Kids are a gift. They teach you to be a better person, shower you with unconditional love, and show you a side of life you would have missed entirely. Most importantly though, kids teach you patience.
You don’t even know how tolerant and patient you are until you try to teach your kids to do something good for themselves. Healthy habits are important and taught at a young age, but to kids, they’re just boring. With the right tactics though, your kid will adopt those habits and grow into a healthy and responsible adult.
1. Talk To Them
Kids are much smarter than we give them credit. They understand almost everything going on around them, even if they don’t know how to articulate it. So when your kid asks you why they should eat their veggies, and you answer “because they’re good for you” or even worse “because I said so” you’re not making progress in making them eat healthily.
They want concrete explanations and answers, not authority. Read up online what vitamins there are in certain vegetables and fruits and how they affect the body. The same goes for dairy and meat.
Then, when your kid asks you why they should drink their milk, you can tell them that it makes their bones stronger and helps them grow. This is a much less abstract explanation and will mean much more to a kid.
The same goes for other habits. Reading makes you smarter and more creative, playing sports teaches you to work well with others. It may not be fun in the beginning, but soon enough they’ll come around. Just keep reminding them why a habit is healthy when they seem to forget. Don’t be afraid to rile them up about it, either.
2. Use Reverse Psychology
If talking to them doesn’t work, you’ll need another tactic. More often than not, it seems that you’re talking your mouth off trying to explain why something is good for them only for the kid to turn around and say they don’t want it anyway. “I don’t want to be big and strong, I want candy!” and you’ve lost all hope that you’ll get them to eat that apple or orange or whatever.
The most common way parents approach this issue is by telling their children they’re not allowed to eat candy. By doing so, you’ve just made them want candy more. Get ready for crying, pleading, and maybe even tantrums. Children always want what they can’t have.
Use this to your advantage. Make them think that healthy food is a reward, not junk food. Tell them they’re not allowed to eat their vegetables and watch them grab the nearest one just to spite you. Put the healthy food only on your plate and tell them it’s just for adults. They’ll be begging you to let them try it just because it’ll make them feel important.
You can use the same method when it comes to cleaning up, too. No, you can’t clean up your toys or your room. Suddenly, the whole place is spotless. Even though they’ll think they showed you with their disobedience, they’ll be doing both of you a favor without even realizing it.
3. Lead By Example
Children learn better if they have an example to follow. When they’re young, you’re the center of their world. They look up to you and think everything you do is the right way to do it. So, when you’re teaching your kid to be healthy and you’re not acting the same way, you’re being a hypocrite. Even though your kid most likely doesn’t know this word, they know the concept and what it means.
Let them see you reading, working out, cleaning, and eating healthy. Take them to your doctor’s appointments to show them you do it, too. This creates a picture that those habits really are important. You’re not just saying them because you’re a parent.
Don’t be afraid to involve them in the activities around the home, either. For example, if you’re cleaning, they can pick up their toys, hold the carpet for you while you vacuum under it, and help you set the things back after you’ve dusted. If you’re cooking, they can put the veggies in the pot or hand you other ingredients.
Participating in adult activities and following in their parent’s footsteps makes the child feel like an equal part of the family. It also makes those activities seem more fun and more important. They’re definitely going to want to do them again and again and again.
4. Create A Good First Experience
The first experience is the most important one. If the child has a positive first experience with something new, they’re not going to fear it and throw a tantrum every time they have to do it again. Take dentists for example.
The appointment is uncomfortable as it is, and most dentists just do their job without devoting much attention to the child. So basically, you have a kid that’s been brought to a new place for the first time, and all of a sudden someone’s hands are in their mouth and their teeth hurt. Of course, they’re not going to want to come back.
Children eat everything, their teeth fall out at a certain age, and they’re not the best at brushing. That’s why it’s very important to go to the dentist regularly. If you don’t, you might find out that your kid is fostering a lot of harmful bacteria.
Don’t throw your child right into the deep end. Explain to them what a dentist is and what’s going to happen before you go. Lookup a patient and devoted children’s dentist who will guide your kid through the process and make it fun. This way, your child doesn’t have to fear the unfamiliar situation and will tie the first experience to a good memory. Just like that, you’ve instilled a new healthy habit and avoided the fear of dentists.
5. Make It A Game
Children learn best through play. It’s because they don’t even know they’re learning. As far as they’re concerned, they’re just running around and playing.
With healthy habits, they’re acutely aware that they’re learning and that they have to make an effort to remember how and why to do these things. This makes it hard, boring, and even frustrating. Nobody wants to do these things as a kid, they just want to have fun.
So, your job is to make these habits a game. Don’t tell them you have to exercise now because of this and that. Instead, create an obstacle course for them at home, take them to the playground, or take them bike riding around the neighborhood. These are all immensely fun activities that your kids will enjoy and probably be fond of in their adult years, too.
When it comes to food, you can always look for kid-friendly recipes which make the food look more appealing and edible to the kid.
Those who say that it’s impossible to teach kids healthy habits just haven’t found the right method for teaching their kid.
Yes, children love everything that’s not good for them, but it’s your job as a parent to instill the healthy habits into them and set grounds for their adulthood. Starting all over as an adult is exceptionally hard, so you’ll be doing your kid a favor by teaching them how to live a healthy way from the start. In other words, you’ll be setting them up for a life of happiness.
Isn’t that worth the challenge?