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.


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


  1. So true Ross. It’s about giving them the exposure and opportunities as well as actually being there to offer feedback or even just a smile and thumbs up. I’ve just come back from my kids’ gym training and am often the only parent there. Many see sport and play activities as important, yet also an opportunity to have their kids supervised by others. As you say, parents are busy, but what constitutes busy, ahead of involvement in their child’s physical activity is often mere laziness. You’re a fine example to parents Ross!

  2. What a great little kid you have, man. I’m happy for your family, although I don’t really know any of you personally.
    I was thinking a few weeks back … how do people in their right minds find the courage to leave their children in front of the “idiot box” for so long, and not make a small effort of substituting that practice with something else? I know it may sound funny, but … playing with Lego is one of many alternatives. Not only does it give the parent a brief window of time, but it helps develop the kid’s imagination to some degree, as well. On the opposite spectrum … what does TV give you? Decreased brain activity, bad eyes, nervousness, sitting in one place hours upon hours for a long time, and occupation of the kids’ heads with bullshit.
    Anyway … you never disappoint with your posts, and this one is no exception.

  3. Honestly, at that age I don’t think I could’ve run 400 meters and I was fairly active. Remember at 15, me and a friend would run 1 1/2 miles before school every morning, and that 1 1/2 miles would seem like a killer.

  4. Ross
    This is a awesome post. I have my daughter in so many activities. She swims in January, now she is doing drama and choir and baton twirling. I never take her to mcdonalds to eat. She knows all about working out as I would put her in the crib while I did pushups and she can drop down and do pushups since she was young if thety asked her even though she is not that strong. She tries to lift me all the time. When she helps with groceries she tries topick heavy stuff and I tell her to not go that heavy. Home work is always done with me and if they ask her to read a book I read it to. I want to know everything that she is doing and I still find time to train. I also see parents that get mad at there kids when trying for sports instead of helping them out. My daughter washaving trouble learning to ice skate in class and was crying. I took her the following week to the rink to help her out to get over the fear of falling. That was all it took. I try to be a very involved parent and to keep her learning new skills all the time.

  5. Mimicking is one of the basic forms of learning. As parents our responsibilities do not end with just “providing” food and shelter. We need to encourage and nurture them. Your post and lifestyle are a prime example of this. Nothing fancy, complicated or theoretical. I am happy to share that my experience has been similar. I have a no frills exterior home gym and my youngest son as well as his cousins and friends are always eager to “train” as we would say. They on the other hand just call it FUN! Great article!

  6. Goto Youtube and check out my sons videos, search ‘jacob hall burpee’, At 11yrs old now he can do 100 in under 7 minutes, at 8yrs old he beat my time of 7.5 min. He has been training with me since he has been 5. We have all of your books and DVD’s. He is 11yrs old now and loves training and wrestling. The time we spend together is awesome, I especially like doing hill sprints with him out in the woods by our house.

    – David Hall

  7. @David Hall

    Great stamina. Love how you put the heavy bag down for your son to jump over. Often you see people performing burpees and their feet barely leave the ground. Fast tempo too. Haven’t spent much time doing this great exercise but after watching your son I plan on working it in my schedule by substituting it for my running workouts to change things up a bit for variety sake.

  8. Great insight. I often find myself guilty as charged, focusing on what I can do to get better (myself) each day. But you’re absolutely right, we are the lenses through which our children see and experience the world when they are young. This a great reminder to for me to take time..FOR THEM. Thank you.

  9. Such an awesome rant Ross. My entire backyard and garage is a gym. We have rings, trx, and pull-ups hanging from our overhang. We have kettlebells galore, a huge trampoline, and even a treadmill as a walking desk for the computer. Since my kids were born they’ve grown up around activity as a lifestyle. It amazes me when they just pick up a kettlebell and start swinging it. Or run on the treadmill for fun. It never stops. I’m also fortunate enough to be able to allow my 5 year old to explore her musical art side with piano. Learning how to read music has been paramount for her development and discipline of practice and reward.

    Parents need to understand that every child needs the opportunity to explore both physical and mental extra curricular activities. Take the time and save the money to get them involved. It may be hard to juggle now, but it’s an invaluable gift for the children’s future. If parents struggle with money then spend 30 minutes helping them with either a sport, chess, music, something to enhance there skills. Thanks again Ross for writing this. As a parent I’m right there with you on this!

  10. Great post! I have found my kids enjoy sprinting out on a field with our dogs at night! Something about the cold crisp air, a full moon and a sky filled with stars! It truly awakens the mind, body and soul. Family time doesn’t always have to be at the dinner table ­čśë

  11. Hi Ross,

    great post!!!

    Allowing them to try out several stuff (athletic as well as other interests) are
    – fun
    – and IMO serves their “own learning schedule”. IMO kids seem to have their own inner coach!!!

    At a certain age they love to wrestle (one of the best “dynamic core exercises” around and a good way to learn to handle contact), start climbing (upper body strength and balance)and they love to chase each other (great agility and sprint training) and of youse they love to jump.

    Later boys often, at least for some time, fall in love with a team sport (maybe because are still the sport with most public interest and media presence) or maybe because there are several things to learn in a taem sport that will serve them well later in their live (frustration to be benched, sharing and coopertaion etc)?

    I think it was Gambedda who said that it is a good thing to expose your kids to as many different motor patterns as possible. Over_specia├â┬Âization is a killer employed by over ambitious parents.

    Besides all that “improvement” stuff I think it is healthy and is FUN for them.

    Great that some people seem to share this point of view.

    Greating from Germany

  12. Sorry for all the type o in my last post. This will be my last post sent on a smart phone I am to old for that stuff:)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *