Being a dad is one of the most rewarding things I've done in my life. But if you're anything like me you're always a little unsure if you're doing the best things for your kids.
I want them to be fit and happy but without forcing my will on them.
1. Be an example
Kids are like little sponges. They are always watching and listening. Even when you don't think they are. They reflect back what they see and this can be a good thing and a humbling thing. Either way, it's an opportunity to better ourselves and show them how to live.
Live an active life. Workout on a regular basis and let them see you do it. Don't spend all your waking hours on the couch watching TV. Demonstrate to your kids that being active is part of who you are as a family.
We regularly go on "Adventures" as a family. I usually pick a location and don't tell anyone where we're going. We pile in the car and get outside for an afternoon. It could be going to the foothills for a hike or to the pool for a swim. It doesn't matter. Just get outside and share an activity with your family.
Being a CrossFit coach is awesome. I have all the tools to help my kids grow up healthy and strong but getting my 3-year-old to do a proper squat or push-up is practically impossible. She doesn't care about doing it right. She just cares about doing a "workout" with daddy.
I've stopped expecting her to want to be coached. She just wants to have some fun and be like her dad. The rest can come later when she's ready.
Formalized exercise is not the be all end all. Movement is king and the best way to do that with kids is through play. Run, jump, and climb. Take them to the park and do things on the jungle gym that you haven't done since you were their age. Here are few things we've done at the park:
- foot races
- bear crawls
- monkey bars
We weren't able to do all of those things well. Actually, some resembled more of a crash and burn than anything else but it was good for both of us to test our limits and learn. Every time something doesn't go as planned it's an opportunity for learning, laughing and building resilience.
4. Don't always let them win
Foot races or bear crawl races are great fun with kids but there is a temptation to always let them win. Obviously, when they are really little you could beat them easily. Ttry to keep races close so they feel like winning is possible but they don't need to win every time. You're not doing them any favors in building character if they always win.
I've also learned that choosing a shorter distance is better than longer. What seems short to me is way too long for a kid. My daughter get's discouraged and will give up halfway if I make it too long. Even if she's not going to win I do want her to feel like she accomplished something by finishing.
5. Let them see you struggle
Our kids think we're supermen. We are big, tall and strong. We pick them up as though they are as light as a feather. I love that my daughter thinks I'm super strong. But I also know that she needs to learn how to persevere through adversity.
Again this goes back to point #1. We are not perfect and sometimes we're not great at something but that shouldn't stop us from trying. And that is what we need our kids to see. They need to see that even us, Superman, struggles sometimes but we don't give up. We keep working to get better.
A great way to do this is taking them to the gym with you. Imagine the impression it would make on your kids to see their dad work really hard on getting stronger on a regular basis.
Being a dad is challenging and rewarding. With a little purposeful action, we can have fun, instill the value of fitness, and teach some life lessons at the same time.
Now go live better.