Kids need to be acclimated into healthy habits early. In this post, we will look at the necessity of making healthy habits and routines a child’s normal life. As a follow up to my article on discipline, let me state that although the subject can have its challenges, it does not have to be excruciating. The best way to incorporate discipline in your child/children’s lives is by starting with healthy habits.
We are creatures of habits. When I was a kid, I was a huge Mr. Rogers fan. I knew what time he would be on television. I knew the channel that he would be on. I knew the song that he would sing at the beginning and end of his show. I could count on it. It was a part of my routine. Being a routine meant that my mother didn’t have to tell me Mr. Rogers was on (I never called it Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood…side note). It’s what I did. We also went to church every Sunday. It was what we did. Not going felt weird.
When we develop routines, especially healthy ones, it gives us a feeling of security. Even though it is not material, it is something that we can hold onto. We need a schedule. Kids need a schedule. This is a great place to start. The schedule needs to include healthy actions as well as chores. These need to be taught from moment one and reinforced with praise. Kids need to see the benefit.
When my eldest boy lived with his mother from the age of 5 – 10. His mother did not set a schedule of playing outside and physical activity. It also was not a routine for the meals served to be portion-controlled and what most people would label as healthy. Let me stop here and affirm that my boy’s mother loves him with all her heart. She never wanted anything for him but the best. However, she failed to develop a routine of healthy habits and practices in the home. He did not get proper exercise and was overeating. When he was 10, he wanted to come live with me. Once he was under my roof, we (my second wife and I) took steps to change his routine.
We did not want to blast him with a bunch of rules. We knew that his weight was an issue and that he had been bullied at school over the issue. We decided to make him busy. Getting busy is how things get done. That sounds simple, but it is true. We scheduled regular outings of activity that included exercise but were fun. We developed family projects that would require that I have the help of a strong partner…guess who. We did not want him hungry, so we just introduced more fruits, vegetables, and water into his diet. “Do you want some pasta? No problem, but you need to eat these veggies too.”
After a couple of months, he came home from school and said that no one was calling him fat anymore. I asked him how that made him feel. “Great!”, he answered. I told him that’s because he has been eating so well and has been such a big help to the family. “You’re getting some man muscle and looking trim, congratulations”. From that point on we just reinforced the routine. He began to make all the healthier decisions for himself. Today he is a strong buff looking young man in the U.S. Navy. He never went back to his old look. He developed healthy routines that have served him well. We are very proud of him.
Dad’s, your kids will feel better when they feel accomplishment than when they receive a gift. Accomplishment is their reward for what “they” did. Buying them gifts will give them a smile, but will not make them feel better about who they are. Celebrate their drive to maintain healthy and good habits. Celebrate them having a spirit of refusing to quit.
My second son and baby girl (who are now grown) were soccer stars growing up. At least this was the case in their school and clubs where they were revered. Yes, they were talented, but it was not the goals scored and games won that gave them their popularity. That made the sidelines cheer, but it did not motivate and affect them in a lasting way.
My soccer kids developed a passion for the sport and a spirit of not quitting. There are some parents that will say, “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose”. I’m telling you that losing sucks. However, they received more praise from coaches, other parents, and their soccer organizations for refusing to give up. They both fought tooth and nail regardless of the score. They came to realize that they could always be affirmed by their drive and attitude. This was in “their” control. The score of the game was not solely up to them.
Developing healthy habits, routines, and practices will benefit your kids. Celebrate them not for what they win/lose. Celebrate them for their drive to do what is right, healthy, and honorable. Be the best dad possible.