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How to Promote Physical Activity with Our Children

How to Promote Physical Activity with Our Children | Parent Like a Professional

I often hear parents complaining about how their kids lock themselves in their rooms and are on their iPhone, playing Xbox, or using their computers all day.  

We now know that too much screen time and social media can be detrimental to our children’s development and mental health, but childhood obesity is an American epidemic that we must actively fight against as well. 

Our job as parents is to help our children by imposing boundaries that they cannot yet create for themselves.

I’ve been asked on numerous occasions for tips and tricks on how to get children out of their room so that they are engaging in more physical type activities.

Allowing your children free access to electronics puts you in a bad position where you are going to end up fighting an uphill battle.  Video game developers, social media platforms, YouTube algorithms (and more) are designed to draw viewers in and keep them there.  The longer your eyes are on their material, the more money that they are making. 

Self-control and regulation are skills that present with the maturity of the pre-frontal cortex, a part of the brain that does not fully develop until approximately 25 years old. 

So, until then, our job as parents is to help our children by imposing boundaries that they cannot yet create for themselves.

For starters, I would suggest limiting access to the electronics and providing opportunities to earn access to and time on their electronics. 

In addition, the amount of time allowed with electronics should be monitored and should be earned (Read: Improve Your Child’s Behavior with a Points System).

How to Promote Physical Activity with Our Children | Parent Like a Professional

I have three children and left to their own devices (pun intended!), they would spend every waking minute in their rooms, on their iPhones, or playing Xbox. 

As parents, we specify when they’re allowed to use their electronics (e.g., when all their homework is finished or on the weekends) and the amount of time they will have access to them (i.e., based on the time they earned through a point system we have in place).

Once we take back control of how our children are spending their time at home, how do we get them to engage in activities that promote physical fitness?

Promoting physical activity with your child

A common mistake that parents make is how we ask our kids to participate.  Asking our children ‘Yes-No’ questions will most likely lead to a ‘No’ response.

  • Do you want to go for a bike ride? ...NO
  • Do you want to go to a jiu-jitsu class with me? ...NO
  • Do you want to go to the park? ...NO

I would suggest that you stop asking ‘Yes-No’ questions and try presenting your questions in a choice format:

  • Do you want to go for a bike ride or for a jog?
  • Do you feel like going to a jiu-jitsu class with me or a kickboxing class?
  • Do you want to go to the park or on a walk?

When given choices, and restricted access to electronics, our kids are more likely to make a choice offered (either of which would be a good physically active choice), rather than do nothing at all (or do something other than their most preferred activities).  

Plus, if you provide reinforcers for the time spent engaging in physical activities (we use points with our kids), then you’ll inevitably see your kids start to choose those physical activities more often in the future.

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I have a passion for martial arts and enjoy the social aspect of the sport. 

Initially, my younger son was not a big fan... and the Yes-No questions were not encouraging him to participate.  So, when I started presenting the options in a choice format, he started participating two times per week.  Now he asks me to take him to class, we spend additional time together, and we have a common physical activity interest. 

Healthy living leads to a happy life and a happy family.

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