For Parents: How to Be a Fitness Role Model For Your FamilyBy DuBose Fitness
Parents, we’ve all been there.
“I don’t want to go outside. I’m in the middle of my game.”
“I don’t want to eat my salad… may I have some more macaroni and cheese, please?”
If this sounds like your family, you’re not alone. Parents all around the world struggle with teaching young ones to make sound, healthy fitness and nutrition decisions. So how do we fix it?
Well, parents, it starts with you. Just as we’re striving to teach our children a strong work ethic and kindness to others, it’s up to us to teach them healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
If you find yourself among the millions of parents who are tossing their hands in the air in frustration, read on. These tips will help you become a stronger fitness role model for your children.
It Begins with You!
What would you do if, at work, your boss told you that you weren’t allowed to look at social media while on the clock. Or that there were to be no personal emails from your business address. Yet, you soon discover that he is doing just that: scrolling Facebook during business hours and forwarding jokes to his friends from his work account.
You’d be much less inclined to follow those workplace rules, wouldn’t you? Well, the same is true for the kids. When you tell your children to go play outside and run around the yard while you’re posting pics on Instagram, they’re going to be less willing to go out and get some fresh air.
It sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. Your kids depend on you to be a good role model for both their diet and their fitness. To do that, you need to show them how important a healthy lifestyle is to you … by leading one.
The next time you consider sending your kids out to take a walk, stop. Put your walking shoes on, and hand them theirs. It’s perfectly fine to then say, “Come on guys, turn off the game. We’re going for a walk.”
You get the idea. Your kids depend on you to show them how important it is to have healthy habits. The best – and only – way to do that is to adopt them, yourself.
Make Your Personal Fitness a Priority
Children are sharp. In some ways, they’re more keen to pick up on nuances than many adults, and they’ll certainly call you out on them!
“Billy, go on outside and go for a walk.”
“Yeah right, Dad, when was the last time you went for a walk?”
Make your personal fitness a priority so that your kids can’t call you out! Consider hiring a personal trainer to get you started. If you’re not accustomed to exercise, your personal trainer can help you reach a point where walking, skipping rope or shooting hoops with your kids is fun – not a chore.
Then, get moving as a family! It doesn’t matter what you do. If you’re an adventurous type of family, go on a ski trip or a rafting tour together. If you’re more low-key, make it a nightly routine to go for a walk after supper.
Meanwhile, don’t be afraid to talk to your family about what you’re doing and why it’s important to you. Tell them about your grandfather who died of coronary disease. Let them know that diabetes runs in your family, and you can’t imagine any of your family members being diagnosed.
Keep communication open and, of course, practice what you preach. Your kids aren’t going to start moving if they don’t see you doing it too. So even if you have to start under the guidance of a personal trainer, it’s important that you eventually get out there and moving – and that you tell them why you’re making it a priority.
Break Your Own Bad Habits
This tip is short and sweet… but it’s complicated. Sometimes it’s absolutely necessary to stare at your phone. For instance, you’re expecting an email or a call from a big client, and you absolutely must take that call. Or maybe you’re suffering a headache from a stressful meeting at work, and you feel like you need to lie down.
But, parents, those occasions are few and far between. On most evenings and weekends you’re perfectly capable of putting the phone down and playing in the yard with the kids. On most occasions, you’re perfectly capable of eating supper at the same time as everyone else.
Break your own bad habits. Again, it might sound harsh but it’s part of setting a solid example for your kids. Whether you’re a couch potato, a habitual snacker or a long-time smoker, once your kids see you taking steps to change, they’re going to jump on board to change right along with you.
Make Exercise Cool
If you’re the parent of a tween or teen you’ll understand. Most kids from about the age of 10 up do not, under any circumstances, want to be seen jogging around a track with Mom and Dad.
That’s okay! They don’t have to. Instead, why not go play disc golf. Or, if they’re well into the teen years you and your spouse can walk or jog the trails while the kids play disc golf. Either way, you’re all getting exercise and no one has to be embarrassed.
There are other ways of making exercise cool, too. Go to the trampoline park. Go on a haunted ghost tour. Sign the family up for a whitewater rafting adventure. There are plenty of experiences you can share with your kids that are fun and will give everyone plenty of physical activity, too.
Need a few more ideas? Why not try:
- Dance Dance Revolution or other active video games
- Devising an obstacle course at the local park – up the ladder, down the slide, around to the rings, through the tunnel and back… GO!
- Adopting a dog. Enough said!
You were a teen once; you’ve got this!
Don’t Forget About Nutrition
Younger children are naturally predisposed to physical activity. In all honesty, they can run circles around us. As time goes by, and as electronics become more accessible, that will change. It’s up to you to steer those preferences.
The same is true for nutrition. Studies have shown that infants have no preference for either sweetened or unsweetened foods. That, however, changes as they grow. As they’re exposed to crème filled cookies and giant fast food burgers, their preferences may begin to lean toward the less healthy options.
Note the use of the word “may.” If a child is raised on fast food milkshakes and delivery pizza, it’s what he or she will come to prefer – even expect. However, if you make the choice to feed your child whole, nutritious and unprocessed foods, those foods will soon become second nature… for a lifetime.
Incorporate nutrition into your home. Make dinner a family affair, with every member choosing one healthy meal per week. Margaret may choose eggplant parmesan on Monday, while Samuel opts for shrimp over couscous on Tuesday.
Under your guidance, your children will learn that there are whole, healthy alternatives to the fast food suppers their friends are eating. Bring them to the grocery store with you and let them see the ingredients in their raw state.
Some parents argue that they “simply can not keeping Johnny from eating those cookies! It can not be done!”
If the cookies weren’t in the house, Johnny could not eat them.
You, yourself need to make the commitment to choosing clean and healthy foods rather than relying on quick serve meals for your family. Skip the chips aisle and head for the hummus and carrots. When your kids see you snacking on healthy options and preparing balanced meals, they’re going to follow suit.
Enlist Your Support Tribe
Every parent needs a tribe. Your tribe could be as small as one – your spouse or partner. Or it could entail every single member of the Facebook group you belong to. That’s up to you.
Be sure your parenting tribe knows your goals:
- To live a healthy lifestyle
- To teach your kids to do the same
- To lead your children by example
- To model sound fitness and nutrition for your kids
The “members” of your tribe should have somewhat similar goals. Get a buddy system going. Then, periodically, check in. How is your family doing? What obstacles have you overcome – was there a late night where pizza was the only option? Did you spend the day on your couch for no reason?
Ideally, your tribe will understand. They may be able to offer you guidance as to how to get back on track. If not, reach out to your personal trainer! Your trainer is well versed in both nutrition and in exercise, so he or she can help.
In the end, it’s all about being a solid role model for your kids. By modeling a healthy lifestyle yourself, your children will be all the more ready to subscribe to the same principles. So, take a step back. Look at what you’re doing on a day to day basis. Then, get ready to make changes to set a good example for you kids. It begins with you!