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Archive for the 'Health and Nutrition' Category

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.

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

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11 Year Old Inspiration

There’s no denying that the world has changed dramatically over the last few decades. More and more kids seem to be less and less active. Children still want to have fun, but their primary source of entertainment has shifted from outdoor play to indoor video games.

As a child, I grew up outside. You couldn’t get us to stay inside. And while I promote a similar lifestyle with my kids, doing so seems to be a rarity. When we go to the playground, we usually have full run of the entire playscape. It’s unusual to see more than a few families, and we typically see the same people each week.

Perhaps we just need to let more kids know how fun it is to play outside. As parents, the best way to do so is by leading from the front. As for potential, the video below speaks for itself. The 11 year old seen within has only been performing such work for a year. It hasn’t taken him long to progress and he’s obviously enjoying himself.

Encourage your kids to get up, get outside, and move. Life is so much more enjoyable when you do.

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Fences are made for those who cannot fly. – Elbert Hubbard

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Inspiration From Stephen Ritz

The video below features a presentation by South Bronx teacher Stephen Ritz. Throughout the speech, Ritz is both passionate and comical as he explains a program that started within his school. His classroom created the first indoor, edible wall. With the help of students and the local community, his program has already produced over 25,000 pounds of fresh vegetables.

His presentation makes for an entertaining video that is well worth a look. I’m not sharing it with hopes that everyone creates an edible wall (although that would be nice). Instead, my reasons for sharing the video are to highlight the passion of a man who took it upon himself to better his community.

Stephen Ritz is a real life example of the powerful quote listed at the bottom of this entry. His idea has already grown exponentially, perhaps even faster than his vegetables. His passion couldn’t be more real or powerful. Fortunately, it is also something that we can all possess. Once you find what you are passionate about, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish. No one can save the world, but we all have the ability to positively impact the lives of others in some way.

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I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do. – Edward Everett Hale

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Leading and Enabling

In 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. As I’ve mentioned before, my children love coming to the gym. They enjoy mimicking what they see. They have become mini gym rats because that is the only life they’ve ever known. Living an active life has certainly sparked a similar interest in my children.

Setting a positive example is not enough however. As parents, we must also enable our kids to find activities that they enjoy. Leading from the front is a step in the right direction, but it isn’t enough to do what you enjoy while hoping that your children hop on board and follow suit. Kids need the opportunity to enjoy their own activities, rather than always copying what we do.

Unfortunately, many parents become too busy with their own lives to make time for extracurricular activities for their children. As an active parent in the community, I am used to seeing the same kids at all of the local events. Meanwhile, there are loads of kids who remain home without the opportunity to participate.

Being a parent means sacrificing your time for your children. We are all busy in today’s world. A busy lifestyle isn’t an excuse. Many of us work long hours. I am well aware of the challenges that parents encounter trying to balance their schedules with those of multiple children. It isn’t always easy, and there are many times when it seems like we (the parents) have a million things going on at once.

Yet despite the often clashing and hectic schedules, there is nothing better than watching your child have an opportunity to compete in an event that they enjoy. Earlier this week, my son (pictured above) participated in a track and field challenge that has been hosted annually for the last 14 years. He won first place in the 400 meter race.

In the two days since, he can’t stop talking about it. All he wants to do is race again. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to find another event in the area next month. Now my son is asking how to train for the upcoming race. I wouldn’t trade that excitement for anything in the world.

My kids cannot find these events on their own however. They don’t read the newspaper or browse the web. It’s up to the parents to find activities that their children can participate in. My kids have played baseball, soccer, track, gymnastics, etc. I give them the chance to try whatever they like. I am not pushing them to follow my interest in boxing. I want them to find what they enjoy.

Unfortunately, kids won’t know what they enjoy if they aren’t given the opportunity to participate. While my children are out playing sports, plenty of others are at home sitting in front of the television. Upon speaking with one of the local race directors, she mentioned how participation has declined steadily over the years. Fewer kids come out to participate in these free community events. She was adamant that more and more kids sit in front of the television rather than playing outside.

Research tends to support her observations. One recent study found that children between the ages of 8 months and 8 years were exposed to an average of 232.2 minutes of background television per day. That’s almost 4 hours a day!

Parents need to stop being so lazy. Don’t use the television as a distraction to keep your child occupied. Doing so does nothing for their development. Kids need the opportunity to get outside and explore the world. Not every child needs to be an athlete, but at least give them the opportunity to participate. Children involved in sports learn valuable lessons about teamwork, competition, discipline, and respect. The kids also have fun!

As a coach in the town, I can say with certainty that most kids enjoy playing sports. I always have kids who want to stay after practice. The kids want to be there. More parents need to step up and enable their children to participate. Regularly sitting your child in front of the television so you can do your own thing is pathetic. Your child is your responsibility. Children do not come fully trained and ready for the world. How they develop depends on how you develop them on a daily basis.

Children are like sponges. They soak everything up around them. It is our job as parents to make sure they have the opportunity to absorb beneficial activities that they will enjoy and learn from. Leading an active lifestyle is a great way to encourage such a life for your child. Let your kids get out and find what they truly enjoy.

Lead from the front while enabling them to pursue their own passions.

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Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy. – Robert A. Heinlein

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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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