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Friday, October 16, 2009

Set a good example

So clearly, I'm a mom. And as a parent, I want my kids to grow up enjoying exercise and having a healthy relationship with food. It's a constant struggle to find the balance and decide how I should react when the kids want to binge on snacks instead of eating healthy food. What I've learned is that the best way to help your kids adopt healthy behaviors is by setting a good example.

If you're enthusiastic about eating healthy foods, they'll notice. If your eyes only light up for that triple-chocolate cake, they'll notice that too. If you stand at the pantry eating cookies from the bag, believe me, that will be perceived as normal behavior.

Ever since I started making healthy changes in my life, I've seen a change in my kids as well. Don't get me wrong, we still struggle over the typical "kid diet" issues, and my kids absolutely enjoy their treats. But they've been much more interested in physical activity, and talk much more frequently about eating "growing foods." Lately, my daughter has even taken to doing ten push-ups each morning and evening. And both my kids have tried picking up my kettlebells. Even more shocking...my 35lb 3-year old actually managed to lift my 20lb kettlebell off the ground! Talk about strong!

One of the best ways to get an insight into what your children are learning from your example is to ask them about healthy living. I asked some of my friends to talk to their kids about what people need to do to stay healthy and see what they had to say. Here's a few excerpts:

Julie's Son: Try different foods and blow your nose.

Skyler: Wash my hands, take your medicine, rest and stay at home.

Sally: Eat healthy foods. Chicken is the healthiest. And get lots of rest, exercise and if you are allergic to an animal don't get that animal for a pet.

Alexa: It's important to eat broccoli.
Kane (her brother): It's more important to eat chicken.
Alexa: No, broccoli is more important!

Garrett: You must eat your greens, lift weights (60 - 400 lbs), and watch your muscles get big w/the veins sticking out.

And of course, I had to interview my own kids. Here's a video with some of their comments...forgive my sloppy editing. I clearly need more practice!

So what does all this tell us? Kids pay quite a lot of attention to what we do, even when we think they don't notice. That's just another reason to pay attention to the example that you are setting for your children. What are you teaching them about what you value? When it's a beautiful day outside, do you go for a run, a bike ride, or play baseball with your friends? Or do you sit inside and play Wii Sports?

If that gives you some motivation to take a step back and evaluate your behavior, then great! Think twice before you finish your kids meals, or eat cookies while standing in front of the pantry, or spend the weekend on the couch watching TV. Not only will you be healthier, but you'll raise kids with healthier behaviors and attitudes as well.


  1. I think you are right. All our choices influence our kids and I try to make sure that the choices are consistent with the lifestyle we live.

  2. It's great that you wrote about this, Liz - it's very important to teach kids early about making healthy choices. It's also been shown through numerous studies (and sheer observation) that if you help your children develop a taste/habit for healthy food, frequently, they won't even be tempted by junkfood. My nephew prefers his "little trees" (broccoli) above cake and cookies, so far that he has actually had tantrums waiting for his greens!

  3. Well, as you can see, my kids aren't eating little trees yet. But the part of the video I love is when my daughter points out that you can enjoy a treat, now and then, as long as it's part of a healthy diet. Now THAT'S an important message to learn...that it doesn't have to be all or nothing.

    Glad people enjoyed this topic. I appreciate everyone who polled their little ones on my behalf!

  4. These videos of your kids are really great, Liz. You are a very good role model, I can see that for sure.

    -"Passionfruit" from Gyminee

  5. Aw, thanks so much, Passionfruit! I try my best to be a good role model, but I don't succeed every day. Even so, I have some fantastic kids.