Parents have to make an extra effort to help their kids develop an active lifestyle. One great way to get kids active now and have them stay active well into the future is to find sports and activities that they love and that will have them gladly turning off the computer and powering down the phone.
That’s why I’m happy to share tips from Marilynn Preston, the journalist behind America’s longest running fitness column, healthy lifestyle expert, and author of the new book, All is Well: The Art (and Science) of Personal Well-Being. She is also the founding chair of Girls in the Game, a life-changing non profit that helps girls get the healthy lifestyle training they need to become strong, confident women. Here are her top tips for the best ways to raise an active kid and hep them make the most of their time playing on a sport team.
1. Focus on fun!
The real victory is for your kid to feel comfortable and happy chasing a tennis ball or swinging a bat. Kids who are made to feel unworthy on the field take that insecurity into adulthood. It’s not pretty.
If you want your kids to relax and enjoy sports, you have to relax and enjoy watching.
If you get upset and unruly, so will they. All the experts agree: The quickest way to kill a kid’s interest in sports is to overemphasize winning. It’s a game!
2. Be positive.
Give your kid credit for showing up, for working well with her teammates, for being a good sport. These qualities are a thousand times more important to your kid’s future well-being than the final score of the game.
If you can’t say something nice during a game, say nothing at all. Or stay home. You’re the parent, not the coach. Your job is to be supportive, encouraging, unconditionally loving. Keep your comments positive. Let go of the negative.
3. Praise the effort in spite of the outcome.
If your kid’s team wins the game, bravo. But if your youngster is on the losing side, you need to offer empathy, not criticism. Recognize the loss, but don’t dwell on it.
The teachable moment is not about the value of winning but the value of resiliency.
If you can develop that nothing-can-defeat-me spirit as a kid, being an adult gets a whole lot easier. Instead of dwelling on the loss, shift your kid’s focus to something positive. Ask: What was the best part of the game?
4. Be available.
Your behavior on game day is important, but a winning attitude at home counts, too.
Do less talking and a lot more listening to your kid’s experience.
Don’t judge. And don’t box them in to playing soccer just because you grew up with posters of Pele in your room. Go join an adult soccer league and let your kids figure out what they love. Irish dancing? Trampoline? Cave diving? (God forbid.)
5. Stay above the fray.
Sometimes fights erupt at a game, in the stands, on the field. Stay out of it. Don’t abuse the refs or boo the other team. Stay cool, take a few calming breaths, and eat some apple slices till the argument blows over. It’s also unwise to be critical of a coach in front of your kids. It you’ve got a question or complaint, take it up privately.
6. Keep your eye on the prize.
Research shows that most kids play sports to have fun, improve their skills, and socialize with their friends. Winning isn’t as big a deal to kids as it is to adults. A much bigger deal is having your daughter or son feel good after the game. Fake praise won’t do it. Kids are smarter than that. If you parent with positive feedback and compassion when it comes to sports, your kid is much more likely to grow up enjoying an active, healthy lifestyle. And that’s the real goal, isn’t it?
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