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Be a Healthy Role Model For Your Kids—Run!

Posted Nov 12 2009 10:02pm
One of the best ways to ensure a healthy lifestyle for your kids is to live by example. My daughter just recently emerged from the mysterious, dark, oddly scary, sometimes demonic stage of a 13-year-old. I'm happy to say she survived (as did myself and my wife) and she's now a beautiful blossoming 14-yr-old freshman in high school.

During this phase of the battle-of-the-wills, you probably think your child (son or daughter) could care less about your opinion. Ever have your child tell you to drop him/her off a block from school so nobody will see him/her get out of a mini-van? Ever have your child threaten to die if you open your mouth around their friends? Ever have your child say, "Seriously, you're not really going to wear that when you take me and my friends to the movies, are you?" And on the flip side, have you found yourself saying, "Honey, did you look in the mirror before leaving home?" "This is a brush, it's your friend, it's for your hair." or "Could you please put on a coat, so the school doesn't call Child Services on me?"

During those times, you think your child isn't hearing a word you're saying, but guess what? She is. She won't admit it, but she is. Your child actually wants your feedback and guidance, but those raging hormones and the peer pressure of her friends won't let her admit it. Every now and then, that sweet child (you once knew) emerges from beneath that creature-from-the-black-lagoon (that's temporarily overtaken your child's body) giving you a glimmer of hope.

Don't worry, your child will return to humanity. Some take longer than others, but he/she will return. During this possession phase, be diligent about being a healthy role model for your child. Silently showing your child each day positive ways you deal with stress through being physically active and eating healthy is what they need to see. Every now and then invite them for a walk, a run, or to join you at the gym. Share with them the latest sports drink you've discovered. Show them the great doctors report you got. Tell them about a cool article you just read in Runner's World. Invite them to the next 5K you're running, even if they're a spectator and not running. Then let them know how wonderful it was to see them when you crossed the finish line.

Even though your invites may be rejected or the only verbal response you get is a huff or a grunt, that inner sweet child buried beneath that tough facade, really does appreciate you asking and sharing. She's learning by your example.

All last year, I asked my daughter to run with me, only to get a "Right Dad." in response. Guess what? Now she's walking every afternoon after school. Her older brother told me she had started walking, but I didn't say anything. Then the other day she came up to me all beaming and said, "Dad, I walked 2 miles today!" I was so proud of her and she was so proud of herself. She's not running, and that's okay. She may move into running one day, but for now she's walking and getting in some great exercise.

Then I got another whopping surprise. One afternoon, she said, "Dad, the PE teacher at school fussed at me because he thought I was playing around when we were doing walking back lunges. I wasn't playing around. I can't do them!" She was in tears. So that night we had a crash course in walking back lunges. She cried more tears, because they actually were very hard for her to do. But, she hung in there and could do them by morning. Not great ones, but that didn't matter because she had gained the confidence that she could do them. Later the next day, she came running up to me and said, "Dad, the coach said, 'Nice improvement, Rayna!'" I was so proud of her. That was such a special moment. Funny how the simple little things are the most meaningful.

I seriously believe that during that scary 13-year-old phase, my daughter really was paying attention to her ole dad. A big reason that scary creature facade goes up in the first place is lack of confidence. Everything in their world is changing—schools, friends, their bodies. So, they put up this wall. Showing them how to gain this confidence (even if it's in a roundabout way) is what they need.
My daughter, saw how much enjoyment my running gave me and she saw how physical exercise and healthy eating benefited my wellbeing and helped me deal with stress. I don't want her to copy exactly what I do, though. She needs to discover what works for her. For now that's walking every day. Tomorrow it may be riding bikes. Whatever it is, I'll be there to support her.

So, during those tough times, sometimes it's best to stand back and holdfast, but continue to be that positive and healthy role model. They really are watching and listening to you and even though they may think your outfit is hideous and outdated, they still value your input and opinions.
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