You’ve heard the saying time and time again: being healthy requires living a healthy lifestyle on a daily basis, not just going on a diet or doing a short-term exercise program. You probably know first-hand how hard it is to start instituting healthy habits as an adult. But as a parent, you can give your kids the gift of a healthy future by raising them with responsible habits from a young age. The ultimate goal is to make healthy choices so familiar that to your kids, they just feel like the norm (because they should be).
How do you do this, exactly? Start with these tips from our fitness gurus!
Avoid Using Exercise as a Punishment
This is a common practice for parents, coaches, and PE teachers alike: using exercise as a punishment, like telling your child to run a lap if they didn’t follow instructions. This conditions them to look at exercise as something they should try to avoid, not something that they should enjoy or should feel privileged to have the mobility to do.
By the same token, don’t teach your kids that exercise is something they need to do to compensate for overeating. Exercise doesn’t undo poor eating habits, so it’s best not to mix them together. In the same way, don’t use food (especially unhealthy food) as a reward either.
Abolish the “Clean Plate Club”
The “Clean Plate Club” or similar rules that require kids to eat everything on their plate are common in families today and for generations past. Yes, you’re trying to get your kids to eat a healthy and balanced diet. But the problem is that over time, this teaches kids to feel guilty if they don’t eat everything on their plate.
At home, your portions might be healthy so cleaning the plate may be okay. But when your kids go to a restaurant and eat everything on their plate, they’re probably forcing themselves to overeat because most restaurants in the US have oversized portions. It’s better to teach your kids to avoid food waste by saving and repurposing leftovers or by giving leftovers to someone in need.
Start Healthy Family Traditions
Most families discover that there are certain things they enjoy doing together, like watching movies or playing games. Shared hobbies can give your family a way to bond, but you want to make sure those hobbies are healthy. For example, in some families, the activity that bonds them is eating together. This can contribute to weight problems because the kids grow up equating food with love. Instead, find healthy family hobbies like backyard whiffle ball or hiking.
Giving Your Kids a Healthy Start
As parents, our words and actions send messages to our kids that may be unintentional. But when we start thinking more about the impact we’re having and the habits we’re instilling in our kids, we can find ways to make a healthy lifestyle feel natural and easy for them, laying the foundation for healthy adulthood too. For more tips on building a healthier family, check out our Mommy and Me programs and follow us on Instagram.