Getting kids to develop healthy habits is an age-old battle. We all want our children to lead a healthy lifestyle, but getting them to do it on a daily basis is seemingly impossible.
We can suggest that they read a book instead of watching more TV, go outside to the park instead of playing on the computer, eat an apple instead of asking for sweets, or opt for water instead of fruit drinks, but getting them to make those choices on their own is a constant battle, and one that more often than not, we lose.
We all try our best to lead healthy lives ourselves – going to the gym, drinking our eight glasses a day, eating our five fruit and veg, and turning the TV off in favour of reading the latest literary recommendations (or at least a magazine!) on occasion.
But often we do it out of sight of our children. Maybe we go to the gym on the way to work or in the evening, eat veg with our evening meal after they are in bed, drink water all day at work but not at home, or read in bed instead of in the living room.
But I have found that to encourage kids healthy habits leading by example seems – so far – to be working. If I offer my daughter a glass of water instead of orange juice, she turns it down. But if I bring a glass of water to the dinner table for myself, my daughter will take it from me a drink the lot! If her brother sees her, he then wants water, too – double whammy!
Similarly, if my daughter doesn’t want to read her school reading book, telling her she needs to will achieve nothing, but picking up the book myself and making interested noises as I flick through the pages has her almost running over to read it with me.
Usually, I exercise after my children are in bed, but recently, I did an exercise DVD in front of my daughter when she couldn’t sleep because of an eye infection. Within about three minutes, she was up and joining me, and since then she has asked several times for me to put it on, and will do the workout from start to finish all by herself!
And finally, on that delicate subject of eating vegetables, I finally admitted to my daughter recently that I didn’t really like vegetables all that much, but that I eat them because I know how good they are for my body.
Then I proceeded to shovel down a plateful of green beans and sweetcorn before rewarding myself with a small slice of cake, and she promptly followed suit!