Have you ever…wait, scratch that. How often do you look in the mirror and criticize your appearance?
We all do it. Now, the real question: How many times have you looked in the mirror and made self-deprecating comments, all while your littles ones sat, watched, and listened?
As a fairly motivated husband, father, and gym owner, I find myself in a constant state of observation. I study people in their everyday lives from a distance, especially how they interact with others. I’ve used this tactic for years to dissect and better understand people, in an effort to steadily improve myself: how I communicate, how I coach, and most importantly, how I parent. I’ve especially enjoyed examining parents since I became a father. I’ve witnessed an alarming number of parents—good ones, too—who unknowingly cast their own insecurities onto their young children, oftentimes indirectly. Whether it’s in front of the mirror or on the phone with a friend, we forget how much our kids watch, listen, and absorb. While we absentmindedly talk, they learn and duplicate.
I have two boys—soon to be 5 and 6 years old—who will confidently tell an adult offering them soda, “No thank you, that won’t help my muscles grow!” That didn’t happen overnight, but it wasn’t difficult—especially since my wife, Leslie, and I never introduced them to soda. We aren’t doctors and we don’t specialize in child development, but, together, Leslie and I have created a school of thought that has worked wonders for our boys and the many child-parent teams we've been entrusted with. We want our boys to grow into men that make everyday healthy decisions the same way they bathe and brush their teeth daily—without even thinking about it! But for that to happen, you have to plant positive seeds early and often.
Below are a few of the steps we put into place to promote fitness as a way of life:
1) The words ‘fat’ and ‘skinny’ do not exist in our vocabulary; alternatively we employ words such as fit, healthy, and strong. If we shed a positive light on the subject, that's all they'll ever know!
2) Rather than saying, “Don’t eat that or you’ll be fat like Mommy,” or “Daddy has to go workout so he’s not fat,” we say, “If you eat this, your muscles will grow strong and you'll be fast like mommy!” or “Daddy loves working out; it’s what helps make him strong and healthy!” Despite the resounding scientific research proving how much physical activity stimulates the body and the mind, so many adults still view working out as a chore. If we wish to put an end to that way of thinking, we as parents must take extra steps to remain proactive and motivate through positive reinforcement.
3) We bring our sons to our workouts at every opportunity we get. We’ve even designed our workouts around their playtime—at the park, at indoor facilities (like Altitude, Hoppin’ House, My Gym, and Mount Playmore), or at our gym! Thanks to these consistent efforts and our desire to make these enjoyable experiences, our boys have developed their own love for health and fitness.
Although consistency and amusement are key pillars for this to work, it all starts with word association and distribution. The more deliberate parents are with their language, the quicker we'll be able to turn our boys and girls into strong, happy, healthy men and women. Through relentless positive reinforcement we can develop the first generation that sincerely relishes the idea of fitness as a way of life!