Lately, I’ve posted some pictures and videos of my kids running, performing pull-ups or following my kettlebell work out along with me. Naturally, comments and messages followed. Some parents wrote to tell me they were inspired, others wanted to know my secret “how do you GET your kids to do that”? And of course, there were parents who wondered if it is safe or even healthy for kids. Since this is an important topic to me, I thought I’d share some thoughts about it in this post.
Let me start by saying, I don’t GET my kids to workout. Any parent knows that the best way to get a child to NOT do what you want them to do is tell them you want them to do it. So I don’t.
I assure you my children are normal junk food eating, ipad loving children. However, they are exposed to a healthy active life style. They see it is a priority in our home. They see us making time to work out and eat healthy despite very busy schedules (but we also know how dig into a Brownie Sundae with extra fudge!).
They don’t see being active as a tedious chore. They see it as spending time with mommy, doing fun things – playing around. Maybe if more adults saw working out through that lens – we’d all be a lot healthier.
When they ask, I share my fitness goals with them. I always frame my goals as physical accomplishments such as a race, a certification, movements I want to master, never in terms of weight loss or appearance. They know what I’m training for and always ask about my progress. I share both failure and success stories with them and they are my biggest supporters. Eventually, they asked to set their own goals. I make sure those goals are challenging yet attainable and help them get there, just like I would do for a personal training client. My oldest is training for a 5K and is already 2/3 of the way there!
We discuss food choices by talking about what that food can do for us and I share how it impacts my fitness performance – provide long lasting energy, build muscle, strengthen bones. We never label food as fattening or “never to eat”. My main objective is for them to have a healthy relationship with food. I don’t want to make anything sound mysterious, magical, or out of reach which would only make them want it more. I also don’t want to scare them into thinking if they eat refined sugar their body will instantly fall apart.
Like many kids, mine are picky eaters. I don’t force them to eat things they don’t like but I do consistently encourage them to try new foods. If they want to eat the same three meals every day – I’m ok with that as long as the food contains some nutritional value. Often, while I’m fixing dinner, I cut up fruit and veggies and leave them on the table. Somehow while dinner is cooking those veggies disappear. Making them available but not forcing the kids to eat them seems to work for us.
To those who feel it is unsafe, I’d like to reassure you, kids were made to move! Fostering their natural ways will preserve healthy mobility patterns, joint range of motion and prevent obesity, heart disease and other health conditions later on. I am not turning them into pint size bodybuilders but if following along with my workout is fun for them and means they create good habits and form a healthy relationship with movement, I will happily supply them with soft, light kettlebells or dumbbells. I firmly believe that creating a healthy and active lifestyle starts now, not when they are 35.
Many parents have shared with me different methods that they use to get their children more involved in physical activities. Some parents I know bribe their kids, others outright force them, and others withhold privileges. Of course every situation is unique but the only thing I know for sure is that children will absorb the attitude that we, as parents, display towards fitness, health, and leading an active lifestyle. Sure, some children are naturally more drawn to it than others but finding an activity you and your child enjoy doing together (one that doesn’t involve pizza or doughnuts) is not just a great way to spend quality time together but also a great way to get yourself in shape and instill good habits in your children. They will thank you later.