Every parent wants the best for their children. We want them to grow up healthy, strong, independent, and kind. We try to in-still in them our ideals for morality as well as health and vitality. As someone who spends his days teaching and training people in how to move and live better I try to pass on to my children my knowledge and passion for fitness.
For me training has always been about training for life. I want to move better so I can live better. My kids have never seen me ”workout” or diet. They understand that food is fuel and food is fun. They watch me practice handstands while I am cooking. They see me “training” or “practicing” new skills and they think that it is all good play. If you are raising little ones and want them to grow up with a desire to build a strong mind and body here are my top four suggestions for developing fit and fearless kids.
Top Four Ways to Raise Fit & Fearless Kids
1) Lead by example. Kids watch their parents every move. If you would rather spend your days laying on the sofa watching tv it will be hard to convince your kids to get out and move. If your idea of dinner is a soft drink, bag of chips and a fast food burger then forget about lecturing your kids on the values of proper nutrition.
2) Use play as the way. There is no set time to eat right or exercise. From the time the sun comes up animals around the world are on the move. For people it should be no different. I practice moves while I wait for my coffee to get ready. Waiting for your dinner to cook? Try holding a handstand or two. We have a handstand wall in our home where anyone can put their feet up and practice their balancing. We often use it while we are waiting for something to get ready in the kitchen. I don’t’ have to suggest to my kids to try it out, they see me doing it and happily jump in. I also leave training equipment out for them to try. I am careful to make sure that they use it with supervision however I find that if something is out in the open they are more likely to give it a shot. I rotate different equipment for them to use weekly. This keeps things fresh and helps them develop broad skills.
3) Let them face their fears and you face yours. I can recall watching my son playing on the jungle gym in the park. “He is fearless!” He jumped from obstacle to obstacle, pausing only to smile at me as if to say “hey check me out.” A few times he took some risks that made my stomach turn. I almost cried out “Wait!” or “Be Careful!!!” I stopped myself and thought. Was he really at risk? He was moving well. I was close by to catch him or help if he got into trouble. I calmed my nerves and let him explore. I realized that day that if I wanted to raise the kind of child who was willing to try and fail I had to let him do both. When he plays I am close by to help him but I encourage him to be bold and to go for it. So many of us are chained by our fears that we never try the very things we dream of doing. From careers to physical challenges, we can and often do let our fear of failure surpass our desire to do. Be bold, be daring and help your children do the same.
On another occasion it was my daughters turn on the jungle gym and she had climbed into a spot that she was afraid to move out of. I could have taken her down but instead I calmed her down and encouraged her to figure her way out of it. She calmed right down and knew I was there for her. She tried a few different things until she realized she had to climb up a bit further and then chance reaching out to pull herself to another platform. Again, I was scared and had to fight my urge to rush in and save my little girl. Once again I waited and instead of taking an opportunity away from one of my kids I helped them grow by facing their fears and overcoming them.
4) Have fun! Yesterday while watching my son’s soccer game my daughter and I were practicing partner hand balancing. When I go to train with my coach for this its hard work. Sometimes its so hard that I almost forget its fun but then someone falls, makes a joke or we get a move and I feel like a kid playing. Let your kids be kids and enjoy moving around. We have all seen or heard about the sports parents who sit in the stands screaming at their kids and the referee. They have clearly forgotten that their kids are playing and this is suppose to be fun. If we raise them to hate the very things that are so good for them we can rest assured that they will abandon these practices when they grow up. Never force but rather encourage your kids to move and play.