Becoming a parent is easy in comparison to the duties of parenting. “Lead by example” is a common mantra of parental counselors but what does that mean when it comes to a child’s health? Consider things you can do to set a good example.
Take Kids to the Gym
Consider taking the kids to the local YMCA or private gym. Depending on their age, do stretching, strength training, and cardiovascular exercises. A young child should not be lifting heavy weights but they can learn to support their own body weight by doing push-ups, situps, and pullups. Similarly, they don’t need to run a mile in four minutes but many middle school curriculums have kids jog and walk such lengths.
Prepare Meals Together
Kids love being involved. Have them help ideate meals for the family, go grocery shopping, and prepare meals. They will feel a sense of authority and accomplishment while you have time to explain the difference between healthy and unhealthy food choices in addition to methods of food preparation. For example, chicken is relatively healthy but less so when fried and breaded. Alternatively, it’s healthier to roast a chicken in an oven from AJMadison.com.
Mix It Up
The food pyramid inspires a balanced diet. As noted, sugary foods and snacks are to be consumed sparingly. It’s easy for kids to eat chips and pizza. Those foods taste good. However, it takes a bit of appreciation to opt for carrots, peppers, apples, and nuts. Often, parents take kids ‘out’ to eat pizza, burgers, ice cream, etc. While such trips provide time to bond and have fun (Who doesn’t like pizza?), it reinforces a fun connection with unhealthy foods. Be sure to mix things up by taking outings to healthy restaurants and juice bars too.
Take Field Trips
Take field trips to local farms, food plants, and restaurants. Allow children to see food being picked, processed, and prepared in conjunction with explaining how certain ingredients are organic while others are artificial or added. Seeing where food comes from and how it’s prepared for mass consumption helps kids visualize information that they otherwise only read or hear.
Tell Them About Your Mistakes
Kids see parents as authority figures but at times it’s okay to make kids feel like parents are human too. Telling them about your own mistakes can be a good way to teach them lessons without commanding them to do things. For example, you could relate how you used to have bad breath or got a lot of cavities as a child because you didn’t floss enough. Alternatively, you could tell them you struggled with weight because you didn’t care enough about what you ate. Sometimes, leading by example means identifying things you should not have done or could be doing better.
Use the Web
The Web is filled with information that is good, bad, and downright wrong. Help kids identify good sources of health information, such as the WebMD site. Kids may wonder about particular food sources and will feel empowered to get information versus needing to rely on someone else for it. However, information on the web is as good as a source is credible, so get kids familiar with credible sources.