We tell our children to do as we say instead of as we do, but children tend to mimic everything they see instead of doing what we ask them to do. That’s why it is so important to be a role model for your little ones. If you’re worried about their diet or whether they’re getting enough exercise, here are seven tips and tricks to help you be a good healthy lifestyle role model for your children.
1. Wear Your Seatbelt
You can reinforce seatbelt safety until you’re blue in the face, but it won’t sink in if you never buckle up when you get behind the wheel. Make it a point to put on your seatbelt every time you get into the car. This also goes for safety equipment like helmets and pads when your kids are skating or riding their bicycles. Wear appropriate safety gear whenever the situation calls for it, and your kids will do the same to be just like mom and dad.
2. Get Them Involved in the Kitchen
Even if your little ones are too small to handle a knife, they can still be involved in the kitchen — and that can be a great way to reinforce their healthy lifestyle. Little ones can act as your sous chef, shredding lettuce with their (washed) hands or tearing bits of bread up to make stuffing. Most children will be especially eager to help if you’re making snacks and meals they love.
Once your kids start to get a little bit older, you can begin putting tools in their hands and getting them more involved in the process of cooking. Not only can this help to foster a love of cooking, but kids will also be more likely to enjoy a healthy meal if they had a hand in creating it. That sense of accomplishment often entices even the pickiest eaters to try something new.
3. Play With Your Kids
It’s a sight you see at nearly every public park in the country — kids playing and running wild while their parents sit on the bench and play with their phone or read a book. Instead of stepping back, try stepping up and playing with your kids. Put down the cell phone, put the purse back into your bag and learn how to play again. Not only will this encourage your children to get up and play — which is essential in preventing childhood obesity — but it will make you healthier in the long run, as well.
Don’t try to control their play. Children benefit from unstructured play as much as they do from directed or organized play, and some of the skills they learn on the playground will continue to serve them as they grow.
4. Ditch the Butts
Smoking is a nasty habit that is hard to break. If you don’t want your kids to start smoking when they grow up, the best thing you can do for them is to quit smoking yourself. Kids will do what they see you doing, regardless of what you tell them.
Take the time and look into options to help you quit smoking, whether you use gum, patches, hypnosis, vaping or a combination of these methods. Find something that works for you and ditch those butts for good.
5. Give Them Choices
It can be tempting to whip up dinner or a snack for our kids and set it in front of them, saying “Okay, this is dinner.” This might be easier for you, but it doesn’t necessarily make it easier to get your kids to make healthy choices. Instead, give them some options to choose from — milk or juice for their drink, for example. Even if all the options you offer them are healthy, it creates the illusion of control and may encourage them to make those healthy choices on their own.
6. Buy Smart
The easiest way to eat healthily and get your children to do the same is to avoid filling your pantry with junk food. Sure, pre-made snacks are convenient especially if you’ve got a busy schedule, but they’re usually loaded with sugar, unhealthy fats and preservatives — which aren’t good.
Shop smart and focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains instead of less healthy alternatives.
7. Don’t Clean the Plate
We probably all grew up with parents who wouldn’t let us leave the table until we cleaned our plate, but this isn’t the best way to encourage healthy eating. Instead, let your children continue to eat until they feel full. It can take your body up to 20 minutes to realize your stomach is full, so if you continue to eat after you’ve reached that point of satiation, you’re overeating.
As a society, we’re conditioned to eat until there are no crumbs left on our plate, but it just isn’t always healthy to do so. Quit the “clean plate” club and teach your children how to listen to their bodies. On the other side of that coin, you aren’t responsible for cleaning everyone’s plates — and you know you do it, nibbling on the things left over on your child’s plate, so it doesn’t go to waste. If you can’t stand the idea of wasting food, invest in some Tupperware and store it for later.
Living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be hard, but it will be easier to get your kids on board if you’re setting a good example and living by the same rules you’re expecting them to follow.