks. Just move yourself. Smile and laugh and be joyful. These are the things you want to pass on to them. One caveat, do far more “doing” than talking. In fact, don’t even talk about your activities or choices, just do them. Everyone will know what you’re up to without a verbal notice.
On the flip side, if your CHILDREN want to talk about some great food choice they made that day or about how they did burpees for 3 minutes outside, be all ears! Be interested and let them have the spotlight. Positive reinforcement works!
Setting a great example is best done as a quiet warrior. Never preach to them. Never lecture. Just be the person you want them to be.
Coach Jen McMullen