Friday, August 24, 2012

Teach Them Well

Kids. I have 'em and I love 'em. A lot. And I don't just love my kids... my kids' friends? I love them immensely too. Random kids I see in the grocery store? Yep, love them too. My goal with my own children is to give them great experiences which, in turn, will fill them with great memories to last their lifetime. I want that for all children... whether it be a fleeting moment or days upon end, any interaction that I have with kids is intended to enrich their world, if only for a moment.

That's why I feel so strongly about writing this post dedicated to our food choices and how we pass them on to our children. So often I read "my kids were eating McDonald's and I wanted some!" or "my kids were having ice cream but I'm proud that I didn't have any!"... my question is WHY?! Why are they eating those foods?! I'm not talking about a treat here and there, heck, we're all entitled to a treat every now and then... I'm talking about everyday choices that we make that don't set a good example for our kids despite our best intentions. 

Time to get honest people. Go ahead, take a deep breath, and be honest with yourself... 

Do you repeatedly make bad food choices for your children? I sure did. Hot dogs? Frozen chicken nuggets? Check and check. Those were staples in my house. They were quick and as a busy single mom, fast and easy are my best friends! But that's changed now and I hope after reading this post you'll make some positive changes to your kids' diets too.

Here's the good news that will make your job easier... kids listen. Yes, they really do. They listen to what you tell them and even better, they emulate the choices that you make. Include your kids in discussions about food and let them come to the conclusions about what's best for their bodies. Don't lecture them and don't tell them what they'll be eating... have an open discussion and explain why it's important. Will they instantly ask you for asparagus and grilled chicken for dinner? Of course not, but with time and repetition, they'll make smart choices. My kids do and when I see it happen, those are some of the proudest moments of my day. 

Simple yet effective changes we have made include water instead of sports drinks (yes, they actually choose water 90% of the time), no Pop-Tarts (my son used to eat them almost daily!), and their choice of snacks has drastically improved. Instead of fruit snacks, chips, and cookies, they now choose pretzels, string cheese, yogurt, and fruit. Notice the word 'choose'? Repeated discussions about why it's important to make those healthy decisions have gone a long way with my kids. Of course I'm not perfect and neither are they. My son loves those sugar cookies you can buy at the grocery store that are topped with frosting and sprinkles (*gag*) and his grandmother buys them for him. I don't tell him that he's not allowed to have them, but I explain why they're not a good food choice and I hope that he won't have more than 1 / day when he's at her house. And guess what? He listens. He loves the cookies but he loves his mama more :) Sure I have to remind him every now and then not to overindulge, but the bottom line is that he listens.

My Emily getting fit with Mom!
Another healthy habit that it's easy to teach kids is exercise and the importance of taking care of your body. As a busy single mom, I always found an excuse to not go running... we live on a busy street, I couldn't leave the kids home alone and I sure as heck couldn't expect them to keep up on a run... but as they say, where there's a will, there's a way and we have found that way. There is a beautiful running park cemetery down the street from our house that takes us only 2.5 minutes to get to by foot. I walk, the kids ride their bikes or roller blades, and once we're there, I get my nightly run in while they're safe to ride around at their leisure as long as I can see them. We just started this routine 3 weeks ago and every single day my daughter asks me if we're going to go running... I don't know what it is that she likes about it so much but there's really no downside to it. We're all getting exercise, fresh air, and time together.

When my kids ask me why I'm getting healthy, I never tell them "because I'm sick of being fat"... the last thing I want to do is implant an unhealthy body image in their minds. I always tell them the same thing... that I want to get healthy and take care of my body. It's as simple as that. With these changes that we've made with food and exercise, I know they'll continue to make the right choices to stay healthy too.

Share some of your thoughts in the comments section. Make great choices for your kids? Share them. Need advice? Ask the questions. Tips for having healthy kids? We'd all love to hear them!

An aware parent loves all children he or she meets and interacts with - for you are a caretaker for those moments in time ~ Doc Childre

This blog post was contributed by Erin, fellow Fit Camper, and you can read more by Erin at her personal blog.

 

6 comments:

  1. Erin,
    Thanks again for taking the time to write this for Fitness Unscripted! I think it is so great that you are making healthy choices for yourself and are taking your kids along for the ride. Your daughter by the way, is adorbs! ~ Jen J.

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  2. Awesome post, Erin! I don't have kids yet, but I am trying to make these lifestyle changes now so I can pass health on to my children!

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  3. Erin, I couldn't agree more with everything you said! As the mom of three (2 grown boys & a 15 yr old daughter) I know how easy it was to feed them convenience foods. We are all making better choices now, but what a world of difference it would have made if I had taught them good food choices as small kids (especially my daughter, who gains weight so easily). Thank you!

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  4. You're welcome Jen and thank you for the opportunity to write this! This blog is going to be fantastic and we all appreciate the hard work that you and Jen S. are doing for us! And thank you... I think so too but I'm a little biased!;)

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  5. Well said! I've always told my daughter that I'm exercising and eating veggies to be healthy but she overhears me saying I'm fat and I heard her say something about losing weight and I almost died. She's only 4 (in a few days) so I'm not concerned about any permanent damage but I learned a lesson that day. How you talk about yourself is what really sticks in those baby minds.

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