Setting Examples for Your Children Can Never Start Too Early
As a parent, you naturally want what’s best for your children. You work hard to provide everything they need, from a sturdy roof over their heads to warm clothing. You know that giving them nutritious food and providing a solid education are important factors in their development, and you’re always on the lookout to find a way to help them succeed at whatever they set their hearts to do.
One important — but often overlooked — way to prepare your child for life as a healthy, happy adult doesn’t require any extra money or time at all. Setting a good example and being a positive role model can actually have greater benefits for your kids than an all-out Tiger Mom campaign to control their childhoods. Here are some of the best ways you can set a strong example for your children to follow for a bright and healthy future:
Read for Pleasure
By now everyone knows that reading to children early and often will set the stage for their academic success when they get to school. Eventually, though, they’ll outgrow family read-aloud time. What then?
You can still show the importance and sheer pleasure of reading by modeling that behavior yourself. Instead of hitting the screens while your kids are working on homework or playing quietly together, curl up with a good book when you have some down time. Seeing that you make time for reading without anyone assigning it to you will be a powerful reminder that reading for pleasure is still very much a worthwhile habit.
You can talk to your kids until you’re blue in the face about proper nutrition, but it you fill the pantry with junky snacks (even the ones you think are hidden from view), you’ll be showing them that eating sugar and fat for fun is normal behavior. As far as food is concerned, you have to walk the walk on a daily basis.
Show your kids that eating well can also be delicious by cooking fun recipes at home. If you’re not a great cook, pick up a beginner cookbook and start learning, inviting your kids into the kitchen to learn along with you. By making healthy food a regular part of your lifestyle, you’ll be modeling good eating habits that your kids will internalize and take with them to college and beyond.
Childhood obesity is spiraling out of control, but you can help stop it in its tracks by making sure your kids get enough physical activity each day. It’s not enough just to tell them to go outside and play, though. If you’re not doing it yourself, they may even decide that enforced time in the back yard is actually a punishment.
Instead, join your kids in a quick game outside. You can play catch, run a race, or take up a quick round of hopscotch. On weekends, pack a picnic for a day exploring a park or take a hike along a path you’ve always wanted to explore. Once everyone can ride a bike, try running errands together without the car. Whatever your family likes to do can be an adventure that keeps you all healthy and strong.
If you’re a smoker, quit. Are there recreational drugs in your house? Get rid of them. Do you drink more than you should? Unwind with those books you’re reading or take up yoga instead. If you think you’re hiding your bad habits from your kids, you’re kidding yourself. They are carefully watching your every move to understand what it means to be a grown-up, so make sure these silent lessons are the ones you want them to learn.
Being a parent is challenging, and there will be times when you see your kids do something that you recognize is a habit of yours that they’ve picked up. Nobody’s perfect — as anyone who’s heard their favorite swear word come out of their child’s mouth can attest! Still, you can do right by your children and be your best self at the same time by vowing to change your less-than-perfect habits into better ones. You don’t have to do it all at once, either. Just pick one thing to model for your kids at a time, and when you begin to see those changes reflected in your kids’ attitudes and behaviors, you’ll know you’ve been successful.