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Raising Active Children

Like many proud parents, I love to see my kids in action. Words cannot describe how great it feels to see them excel. I have coached several of my son’s athletic teams already and will likely do the same for my daughter when she is old enough. They both love sports so there is no place I’d rather be than next to them assisting with their development.

It is not uncommon for us to be in the yard playing or out at one of the local fields. Whether it is baseball, basketball, football, or soccer, there’s a good chance we’ll be practicing at some point. Unfortunately, we are usually the only family on the fields. We rarely need to share. Many parents either aren’t making time or falsely assume that kids develop on their own.

Now before I begin my rant, I don’t claim that my opinion is the universal truth. I’m not a fan of generalizations so I won’t categorize all parents and kids together. I am simply sharing some of the observations that I’ve made as a parent and coach. I’ve been around plenty of kids and communicated with many parents.

I’ve also had plenty of parents make comments to me directly about my son. Just this past weekend, one such parent made a comment to me during my son’s soccer game. It’s a line that I’ve heard many times before. I was walking my dog around the field when my son scored one of his two goals that day. As I cheered his name, a parent looked over and commented,

Oh that’s your son? He’s a natural.

Before I could respond, he looked away and continued what appeared to be an ongoing conversation. Rather than start what could have been a lengthy discussion, I simply said thank you and continued walking.

Thinking back however, it is unfortunate that many parents assume that a talented child is naturally gifted. I honestly don’t know how much of my son’s ability is natural and how much comes from what has been a lifetime of activity. My kids have never known life without exercise and sport.

Since day one, they’ve been around pro fighters who come here to train. I still remember my son being amazed when he first saw a car in a garage. As a toddler, he thought every garage was a gym. He was puzzled why someone would park a car there. He wanted to know how they would train.

That’s the mentality he’s been around his entire life. Before he could walk, he would lift his head up and watch me exercise next to him. Seven years later he continues to be as eager as ever. I’ve never once told him to play sports or to go out and exercise. It’s just something he wants to do based on what he has witnessed his entire life.

He will stay outside as long as I let him. He never wants to come inside. Before school he wants to play catch. After school he wants to play basketball or soccer. It’s never ending. He always wants to play something.

My daughter is following in his footsteps. Not only does she have active parents, she’s also got a big brother to follow. I see similar examples from other kids in town. The kids who advance ahead of their peers are typically the kids whose parents are out on the fields helping. Almost every successful athlete that I’ve seen in town has a parent who volunteers.

It isn’t rocket science. The greatest gift you could ever give a child is time. Undivided attention is worth more than anything. Yet while some parents volunteer, I see others who view practices and games as a break from parenting. They drop the kids off before game time and show up late to pick them up afterward. Others sit in the car the entire time. They are oblivious to what is happening on the field. Forget about paying attention to the game, they don’t even know if their kids are safe.

Unfortunately, the kids of these parents often lose interest in sports. There is no one to cheer them on. They have no one to help, encourage, or play with outside of practice. They are essentially on their own and that’s unfortunate. It’s not a case of winning or losing a game. We are talking about children who aren’t given a fair chance to win at the game of life.

If you want your children to be healthy and active, it is your job to lead by example. Don’t wish your children would be more active. Show them how. Set an example that they can follow. And as I make these statements, please don’t misconstrue the message. I’m not suggesting that we create an army of athletes. I’ve always told my kids that I’ll support whatever they do. If my son wants to play the piano instead of baseball, I’d gladly learn alongside him. I’d simply encourage him to remain physically active by continuing to lead by example.

Whatever they do, I’ll be by their side assisting any way I can. I say this not only for athletics, but also academics. If you want your children to excel (at anything), roll up your sleeves and show them the way.

So many of the problems we face today would disappear if more parents stepped up to the plate and did their jobs. For example, childhood obesity would be all but nonexistent if more parents got up and took their kids outside to play. Most kids enjoy running around and playing outside. That’s how they start. The interest is there, but it is up to the parents to keep the flame burning. Naturally, different kids will migrate towards different interests and activities. Yet regardless of individual differences, all kids can share a love for physical activities and adventures.

Once again though, children tend to imitate their parents. If a parent sits on his ass eats himself into a coma, don’t expect the child to act any differently. Actions speak louder than words. It’s one thing to tell a child what to do, yet entirely different to demonstrate through your own daily actions. Kids will forget what you say, but they’ll always remember what you do (and did).

Lead from the front and show them the way.

+++++

Kids spell love T-I-M-E. – John Crudele

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15 comments

15 Comments so far

  1. Black_star October 8th, 2013 4:00 am

    This is exactly spot on! I’m 26, would love to have kids of my own, but haven’t found a girl who enjoys physical activities, some go to gym yes, for about a month, and after that it’s back at the local nightclub drinking and sitting in front of the tv with hangover/spending time after work.

    Friends have kids,(yes, i envy them a little), and one couple just bought an own tv for their 5yo because he was playing ps3 too much and they had only one tv. Parents wanted to watch tv too. All they do as a family is go out and eat, mainly at mcdonald’s few times a week.

    Then the other side of the spectrum, my father was like that too. I wanted to do things, travel with family etc, but he didn’t, my mom, she was just at home, we all were just at home. I had to get up and start working out on my own, i made a lot of mistakes, started again after a lot of breaks.
    When i finally get my own kids, i will be there to support them with their interests.
    I understand your article perfectly, i would have loved that my father would had come with me to the gym (i did ask him several times), i would have loved him to play playstation with me sometimes.

  2. Alexandre de Oliveira October 8th, 2013 6:16 am

    Parenting: you’re doing it right Ross Enamait! You’re setting up a healthy example for your kids to follow, that’s awesome! I’m about to become a father (my wife is around her 6th week of pregnancy now) and your example is very inspiring to me. Thanks!

  3. Steve October 8th, 2013 6:38 am

    I’ve made the same observations while training outdoors all summer. It frustrates me, and I am attempting to do everything I can to instill an enjoyment of outdoor play and physical work in my little girl. It frustrates me to look around my office and see >80% of my coworkers overweight. I can’t help but wonder if their children are also going down the same path?

  4. Cathy October 8th, 2013 9:47 am

    Regarding your point about parents unsure about how much success comes from natural talent versus an active lifestyle; Its worth pointing out that talent is massively overrated. For example, most people think Mozart is one of the most “talented / gifted” musicians ever. What they don’t realise is that his father practically wrote the book on teaching young children how to play music. He was made to practice for 8 – 10 hours each day, every day & By the age of 6 he had put in 1000s of hours of practice, by the time he was 23 he had deformed hands from the amount of practice he put in.

  5. Keith S. October 8th, 2013 10:30 am

    Excellent post. It’s amazing to me that we as a people know how beneficial exercise can be not just physically but also emotionally and brain function and still don’t put an emphasis on it. NYTimes recently had an article that possibly links physical fitness & school success: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/18/how-physical-fitness-may-promote-school-success/?ref=nutrition&_r=0

  6. Jeff Diritto October 8th, 2013 4:31 pm

    childhood obesity would be all but nonexistent if more parents got up and took their kids outside to play

    So simple, but so profound. Thanks for sharing your thoughts ! Your kids are very lucky – I have a 16 month old and a newborn any day now and plan to lead by example as well!

  7. Mikey October 9th, 2013 12:35 pm

    I love what you have written. Inspiring, articulate, and thoughtful. Thank you!

  8. Hop October 9th, 2013 9:39 pm

    “I still remember my son being amazed when he first saw a car in a garage. As a toddler, he thought every garage was a gym.” – LOL Love it!

    ‘Thumbs up’ blog entry.

  9. Ray October 10th, 2013 5:49 am

    Good post, I believe it is the parents duty to make sure their kids are active and healthy, and there is no other way to do that but through total commitment and to lead by example.

  10. craig October 10th, 2013 6:05 am

    It’s a good thing there are exceptions. My ma and pa spend every moment watching TV, but I still found my way. Now, I can provide good habits to any munchkins.

  11. Paul-E-C October 10th, 2013 12:24 pm

    Ross, great stuff as always! Inspiring
    You are on point again, and your kids are blessed to have you as a role model. I have 2 boys 3 1/2 and 9mos. The big guy is always hanging with me in the home gym(garage), I’m sure his little brother will follow when he gets big enough.

    He’s always asking – Can i hit the punching bag?(he loves the gloves) Can i do pull-ups?(which he really just hangs and swings – gotta start somewhere folks!) He plays with the conditioning rope. All kinds of stuff, the list goes on.

    I saw him a few weeks ago doing what looked like a decline plank from the second step in the living room, when i asked him what he was doing he told me “his exercises”. At the beach this summer he told me the big sand hill he was doing what looked like exercises on was his “workout station”. I know he is definitely paying attention to what we do and I love it!

    Sometimes we go to the school playground and he takes me through the obstacle course…i have to go over, under, and through everything he does. Good times, he gets a kick out of it. Then you have other people “watching” their kids from the side, or should I say watching their cell phones.

    Give them your time, and you’ll give them the world

  12. Lars October 10th, 2013 12:32 pm

    The picture of you running alongside your kid at the beach is just beautiful! Please continue uploading pictures like these, they look so happy and peaceful :)

  13. peter yates October 13th, 2013 3:44 pm

    HI ROSS, ANOTHER GREAT POST AND SO TRUE. MY SON HAS BEEN DOING MARTIAL ARTS WITH ME SINCE AGE 5, STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING SINCE 13 AND AT 16 AND MYSELF 63 WE ARE STARTING STRONGMAN TRAINING TOGETHER. THERE IS NO WAY TO DESCRIBE HOW IT FEELS SEEING YOUR SON GROW INTO A FINE YOUNG MAN WHO YOU CAN STILL SHARE QUALITY TIME WITH. I FEEL TRAINING HAS ALSO HELPED ENORMOUSLY WITH HIS WORK ETHIC AND CONCENTRATION AT SCHOOL AND KEEPING GOOD GRADES. EXAMPLE IS CERTAINLY THE KEY.
    REGARDS, PETER.

  14. Arvin October 14th, 2013 6:48 am

    As a 23 year old son and not a parent, I love seeing your posts about parenting and most importantly about setting an example. It puts perspective on a lot of things I did and didn’t do as a kid. Back in the day our parents in our neighbourhood didn’t really encourage us to be active, our neighbourhood, or better yet our environment was active. But when we all grew older that environment was gone and it showed.
    When I started working out around the age of 18 with some motivation from an active/ sporty friend of mine the results were coming quick. Lost in total 45 lbs. and I noticed some changes at home. My parents and sister they all started to become active. With my sister putting a lot of her focus on dieting and my mother on the crosstrainer at our local gym. They both eventually looked and bacame more healthy.
    So I guess it works both ways. Most of us need an example to follow. And that example can even be a kid with ‘couch’ parents.
    Thank you for your posts Ross,
    Arvin

  15. Jared November 10th, 2013 6:26 pm

    Ross,

    Great article. I’m trying to take the same approach with my own 15 month old and really enjoyed the read.

    Thanks

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