It is a problem that parents are faced with across the country today. Kids would rather spend their time locked indoors, with their fingers attached to their smart phones, glued to the TV, and ears tuned into their iPod than spend their time outdoors.Gone are the days when the streets were filled with kids playing Wiffle ball, kickball and basketball. By and large the only games kids know how to play are those which shine through on their 50″ LCD TVs. So when met with the question “Hey kids, wanna go for a run?”, it should come as no surprise when, at best, you get an enthusiastic eye roll for your troubles. As parents, we are responsible for the health and well-being of our children. We are also responsible for having a close and meaningful relationship with our children, which requires that we spend time with them on a daily basis.
With the chaos and distractions of the modern world, it is oftentimes difficult to make that quality time available to our children. Luckily, as parents who also run, we can turn one of our favorite activities (and often largest time consumer) into a way to keep our kids healthy and spend quality bonding time with them.
This begs the question, however, as to how we get them to unplug and actually get excited about running. Short of setting off an EMP to disable all electronics, how do we get them to step outside and actually move a little? Thankfully, it is likely not as hard as you might think. With a little creativity and a little hard work, you will hopefully soon have your kids begging you to go for a run…really!
Set an Example.
As with everything we teach our kids, we need to be an example to them on how to reach their full potential. If they see that you grudgingly go out for a run, or retreat due to any weather less than idyllic, they are not going to see the benefit of it. If you see it as a chore, so will they, and you will have already lost the fight.
Make it a Competition.
Everyone loves to be considered the best at something … or at least better than someone else. This is especially true when there are siblings involved. So why not make running a competition? Rather than make it a race each time (although that is okay once in a while), make it something that evens the play field…like most improvement or total distance covered. Keep a chart in a prominent location, so every time they pass by they are motivated to do more and go further.
Share the Rewards.
Competition for competition’s sake is great, but giving rewards can be even a greater motivator. Set weekly or monthly milestones for them to reach, and relate each milestone with a reward. Run a certain number of days in a week? Get this reward. Run a total number of hours in a month, get another reward. You could also do a points system, where they can “trade in” points for rewards. Rewards could be new running gear, a GPS watch, or perhaps even a weekend getaway with Mom or Dad.
Make it an Adventure.
Speaking of getaways, why not make running an adventure? Speaking from experience, I am much more excited about the prospect of trail running or running at the boardwalk then plodding down the same paved suburban streets each day. Head to your local park or nature area. Set up an obstacle course, race from station to station on the exercise trail, or even set up a running scavenger hunt. The more imagination involved the more fun it will be!
Make it a Family Affair.
This part is critical. Children are most likely to stay involved in an activity, and grow closer to their family as a whole, if that activity is a family affair. Mom, dad, brothers, sisters…even the dog…should get out there together to go for a run. You don’t have to make each run a family run, but at least once a week try to do so. Incorporate some of the above tips, and weekly family runs will definitely be a hit.
Let Them Use Their Tech.
If, despite your best efforts, they refuse to let go of their tech toys, let them use them. There are a slew of apps out there for running that track distance, time, calories, etc. Find one that is fun and easy to use for the whole family. Listening to music is okay too…just make sure they leave one ear bud out, not only for safety but to be more connected to what’s going on around them.
Are You Ready?
So are you up to the challenge? It won’t be easy, but I promise that the long-term benefits and rewards for your family far outweigh any hurdles you may initially need to overcome. So put down you phone, grab your kids (kicking and screaming if need be), lace up and go!