Health and Parenting

Raising fit Kids: Mood

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mom and daughter recycling
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Show Them How

Want your child to eat her vegetables? Eat your vegetables. Get up and go for a walk together to show her that moving is fun. You’re the best role model your child can have. So start early. Kids begin to mimic their parents at a very young age. Resist the urge to bribe your child with food, toys, or other treats to cooperate. That teaches unhealthy habits.

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father and son playing football
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Reward Them With Mom or Dad Time

Instead of bribing your child with video game or TV time (or anything where they’re just sitting), make active time together a reward. Go mini-golfing. Take a bike ride together. Or let your child plan a day full of active things they enjoy.

Why this works: Kids crave your attention -- especially if they have to share time with siblings. Never underestimate how much one-on-one attention means to your kids -- even your teen.

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girl using piggy bank
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Don't Use Food as a Reward

Making sweets or junk food a prize teaches your kids to use food to fix their feelings. That can set them up for an unhealthy relationship with food.  According to one study, adults who were rewarded and punished with food as kids were more likely to binge eat and diet.

 

Withholding treats because of misbehavior -- “No ice cream for you!” -- isn't good either. The forbidden food becomes more attractive.

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child drawing picture
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Praise Effort, Not Just Results

Children need praise. If you want to motivate them, focus on their effort more than the end result. When your child shows you a picture he made, don't just say it's great. Praise him for how hard he worked on it. Note specific details.

 

If your child is trying to learn a new sport, talk about how proud you are that he’s practicing kicks or running. Don’t focus on winning or losing a game.

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dirty kids walking into house
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Stay Calm, Don't Yell

When you're telling your child to do something or disciplining him, stay calm. Kids can learn how to manage their emotions by watching you. Be concise and clear.

  1. Tell him what he has to do.
  2. Tell him by when he needs to do it.
  3. Explain the consequences of not following through.
  4. Stick to your agreement and don't allow negotiation.
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child with water bottle
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Show Them Exercise Feels Good

If you’re trying to get your kids to move more, help them realize that exercise feels good!

 

Get moving together. After you two go on a bike ride or play tennis, talk about how you feel. It encourages your child to notice the same feeling herself, and that's a natural motivation to move. Ideally, your child should be active at least 60 minutes a day.

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girl wearing pedometer
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Break Out the Pedometers

Still looking for a way to convince your kids it’s good to move? Buy inexpensive pedometers, or step counters, for the whole family. Start a family challenge: Mark everyone's daily steps on a chart you keep on the fridge.
 

You don't even need a reward for the weekly winner. Using the gadget itself, along with some friendly competition, can motivate your kids to move throughout the day.

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family watching a sporting event
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Get Inspired: Watch Others

No matter what habit you’re trying to instill, kids look up to other people. Use that to your advantage when you’re trying to get them to move more.

 

Go to the ballet. Take them to see a professional or semi-pro team play baseball. Or check out a high school soccer game. It might motivate them a lot more than anything you can say. Then go kick the ball or play catch with your child.

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father and son buying vegetables
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Create a Cooking Challenge

Want to encourage a picky eater to try new veggies? Choose one from the supermarket that neither of you have ever had before. Then go home and try a recipe that includes it.

 

Or give your older child or teen a selection of healthy ingredients, like on a cooking show. Let him decide how to turn them into dinner. If he’s invested in how a new food or dish turns out, he’ll be more likely to try it.    

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girl setting the table
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Offer Choices, Some Control

Instead of ordering your kids to do a chore, give them options. Ask if they want to do a task now or in a few minutes. Ask if they would prefer to take out the trash or empty the dishwasher.

 

Kids fight back when they feel like they have no control. Resisting you becomes a way of asserting themselves. Giving them some say will help motivate them.

 

Plus, giving them choices now teaches them how to make healthy choices later.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 12/30/2016 Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on December 30, 2016

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

1)         Jupiterimages/Brand X

2)         Kidstock/Blend Images

3)         Fuse

4)         Steven Puetzer/Digital Vision

5)         Robert Daly/Stone+

6)         db2stock

7)         Ruth Jenkinson/Dorling Kindersley

8)         Keith Brofsky/Photodisc

9)         Frank van Delft/Cultura

10)        Jamie Grill/Blend Images

 

SOURCES:

Edward Abramson, PhD, clinical psychologist, Lafayette, CA; author, It's NOT Just Baby Fat: 10 Steps to Help Your Child to a Healthy Weight.

Eric M. Anderman, PhD, professor, Educational Psychology, Ohio State University; author, Classroom Motivation.

Sloane, S. Psychological Science, February 2012.

Raise Healthy Eaters: “10 Things You Should Never Say to Your Child About Food.”

Puhl, R. Eating Behaviors. 2003.

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Everybody Gets Mad: Helping Your Child Cope with Conflict.”

American Psycological Association: “Raising Children to Resist Violence: What You Can Do.”

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Disciplining Your Child.”

Oregon State University Extension Service: “Developing Social Skills.”

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on December 30, 2016

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.