We get questions all the time about increasing motivation to train for young athletes.
We get questions all the time about how to get young athletes to eat healthier.
We get questions all the time about what one can do at home to keep improving.
These questions bring up a fantastic opportunity to discuss an important topic for developing yourself and your young athlete. Because the answer to all of the above questions is the same:
To get someone to demonstrate a desirable behavior, you must first demonstrate it yourself.
Kids, and people in general, are largely influenced by the others they interact with. They are a product of the environment they are in and the people they are surrounded by. The old moniker says that "you are the product of the 5 people you spend the most time around." In order to get your kids to want to train or invest in your health, it must become part of your life as well.
Here's an example:
A parent once asked us what they could do to prevent their kid from sneaking ice cream from the freezer each night. Now, the answer to this initial inquiry was pretty straight forward, "Stop buying ice cream." To this, the response was, "But I like eating ice cream and buy it for myself." This is understandable, because who doesn't like ice cream?
This example, and others like it, bring us to our main point: that kids will adopt the behaviors of the adults and the environment they are in. If junk food is available, they will eat and learn to seek out unhealthy (or familiar) foods. If healthy food is available, they will eat and learn to seek out healthy food. If their parents exercise and place a high value on their own health, they will follow suit.
With the aid of our current social media culture, we can see this play out from all around the world. A little over a year ago, I got to meet one of the world's strongest teenagers, Morgan McCullough. Morgan is one of the United States best weightlifters, and at 16 became one of the youngest (if not the youngest) Americans to put 400lbs over his head. On the trip to that training facility, I got to have a conversation with Morgan's mother, who also happens to a competitive powerlifter. Simply, Morgan grew up hanging around strong people and people who placed a high value on physical strength and he adopted that behavior himself.
Another great example is Sevan Matossian's 3 children (@3playingbrothers), who exhibit some phenomal feats of athleticism for kids under the age of 5. Sevan, an avid exerciser himself, also served as one of the main media producers for the CrossFit Games and has done many documentaries on some of the world's fittest humans.
Exposure like this is also backed by research, however often leaned towards attributes such as obesity and screen time. One such study(1), noted that there were significantly higher rates of inactivity and higher number of hours spent watching television for children who lived in homes where parents were inactive and watched lots of television (shocking, I know). Another study concluded that twins raised apart in household environments that did not have similar or equal values in terms of fitness showed differences in body mass and fitness levels, with those living in health conscious families showing healthier markers on a variety of tests (2).
This is also the reason why our staff trains frequently and talks about our own training. By discussing what we do, we demonstrate how we have committed to bettering ourselves. We do our best to practice what we preach, and example effort and discipline into our daily lives. Plus, it’s good for us to train. It’s good for you (the reader) to train, not only for the sake of creating an environment that sparks that a passion for healthy living among kids, but for our own wellbeing.
So if you’re stuck wondering how to inspire your kid to get training, try lacing up the shoes and getting active. Talk about your health and wellbeing, and engrain those values in your family. Then watch the magic happen.