Modeling Healthy Habits
Whether we are always aware of it or not, our children are watching us. We are shaping and influencing them just by being in their lives. Therefore, it's important that we understand the importance of modeling healthy habits! Have you seen the Australian TV commercial “Children See, Children Do”? It flashes from scene to scene, showing what it looks like to have a child doing the exact thing the parent is doing—smoking a cigarette, shoving past a woman who clearly needs a helping hand, yelling on the phone, etc.
It's heartbreaking. And it's convicting.
As a mom of three young girls (4 years, 2.5 years, and 5 months), I am constantly made aware of the type of example I am setting. When I hear my 4 year old use the same exasperated tone when speaking to her younger sister, as I use with her, it shines a light on my inadequacies as a mother.
But let's flip things around for a moment. Not everything we do is bad, right? We have a lot of great values, qualities, and wisdom that our kids get to see too (if we let them!)
So instead of focusing on the unhealthy, and often unintentional, habits we are modeling for our kids, let's be intentional about modeling the good, healthy habits we want them to gain!
As a health-conscious, Christian parent, here are 3 things I want my kids to learn from me:
1. How to eat a balanced diet
As a young woman who has struggled with food for too many years, one thing I hope to do is show my daughters good, healthy, no-guilt-involved eating habits.
I want my kids to see me enjoy food but not be controlled by it. I want my kids to see me make wise choices, eat when I'm hungry, and not eat when I'm not hungry. I don't want them to wonder if I'm not eating because I'm worried about gaining weight or if I'm eating an entire tray of cookies because I've had a rough day.
If I had sons, that would probably be different. But I have 3 beautiful, amazing daughters who deserve so much more than to worry about restriction.
2. How to be active
Honestly, this one isn't so easy for me. I'm learning to love being active and exercising, but after years of always feeling fat and uncoordinated, it's been ingrained in me that it's better not to try than to try and fail (or get teased!)
The habit of being active has nothing to do with “getting in shape.” It's about getting outside, being curious, having adventures, setting goals, and being confident in your own physical abilities.
3. The importance of spending time with God
As a Christian parent, being a godly example is not optional; in fact, it's mentioned in the bible many times! I want my kids to follow me as I follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).
Spending Sunday morning learning about Jesus at Kids' Church is so important, but it pales in comparison to the impact of my example to my kids throughout the week. Ultimately, kids should learn from their mom and dad. We can model grace, generosity, love, forgiveness and how to worship God in every area of our lives.
1 Timothy 4:16 says, “Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.”
Keeping in close relationship with God is not just about me, it's about those around me! What do my kids hear and see me do that would lead them to desire to know Jesus also?
So, what are your goals as a parent? Have you thought about what you want your kids to gain through your example?
If you haven't, I encourage you to do so! It will make you much more intentional in your parenting and much more aware of how you live in view of your children.
While you may have different goals as a parent than I do, these tips will help you to model the healthy habits that are most important to you:
1. Make it public.
By public, I mean in front of your kids. This may seem simple, but you would be surprised at how often we do things out-of-sight of our kids.
Do you want to read your bible and pray without getting interrupted 20 times? Do it in the other room with the door closed.
Is feeding your kids lunch really hectic? Feed them first then grab yourself some food while they're napping.
Please, don't misunderstand my intent--I'm not saying that those above behaviours are wrong! But if we are always doing the good things when our kids aren't around, then we're not leveraging our position as role model to our kids!
Every day I make it a habit to have all three meals with my kids, and we usually all eat the same thing (unless there's an allergy.) For me, this is especially important because I am much more likely to make smart choices when I'm around my kids. My 4 year old will call me on it if I eat a bowl of chocolate chips for breakfast.
I also try to have at least one morning every week where I am reading my bible and doing my devotions at the kitchen counter while the kids play, colour or watch TV in the living room beside me.
I realize in my own life, and probably yours too, that this just isn't always possible--so my next point is often helpful!
2. Narrate your life.
It may sound a little weird at first, but talking about what you're doing, as you're doing it, is another way of “making it public.”
If I'm going to go into my bedroom to read my bible because I feel like I could use the alone time with God, then I tell them, “I'm going to my room to read my bible now. Play nicely with each other, okay?”
I also tell them when I'm going to go use the treadmill, that I'm going downstairs to do the laundry, that I'm going upstairs to clean the bathroom, etc. This is not just about me letting them know where I am going in the house, it's about communicating the things that I do.
I want my kids to gain insight into the responsibilities of an adult.
3. Get them involved.
I'll be the first to admit that this one isn't easy for me. I am a recovered... or... recovering control-freak perfectionist with mild OCD tendencies.
Most of the time, the thought running through my head is, it's just easier if I do it myself!
I know that it would be quicker to whip up a batch of muffins by myself, but as messy, challenging, and imperfect as it may be, it's worth it to have my kids in the kitchen with me. Cooking healthy meals from scratch is a big part of my life and it is important to me that my kids learn how to cook that way too.
My kids will always be bombarded with ideas, values, and behaviours of the culture that differ from our family's, but I can do my best to be the most positive, prominent role model in my girls' lives!