Let’s face it, growing up today is a completely different ball game to when you were young. It doesn’t matter if you’re in your late 20s or 30s and coming to grips with parenthood for the first time, or if you’re north of 50 and are a veteran of raising children, the fact remains. Kids today are living in a world wholly different to the one we developed in.
New technologies such as VR electronic games and the interconnectivity of social media — with new apps popping up almost every week — means that your children have far more distractions that you ever had to deal with. “Go outside and play” doesn’t mean what it used to if your child has a smartphone tucked away in the back pocket.
Encouraging children to be physically active has always been a daunting task if they decide to dig their heels in, cross their arms and refuse to take part. But what new challenges does this strange new world pose? How can you manage them and how can you ensure that they remain active without the need for constant encouragement?
Include them in the decision making process – Children (even most adults) don’t like to be told what to do. So why would they want to be forced into a game or activity without any buy-in?
Sport should not be equated to teeth brushing or dish washing. It is supposed to be fun, engaging, rewarding. Ask your child what games they like to play with their friends and find similarities with existing sports.
Does your child run a lot with friends? Perhaps a sport like soccer or athletics is for them. Do they cling trees or jungle gyms? Maybe gymnastics or dance is the way to go?
Do they prefer to play with toys and problem solve? Maybe cricket or karate could be up their alley.
Whatever sport they play, if they have ownership in the decision they are more likely to persist with it in the long run.
Be flexible – Just because they have chosen a sport it does not mean they must stick with it for life. A child’s mind shifts with the winds and you should be perceptive to these changes.
Of course the first sign of struggle should not cause your child to abandon their chose sport (defeat and heartache builds character) but forcing your child to spend years playing a sport they hate will only lead to resentment and disappointment.
Get involved – I get it. You work hard. Your weekends are sacred. That weeknight dinner won’t cook itself. Life is hectic but your child needs a role model.
If you want them to play sport, then dust off those boots and pick up that bat and play with them.
The memories you create in the back garden, on the beach or in the park will live with your child forever. They will associate playing sport with the love of family and will likely continue the legacy when they have kids of their own. And who knows, you might even shed a few centimetres off your waistline.
By Keri Gallan
Crawford International Preparatory North Coast