At the most basic level, we teach our children healthy habits by performing them together. So, why do some parents choose not to follow suit when it comes to exercise?
As parents we encourage our children to engage in healthy habits from a very young age; we teach them the importance of brushing their teeth, encourage them to eat fruits and vegetables and demonstrate proper hygiene. This list of implied parenting “to dos” has been around for decades and is considered the foundation for parents to instill best health practices in their children.
Passive in nature, these habits are easily integrated into family life. We brush our teeth with our children before bed, share healthy foods at dinner and bathe with them until it’s safe for them to do so by themselves.
Do you see the pattern here?
At the most basic level, we teach our children healthy habits by performing them together.
So, why do some parents choose not to follow suit when it comes to exercise?
Emphasizing and providing education on active living should factor in as prominently as all other aspects of best-life practices we engrain in our children. And although this may be a concept of modern parenting, the lessons of the past remain intact; monkey-see-monkey-do.
Two years ago I had a revelation.
Waking from his afternoon nap, my two-year-old son walked in on me performing pushups and squats in our living room – I often took advantage of naptime to exercise at home.
Seeing me on the floor he laughed, ran to me and lay on his stomach mimicking my movements. Seeing if he would follow suit, I stood and performed squats, which received an overwhelming giggle and mirrored behavior.
He had no knowledge of what he was participating in; he didn’t care that it was structured or that it was exercise; his primary concern was that the movements were with his father. Together.
A child’s attitude toward fitness begins with the parents. We need to use the influence we have over our children at a young age to create not only fundamental health habits, but to shape their views on exercise.
Children are a product of their upbringing, whether it is resultant of positive factors or responses to adverse aspects at home. In regards to the former, parents who exercise regularly create a heightened willingness in their kids to participate in physical fitness moving through life – whether it is through traditional training methods, or active play through sports.
We need not place parameters around how our children exercise, but foster every interest they have in becoming involved in being active.
As role models, it is our responsibility to be proactive in preventing childhood obesity and promoting all-encompassing healthy habits that span our children’s lifetime.
Here are 4 ways to promote an active lifestyle in your home:
- Leverage your child’s interests and imagination to convert the passive into fun physical activity. My son has an interest in toy cars, so rather than playing with them while seated, we transform ourselves into the cars we touch and race around on foot.
- Walk. I am in control of my son’s schedule and transportation, and I seize the opportunity to disrupt being idle. Our family exploits every opportunity to walk to any destination to promote being active and encourage healthy choices.
- Participate in play. It may sound cliché, but actions speak louder than words. Instead of telling my son to go for a bike ride or play a sport, I initiate the activity or join in to show support. Our children look up to us, taking note of how we behave, and this can be a used as a powerful tool to promote physical activity.
- Provide a positive example through your own habits and commitment to healthy living. Telling our son to be active and exercise is not enough. By taking a proactive approach, my wife and I put into practice our message to him. Modeling expectations is the best way we can instill these values into his life now and for his future.
Do you have ideas on how to keep our kids active and lead by example? Share them below!
This article originally appeared on Maria Shriver
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