No matter how young your child is, it’s never too early to encourage healthy habits that they can build and continue for the rest of their lives. It’s easier to build girls and boys than to repair women and men, as they say, and we need to start them young if we want them to have lifetime habits and activities that will keep them fit and healthy for the rest of their lives.
One of the most beneficial things they can do for their overall health and well-being is playing sports, especially those requiring them to move. It will help improve their cardiovascular endurance, provide them with opportunities to build healthy friendships and relationships, and how to collaborate and be a team player or leader. Here are some tips for encouraging your kids to engage in sports activities and other types of physical fitness without them feeling like they’re being forced to do so.
Help them find a sport that interests them
One of the biggest mistakes we can make as parents is making our kids an extension of ourselves or forcing them to achieve the goals and dreams that we couldn’t. If you have an affinity or a passion for a specific sport, don’t assume that your kid will have that same interest, too. You have to find what specific sport your kid is interested in so that you increase the likelihood that they will remain committed to it in the long term. Here are some ways to help them find a sport that interests them:
- Bring them to games or matches, or invite them to watch on TV with you.
- Ask them how they feel about a certain sport and if they find it interesting. Sometimes, finding out what they want is really as simple as asking them and allowing them to talk it out. In academia, it’s called the Socratic method, but in families, it can be a way to foster trust and deeper connections.
- Allow them to try different sports and see which one hits the sweet spot where their skills and interests intersect.
Support them in their journey
Once you’ve pinned down which sport your kid will go for, don’t abandon them to their devices. Let them know that whatever support they need from you, as long as you can provide it, that you are willing to give it to them. Here are some examples of tangible ways you can show your support:
- Help them track their progress. If you have time, practice with them, and don’t miss any of their games or matches.
- Invest in the equipment. For instance, if they are into baseball, invest in products that can help them track their throw, like a radar gun in the market. When your kids see that you’re willing to invest in their interests, they’ll know that they have your support.
- Stay connected with their coach so that you can help keep track of their progress, even if you may not always be around. It’s a great way to ensure that your kids are safe and healthy as they play, too.
Remind them that it’s not always about the trophy
One of the biggest impediments to your kids thriving in their chosen sport is the pressure that comes with competition and rivalry. Don’t be the one to keep piling on the burden of winning; they get that from their school and coaches already. You and your partner need to be the safest people in the world to them, the home and refuge they can run to when they fail.
Let them know that losing is okay as long as they know they did everything they could. Losing can be disappointing. But as long as they know they have parents who believe in them and love them no matter what, they gain more confidence to try their hardest, knowing that they have nothing to lose.
Hand them the reins
Your kids need to know that they can quit anytime they want and that they have the choice to stop at any point. If the goal is to build healthy habits like constant physical activity and exercise, then there are plenty of other ways to encourage that outside of sports—as long as they’ve built fitness habits, their body will keep looking for it and remember it.
Our job as parents is to help our kids be the best they can be. So encourage them, help them find a sport they’re good at and makes them happy, support them through their journey, and love them through it—and you will raise a happy and sporty child.