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Lead From The Front

Three years ago today I posted an article about fostering an active lifestyle for your children (see here). My son was 3 years old and my daughter just 15 months.

At the time, I wondered if my kids would remain as enthusiastic about exercise as they grew older. No one knows what the future will bring. All that I could do was encourage the kids to remain active and hope that they followed suit.

To my surprise, their eagerness about playing in the gym has changed. As toddlers, they always asked for gym time but their attention spans were limited. Three years later, they still ask to play in the gym, but now I can’t get them to leave. My son wants to practice sports before school. He heads right to the gym after school. My daughter wants to practice new “moves” while her brother is at school so she can show him up after. A day doesn’t pass without the kids asking for gym and sports time.

Ironically, I have never once told my kids to exercise or play sports. They want to do what they see their parents doing. My kids have grown up watching us train. When my kids see me do something, they want to try it. It is human nature for kids to imitate their parents.

Telling the kids to do something is not nearly as effective as personally demonstrating through daily actions. Children are much more attentive than many realize. They listen to what you say. They watch what you do. They watch how you act. They watch how you interact with others. Everything that you do around them is taken in and processed. Kids are like sponges. They absorb everything.

If you want your kids to become more active, become more active yourself. Change starts at home. Parents need to lead from the front. It isn’t the world’s responsibility to raise your children. The most important job of a parent is to serve as a valuable role model.

And please don’t confuse my message. I’m not here to suggest that we force our children to become athletes. I just want my children to be healthy and active so they can enjoy the world around them. Most kids start with an eagerness to play. They enjoy running around. They enjoy being physically active. Parents need to continually encourage and promote such activity. Fortunately, it is easy to do. Get off your ass and play with them. Go for a walk. Go for a bike ride. Throw the ball. Do something.

If all your kids see you do is text on the phone and watch television, that’s what they are going to do. Kids will follow your lead. If you remain active, it’s likely they will too. If you sit around and do nothing, that’s the life that they will learn to live.

Lead from the front.

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You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. – Khalil Gibran

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15 comments

15 Comments so far

  1. Craig P October 8th, 2012 6:05 am

    Awesome post Ross, right on the money. I know from experience with my daughter for this to be true. Physical activity is so important from the very beginning of life. It provides so many outlets for kids as they mature and grow to relieve stress, be kids, excel or just get away from the pressures they face on a daily basis especially once they start going to school. Be the example for your kids, be their cheerleader, lead by example in all that you do by being the best parent you can be. This post is really hitting home with me as my baby girl is finishing up her senior year in high school, getting ready for college and the rest of her life. It goes by fast bro, hang on tight it is an awesome ride.

  2. David October 8th, 2012 6:10 am

    Very true Ross, my son wants to train when I do, I give encouragement and challenges. For example on the way home from school we may race to the end of the street or climb a tree etc – he loves it and has grown in confidence since doing this both physically and academically. He is also trying to copy me in growing a beard, but at the age of 5 I think that’s out of his reach for now! lol

  3. whiffet October 8th, 2012 6:14 am

    Great article. My fiance’s family is very inactive. As an outsider, it’s easy for me to see that the kids followed the lead of the parent figure who hates even a short walk. Even the dogs are overweight.

    My mother-in-law to be loves telling me that I’ll soon stop exercising because people in their 30 get too tired to do anything after work. It annoys me like mad to hear things like this! It’s just excuses.

    I hope that when I have kids that they’ll follow my active lead.

  4. bagman October 8th, 2012 9:23 am

    I took my son down to a local park that has a parkour setup.One of the aparatus,the kids were attempting to swing from a pullup/overhead bar release and catch the next bar about 3.5 feet away.
    1st attempt was a fail for me and I hit the deck,I made the leap on my 2nd attempt.
    Some of the local kids were impressed I could do more than 10 strict pullups,I told them about your site and Barstarzz.
    Hope to get them interested

  5. bagman October 8th, 2012 9:25 am

    my son always asks to play the deck of cards game,keep it fun

  6. Nedyalko Yankov October 8th, 2012 7:35 pm

    If only more parents could read your stuff, Ross, the World would be a far better place. I’m happy to see, that we share viewpoints on this topic. Thank you for the outstanding post!

  7. jb21 October 9th, 2012 1:18 pm

    Great post Ross. My daughter (just turned 4)one day just dropped and started doing burpees with pretty good form. I asked her what she was doing and she said “daddy’s exercise.” You are right, they will emulate what they see the parents do.

  8. Doug October 9th, 2012 2:11 pm

    Well said Ross! Love this message and your blog! Keep up the great work!

  9. Troy- TBFitUK October 10th, 2012 7:02 am

    Ross great read..enjoyed everything word you wrote. Especailly the bit you put about kids being a spunge, yes they are amazing at sucha youg age. My boy has just turned 1yrs old last week and from months old would watch me shadow boxing. He has been imitating me since 6months lol…may this continue…
    Keep up the good work Ross!!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1DIJ__ypPU
    P.s. this lady is 61years old and been learning boxing for 8month now with me ;) enjoy………..

  10. Krista October 10th, 2012 12:02 pm

    So many kids these days grow up with parents who never exercise and eat like crap – and as a result, childhood obesity is growing at an alarming rate.

    When I was growing up, I couldn’t have gained an ounce of fat if I tried. My parents were active and ate well, and as a result, I was active and ate well. To this day, I’m a fitness fanatic, love doing outdoor activities and eat healthier than most people I know. I owe it all to my upbringing.

    Your kids are incredibly lucky!

  11. RossTraining.com Blog October 24th, 2012 6:39 am

    [...] a recent post, I discussed the significance of leading from the front (see here). Children imitate their parents so it is important that we are positive role models to them. As [...]

  12. Joe (Fazool) June 10th, 2013 4:23 pm

    So very true. I have a three year old son that is extremely active. Frequently, I take him to the park so he can run, climb, hand and slide. Also, he attends a gymnastics class once a week. The progress he has made is amazing in the past year. Last week, at the park, he want to hang from the ba. I lifted him up to the bar, he grasped it and I gradually released my hold. He manage to hang freely for about 6 seconds. I was quite impressed.

    Occasionally, when I am working out on the rings in my garage, he will come in and want to have a turn. So much fun. I only hope he continues to follow my lead. He will see me constantly being active.

  13. juda jolie July 27th, 2013 7:08 pm

    I agree, change starts at home. Sometimes, I wonder what the story is behind a kid who sits at home all day. Why does a parent allow their child sit at home for hours at a time? Are they single, at work all day, can’t afford daycare? Or are they simply depressed which could translate into laziness. The world is full of stories and it is important to educate parents and kids on the importance of living a quality life;physical activity is a big part of that. At any rate, thanks for sharing your point of view!

  14. Colin August 28th, 2013 8:06 pm

    I know that this post hasn’t been commented in a while but I just read it for the first time. I’m a middle school p.e. teacher who is also an avid and enthusiastic activity junky. I see this kind of thing all too often at my own job. Students who come to me at age 12 or 13 that are obviously unhealthy, inactive people. I hate to say it but, it boils down to home life 90% of the time. Do Mom, Dad or both ever go outside and play with their kids? Do they care about their health as well as their own children’s health? I hope the answer is always yes but often times it is the exact opposite.

    I’m glad that there are people out there such as yourself who encourage their children to be active, healthy individuals. Thanks for balancing things out Ross. We need more parents like you. Parents who set the example as well as the standard. I look forward to challenging my future children to foot races and pull up competitions. Keep up the good work.

  15. Steven January 25th, 2014 6:48 am

    Although not yet old enough to have kids myself, after reading this article you give me hope that my future children will in fact be active by following “daddy’s lead” without having to force them into sports. Thank you!

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