As parents, it is our responsibility to prepare our children to be successful in life, and there is no better classroom than our homes.
A child follows our example, not our advice. In other words, we teach by example; we are, as parents or caregivers, their primary role models.
That's powerful. It means children are watching, listening and absorbing our voice, actions and reactions, even if only subconsciously at times.
Young children are like malleable clay and the first seven years of their life are critical. Their little minds are being programmed based on the input they are receiving from those around them, especially those who spend the most time with them.
What are they seeing? What are they hearing? What are we teaching them through our actions and reactions?
Are we teaching them to be leaders, to know how to co-operate with others and work as part of a team? Do our actions convey how to successfully execute daily responsibilities? Is discipline part of their daily structure?
How we act and react in our homes is setting the example our children will follow in their own lives. It is laying the groundwork for their future.
Therefore, it is our duty as caregivers to prepare them to operate in the real-world where they must eventually make a living and be responsible for their own health and wellbeing.
If they do not learn respect for authority in the home, how can we expect them to respect future teachers or future employers? If they are not taught the importance of time-management when young, they will likely struggle with "on-time" issues in their future employment and dealings with others.
Are you demonstrating important values such as "nothing comes free in life" by setting up tasks and rewards for those tasks? Or is everything handed to them freely without any energy exchange or expectation of return? We get out of life what we put into it and it's important for children to know and adopt this early on. If they want to experience a bigger reward, then their efforts towards that reward must be increased.
How about perseverance? This trait alone can be the deal-breaker when it comes to success? Have they been taught by watching and mimicking you, how to work through their issues with patience and determination or do they give up right away as soon as they hit their first speed-bump?
What about daily habits? Are you teaching them the importance of eating right and exercising on a regular basis by doing those things yourself? Or, are you pushing a double-standard of "do as I say, not as I do?" In other words, are your healthy words being drowned out by your unhealthy actions?
Even the little actions we take can have a huge impact on a child. Eating right and exercising regularly are daily lifestyle habits that not only improve our own health but set the perfect example for our children to follow.
The family that plays together stays together. Create family "active times". If you belong to a gym, get your children involved as soon as they are old enough to attend. If you are lucky enough to live near walking tracks, schedule regular family hikes. The fresh air only adds to the experience.
If your family loves to swim or bicycle, then make it a family activity. The important thing is that they observe you exercising and not just telling them to exercise. Don't tell them to get off the computer and go bicycling if you are sitting in front of the TV eating. That's a double standard.
Children love spending quality time with their parents and exercising together is the perfect bonding experience for both you and your child. When children are chosen to spend this kind of precious time with their parents it makes them feel special. That results in higher self-esteem which plays out as healthy self-confidence and a child that eventually becomes a happy, well-rounded, successful adult.
What do your eating habits say about you? It's hard to teach our children healthy eating habits if we don't practise them ourselves.
If they see you reaching for fresh fruits and veggies to snack on, they too will want them. If they consistently watch you devour bags of chips and cookies when snacking, then guess what? They want to do the same thing.
Cooking is fundamental and it's a great fun family activity that creates many hours of shared joy. If possible, take your children grocery shopping with you where you can teach them first-hand about whole grains, proteins, lean organic meats and dairy as well as showing them how to pick the best fresh fruits and veggies.
After arriving home, include them in some way when preparing the food and watch how they devour what they create.
Your whole family will benefit by eating healthy and exercising regularly. Moods will stabilise, weight is healthier, minds are sharper and clearer, and memory and energy get a nice boost. The shared happiness everyone feels is just the bonus.
Cooking and eating healthy are daily habits/activities that are worth the time and effort because they rub off on your children. Once a child learns the importance of eating healthy, it generally stays with them for a lifetime. They may venture into the unhealthy arena for a short while, but as soon as their body relays how bad it feels, they return to their tried and true healthy standards quickly.
Unfortunately, the same can be said about unhealthy eating habits. They, too, tend to hang with us throughout adulthood because it's hard to break old habits.
Have you ever heard the saying that "it is easier to teach a foreign language to children than it is to teach an adult?" The same can be said about teaching values and healthy lifestyle habits. "It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks."
We can only give back to the world the values, care and love we have learned to give ourselves and that begins in childhood. Creating a world filled with healthy, happy, successful people that care about, respect and value others and our planet doesn't start in adulthood, it starts with the values we teach our children by us adults.
* Carolyn Hansen is co-owner of Anytime Fitness.