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A parent’s responsibility in children’s exercise

Published in Pediatrics, Weight Management, For the Health of It Author: Dustin Henkelman,BS Author: Dustin Henkelman

Exercise Coach
Lifestyle Health

We all know that activity, or exercise, is important not only in helping a child maintain a healthy lifestyle. But many may not realize that it also plays a big role in the development of a child. Ellyn Satter talks about the “division of responsibility” with both feeding and exercise. Let’s explore what that looks like for both parents and children.

A parent’s responsibilities include:

  • Develop realistic judgment about normal commotion
  • Provide safe places for activities the child enjoys
  • Find fun and rewarding family activities
  • Provide opportunities to experiment with group activities such as sports
  • Set limits on TV — but not on reading, writing, artwork or other sedentary activities
  • Remove TV and computer from the child’s room
  • Make children responsible for dealing with their own boredom

Essentially, as a parent or responsible adult, we need to provide a safe environment for our children to enjoy activities of their choice and encourage movement throughout the day. It is OK to set limits on screen time, but keep in mind that a child who is used to watching a lot of TV may get bored — and boredom should not lead to other unhealthy habits. Similar to that of a school setting, opportunities for active time should be offered periodically throughout the day. This can help them develop a routine that they are comfortable with and often look forward to.

A child’s responsibilities include:

  • Children will be active
  • Each child is more or less active depending on personality
  • Each child is more or less skilled, graceful, energetic or aggressive depending on personality
  • Their physical capabilities will grow and develop
  • They will experiment with activities that are in concert with their growth and development
  • They will find activities that are right for them

In essence, children should be allowed to choose what they do and how much they do, as well as the time of day they are active. Allowing them to honor their interests will keep them engaged and help them find enjoyment of the activity. This also allows them to grow their confidence and ability without feeling pressured, uncomfortable, guilty or shamed.

To sum it all up, the goal of this division is to preserve the natural inclination children have for loving, taking care of, listening to and moving their bodies. It’s important for parents not to overstep their responsibilities so that children can develop abilities and habits that they can use for life and enjoy.