Raising Fit Kids

July 19, 2012

Since my stepdaughters have arrived we’ve been exercising nearly every day. In the beginning I was pushing them. Now, they are pushing me! Of course, I train routinely every day. However, they have become so motivated they are now insisting to go to the gym often twice a day! It’s wonderful having them around. We eat clean, we keep an organized home, we workout….it feels like I might be good at this ‘mom thing’ when the boys get older!

What astonished me was my eldest stepdaughter, creating a “Fitness Binder” where she writes her caloric intake and workout calendar. I told her to also write down her long term and short term goals. She is like a sponge right now! She’s motivated, organized and energetic. While I have been influential in her fitness, I give 80% of the credit to her father, my husband, David. He trains with her nearly every day. He taught her how to use the machines and discusses nutrition with her. He even took her shopping and bought a very pretty dress that will be used as a measure of her progress. I loved that idea! And I didn’t even tell him to do that, he did it all by himself!

This is an example of how important it is to have parents heavily involved in the upbringing of a child. There are some things I know she would rather talk with her father about and stuff I know she would rather hear from me. I like to call her my ‘dance buddy’ because she attends many dance classes with me – a feat that most people can’t do because most are uncoordinated. Since my stepdaughter (who is 13) is a dancer, it is easy for her to pick up the moves easily and shake her butt! (she’s so cute when she does! I wish I had a camera in the group exercise room)

Since they will be going back home next week, we are looking into getting her a gym membership at home. Hopefully she can attend regularly and continue the progress she has made so far. She talks fondly about her mother’s healthy cooking, so I’m sure she will have a great foundation there as well.

Raising children to be healthy is a challenge – after all, it’s easier to cook meals they will enjoy (just so you can’t hear complaints) and turn on the TV versus making them do something active or creative. Since my boys are three and under you can only imagine how hard it is to make them eat healthy. My middle child loves vegetables and food in general, my eldest however, likes only bread and sugar. Most nights I spend an additional ten minutes at the dining table watching my eldest son eat his vegetables. I usually threaten bedtime or time out if he doesn’t. It is my firm belief that parents create a child’s habits. In the future, my sons will crave eggs and toast, chicken, vegetables, brown rice, fruit and oatmeal. I want them to crave the foods they ate habitually as a child – and it’s my responsibility to make that eating routine.

My advice for other parents who struggle with a picky eater or unmotivated, inactive child is this:

1)      Enforce good eating habits and don’t back down. It is your responsibility to force them to do things they don’t want to do. You have a limited time period when you can actually influence your child before they begin making their own choices.

2)      Take away the toys. I tell my stepchildren to turn of the TV, get off their Ipads, kindles and phones. I give them the option of going to the park, playing outside or cleaning the house. Sitting on your butt and doing nothing is not something I promote.

3)      Be a good role model. I always say this – and I will continue to say this until the day I die….you can’t expect something from someone if you don’t already do it yourself. As a parent, you are the one cooking the foods, organizing activities and creating their daily schedule. So make sure you are eating right, staying active and having a healthy lifestyle.

4)      Do things that are FUN. Fitness is not about running on a treadmill for an hour. It’s about swimming, dancing, playing, biking, running, skating…I participate in 90% of the activities with my children. I always swim with my stepdaughters. It’s important to do things that are fun with them so they don’t feel that fitness is boring and tiring.

5)      Get them involved in the food preparation. A recent study showed them kids who cook with their parents eat more vegetables. I know that my son loves it when he’s involved and eats his finished product.

6)      Talk to them about fitness. Sometimes it’s important to have a good heart-to-heart conversation about the reality of being healthy and unhealthy. It’s just like the ‘sex talk’ parents! You need to make sure they understand the long term implications of the daily choices they make.

I love trampoline places for kids. It's such a great workout! And you don't even realize it!

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