Sports Targeting: Why Should Children should have an Active Lifestyle?
Jul 25, 2019
Your child spends half a day at school, sitting at a desk for six hours continuously. Then he/she comes home and sits again, this time doing homework. Then comes the weekend or vacation – and what does the child do? That’s right, he/she is sitting again – now at the computer. If you are lucky a little more, perhaps with a book, at an easel or a piano. But still sitting. What if he/she has an exemption from physical education? Your child will completely forget about sports.
You sit in the office nine hours a day and know exactly how the body needs movement, how a slow-moving lifestyle detrimentally affects health. And already, perhaps, you have bought a gym membership and started walking after work. It remains difficult for you to know how to encourage your child to take up sports, because he/she does not yet understand what consequences await in a few years. These consequences can be most serious, such as diseases of the musculoskeletal system, weak heart, obesity, general underdevelopment of the body, high susceptibility to stress and low immunity.
Does this sound familiar? Then read our article. We will tell you how to motivate your child to be sporty and what, in principle, should be an advantageous sporting lifestyle for him/her
- Eight reasons to take up sports
- A healthy lifestyle without fanaticism: how should it be?
- Do not get hung up on the gender of your child
- Consider age
- Soberly assess the health status and body type
- Temperament and character matter
- How to teach a child to take up sports: effective methods
- Give your child a choice
- Find motivation
- Support your child
- Show a personal example
- Find an alternative
- Turn to behavioral psychology
Eight reasons to take up sports
“How do you encourage a teenager to take up sports? I really need advice! My son is growing up smart and talented. He goes to school with pleasure, there have never been problems with school, and the teachers are very happy with him. He attends physics and chemistry classes, and he has built a laboratory for himself at home. I suppose that he will be a scientist. But the trouble is that he is not involved in any sport at all. He is not interested in any of them. He thinks they are a waste of time. Even in physical education he only gets a “four”, but the teacher was generous so as not to spoil his grade sheet. But I see that he is vitally stressed. He was always thin and weak. In my time such “nerds” were teased. He gets tired quickly even when he is just cleaning the house. I worry that in the future he will have serious health problems – scoliosis has already appeared, and then it can be even worse”.
– Valeria, mother of Dima, 14
Most likely, you have no goal of raising you child as an Olympic champion – in such a case, you would hardly be reading this text now. Then, is it necessary to force the child to do sports at all? Why should we do that? Let’s figure out what a sporty lifestyle gives:
- Health promotion. Our body desperately needs physical exercises. These improve the functioning of all organ systems, they slow down aging, and they provide the best way of preventing many diseases. People who exercise regularly – just simple exercises and walking – have a better heart and respiratory system. Their weight remains normal and there are much fewer problems with joints and the spine. A child’s body that is actively growing needs sport like it needs air. It is the key to the correct formation of all body systems, and the establishment of good health in adulthood.
- Character development. Even if a child does not play sports to a high level, any training is of constant benefit. Sports help with the development of willpower, the overcoming of difficulties, the defeat of fears and weaknesses, encouraging healthy competition and the desire to become better than yesterday. Behavioral patterns learned in sports also appear in other areas of life. This means that if a person is able to achieve sports success, his/her career will also go uphill. People who participate in sports are distinguished by a strong-willed sphere, they know how to overcome obstacles and never give up.
- Good mood. Physical activity provokes the production of endorphins – “the hormones of happiness”. These help cope with stress, avoid depression, and generally make one feel more optimistic about life.
- Improving brain function. An active lifestyle develops not only the body, but also the brain. Children who regularly do sports are characterized by faster reactions, quick wits, and the ability to solve complex problems. This is due to the fact that the human brain evolved under conditions of high physical activity. The US National Institute of Health conducted a study and found that after just 15 minutes of exercise, the brain neuroplasticity is markedly increased, and after a 30 minutes’ workout it improves even more significantly. 
- Normalization of sleep. A sedentary lifestyle often causes insomnia. In turn, exercise helps make sleep deeper, because during training the body uses a lot of energy, and endorphins help distract from bad thoughts. As a result, a person falls asleep faster and sleeps for long enough. Can you imagine, how important healthy sleep is for children? After all, it is during repose when the body grows fastest and it gains strength for wakeful study and communication.
- Improving self-esteem. There is an important law in sports: any person can achieve success if he/she works hard and does not give in to difficulties. Also they provide a feeling of self-worth and self-confidence.
- Prevention of deviant behavior. A workout is often credited as one of the main measures to prevent addictions. The pattern is very simple. If a child is seriously engaged in something physical and is surrounded by people who strive for a healthy lifestyle then he/she will not look for friends in bad company or try to forget about problems with alcohol or drugs. The sporty child has their own way of coping with troubles.
- Expanding the circle of friends. Joining sports groups always means training as part of a team of like-minded people, people with whom there is at least one common interest. In addition, sports often ensure a team atmosphere, mutual assistance, cooperation skills and enjoying the success of partners. They provide a chance to meet real friends for life.
A healthy lifestyle without fanaticism: how should it be?
Sometimes parents, in an effort to instill in their child a love for sports, go too far. Forgetting that not everyone has the prerequisites to become a Master of Sports, they expect incredible results from children. They may make them forget about hobbies and friends in order to entirely devote themselves to training. They repeatedly take children to competitions and wait only for first place.
We suggest recalling that any sport taken to the highest level often entails injuries – not only physical but also psychological – and does not always justify the effort. In addition, if your child is more than 4-5 years old, it is simply too late for many kinds of elite sport. So let’s talk about what a reasonable sporting lifestyle for children and adolescents should be and what it depends on.
Do not get hung up on the gender of your child
It is completely optional to let girls do traditionally “female” sports, and boys do “male”. As you will understand further, the choice of a sports group depends more on the age of the child and his/her individual characteristics. Simply put, if your son dreams about ballroom dancing, do not destroy his dream just because of your outdated view that it is a “non-masculine” kind of activity. On the contrary, there he will learn to communicate with girls, to be gallant and to show leadership qualities.
Similarly, sports for girls are not necessarily related to dance or rhythmic gymnastics. It may be important for you that your daughter grows up slender and graceful, but almost any sport will develop these qualities.
In addition, do not forget that, despite the 21st century and the improvement of overall security, women are still one of the most vulnerable groups in society. Therefore, knowing the basics of martial arts, or at least taking basic self-defense classes, will definitely not hurt. If your daughter is not at all interested in sports, convince her to attend at least a few such classes. You will then be calmer for her future, and she will surely become more self-confident, enjoy physical activity and want to pursue sports further.
Physical activity should be compliant with the child’s age. Basic physical education and simple sports are quite enough for children up to 4-5 years old. At this age it is already possible to begin to develop your child’s endurance, reactions and flexibility. At the senior preschool age, children are ready for team or paired games, and examples such as football, martial arts, tennis and figure skating are perfect.
When a child goes to school, he/she is ready for sports that are associated with longer muscle stress, especially if he/she already has some physical training. At this age, children may begin to learn athletics, equestrianism, skiing, or basketball.
But for adolescents who are able to seriously take classes, more challenging and even extreme sports can fit – of course, with all the necessary security and under the supervision of an experienced coach. These include climbing, weightlifting, fencing and boxing.
Soberly assess the health status and body type
Before choosing a sports group, we recommend that you take your child to a doctor and check his/her health. Many sports have a lot of contraindications: for example, myopia can become an obstacle for practicing football and hockey. If there is the presence of spine diseases, in no case should you suggest some types of gymnastics and martial arts. In addition, the doctor can assess the general condition of your child and give recommendations depending on his/her body structure and susceptibility to disease. For each disease, there is a sport that will become an excellent prevention or treatment – it is important to find the right one.
Temperament and character matter
This is perhaps the main criteria by which you need to choose the sport for your child. For example, if in normal life your son is hyperactive, shows aggression or constantly runs and screams, then you should choose a more active type of physical activity. In this way, the child is able to use up extra energy. On the contrary, meditative sports are suitable for calmer children. They include swimming, yoga, running and gymnastics. It is also important whether a child likes to communicate. Depending on this, it is worth choosing a team, paired or individualized sport, either aimed at being competitive or more towards at self-development. There is no value in taking a shy and quiet child to basketball in the hope that he/she will learn to communicate and work in a team. All that you will achieve is consolidating the child’s aversion to sports. Classes should not be associated with violence, be judgmental, or intended to break the psyche.
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How to teach a child to take up sports: effective methods
“My daughter, in my opinion, is interested in nothing. She quickly “lights up” and just as quickly “goes out”. She asks: “Mom, I want to go to the swimming pool”. I’m glad and I choose the best one, I take her there and get acquainted with the coach. She starts to attend and even likes it – but after a couple of months she’s already getting bored. She is lazy and she doesn’t want to do anything. She says swimming isn’t for her, but now she wants to dance. Okay, I take her to dancing, she is happy to run to the classes and she already chooses dresses for the next performance – but the same story again. She becomes bored and uninterested because they do not let her dance as she likes… And so it happens all the time, it seems we already have tried all the sports classes in our city. Now she says that she doesn’t need any sport at all. I’m already thinking that maybe I should not have indulged her desires, but to force them to bring the things to a logical conclusion!”
– Marina, mother of Tanya, 10.
An important question that arises for each parent is whether to force a child to take up sports. Is it worth forcing him/her to do something that you think is right, in the hope that he/she will grow up and thank you later?
We are sure this is not the most constructive way. Perhaps it may sometimes be easier to force a child if he/she is lazy or not interested. But ultimately, such a blinkered approach is likely to lead to the fact that he/she will remain averse to any kind of physical activity for a lifetime. For a love for sports to be a sustainable model of behavior, the child should want to deal with it independently.
But how to motivate a child to properly engage in sports is a really important question.
“Children of preschool and primary school age are often characterized by a quick change of interest and a quick fading of the desire to do anything. This is due to the characteristics of the children’s psyche, namely, the instability and sensitivity to external influences. A child often imitates a significant example: he/she asks to be taken to a specific sports group, because a friend joined the same group or his/her favorite cartoon character attended such classes. But friends, idols, and interests change and, respectively, children’s own desires do – causing a quick change of hobbies.
The swift fading of interest may also be associated with difficulties that a child has encountered at the beginning of the journey. He/she simply does not have enough patience and willpower to overcome the difficulties and move on to success, the achievement of which will motivate to go further. In such cases, it is very important for parents to talk to their child, find out what difficulties have arisen, what does not work, and help overcome them. It is important to support the child before or after class and always praise for success. If the child again loses interest, agree with him/her to attend, for example, another 5 classes. It is likely that during this time he/she will begin to make progress which will support and motivate to continue to attend the group.
“Since the example of adults is very important for younger schoolchildren, you need to try to show, through a personal example, how to cope with difficulties and how to overcome your doubts and obstacles on the way. The main thing is to prevent a child from forming a learned behavior model when, at the first difficulty or period of boredom, he/she will give up and change the type of activity without achieving any result.” This is a quote by Olga Fufaeva, a psychologist at the Center for Scientific Psychology “Ideal Technologies” – an official partner of the Institute of Distance Psychology PTE.LTD (Singapore).
To instill in your children a love of a healthy lifestyle, you can also use the following methods.
- Give your child a choice
Entrust the choice of the sports group to the child – after all, classes should first of all be fun. Let him/her go to trial classes at a selection of sports schools. If after some time he/she dislikes a particular sport, there is no need to persuade him/her to continue training at any cost. It’s better to turn the attention to the fact that there are many more options to try. A child’s motivation for sports increases noticeably if he/she made the decision himself/herself.
- Find motivation
Each child is an individual, and it is important for you to understand what motivates your child with sports. For example, adolescents can be inspired by the example of an idol – perhaps a famous actor, blogger or singer. In adolescence, it becomes important for children to be attracted by the opposite gender and this can also be a great motivator. For some, the knowledge that students with sports success are valued at university will work. Tell your child that it’s prestigious to participate in sports and that such a person will always fit in a team. Sport develops leadership skills, helps get rid of diseases, makes you stronger and more enduring – all of these arguments can also work. A shy and not very communicative child who wants to make friends can be assured that in the sports group he/she will make new acquaintances. What if your child has some special dream – for example, to go on a trip to dive with scuba gear? Then tell him/her how sports will help to get closer to it.
- Support your child
In order not to discourage your child from doing sports, give him/her sufficient support. Do not put pressure and do not punish if he/she categorically refuses to go to training. It is better to talk heart to heart and try to find out what causes such emotions. Perhaps your son or daughter has had a conflict with peers or a coach. Do not let the situation go by. Find out the cause of the conflict, discuss it with the coach or the parents of other children. Perhaps the child may need to join another group.
There is no need to compare with other children and discuss mistakes continuously. The result will be only a loss of interest in sports, low self-esteem, and distrust of you. Note even the smallest successes of your child and give praise more often. For children, especially small ones, this is the best motivation to continue to train.
- Show a personal example
A child who grows up in a sporting and active family is likely to join the family lifestyle and will not spend all free time at the computer. It is very important that children see a positive example from their parents and understand that sports have a positive effect upon their lives. Then, you will not need to spend many hours talking about a healthy lifestyle and trying to convince your child of the need to be more physically active. Start with yourself, and children will definitely follow your example.
- Find an alternative
If your child categorically does not want to attend sports groups or if you don’t have the opportunity to constantly take him/her to training classes, find an alternative to “real” sports. Ideally, physical activity should become an ordinary part of life and one should not need to make tremendous efforts. Encourage your child to walk more. You could start a family tradition of going out for a short walk every night. Teenagers can be persuaded to walk from school, rather than take the bus. In the summer you can have picnics and play beach volleyball or badminton, in winter the whole family can go to the skating rink or just join in snow fights – these are great alternatives to organized sports. Hang a horizontal bar at home, buy a small simulator, a “fitball” or install a wall-mounted ladder. When sports equipment is close by, the motivation to train increases sharply, not only in children but also in adults. After all, your goal is not sports achievements in the child, but a healthy lifestyle, and such ideas make it much easier to achieve.
Finally, if your child prefers running around with others, climbing garages and playing street football, and is tired, happy, hungry and quickly falls asleep after coming home, then just let him/her live for pleasure, without the burden of additional sport groups. It is positive if he/she has enough physical activity for health and communication with friends and can develop inter-personal skills. The only thing that we recommend is to get to know the neighbors and make sure that the street games are not dangerous or do do not turn into drinking beer sessions behind the garages.
- Turn to behavioral psychology
If you have already tried all the methods, and your child does not want to participate in sports, try to look for the reasons for the refusal in the deep attitudes that prevent him/her from leading a healthy lifestyle. Modern psychology will come to the rescue, in particular, the 7Spsy behavior modification technique. This is a patented method of behavioral psychology based on the theories of famous psychologists I.P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner and A.A. Ukhtomsky. The technology helps identify the attitudes that lead to a destructive behavior model and change them to positive ones. Positive attitudes become the basis for a healthy behavior model.
The behavior modification course is designed for children from 7 years old. Working on the 7Spsy technique will take up to 6 weeks, and the first step is to diagnose the problem. You and your child will be supported by a professional psychologist, who you can contact via online chat, e-mail, or phone. You can take the course confidentially.
Thanks to the 7Spsy method, your child will change the attitude to sports. He/she will learn to love physical activity and realize its importance for health, and the positive consequences of a healthy lifestyle will soon become apparent.
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