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3 Must-Have Ingredients for Fit Families

Is your family feeling a little burned out on its journey to a healthier, more active lifestyle? Maintaining momentum and enthusiasm gets harder when motivation dips and the kids start to self-sabotage their commitment to eating healthy, staying active and sticking to new habits.

The truth: Lifestyle changes are hard, and no magic pills or special short cuts exist to make it quick and easy. But that's no excuse to hit the couch, inhale a tub of rocky road and give up.

Your friends at SPARK have a recipe that can inspire more healthy behaviors and fewer unhealthy choices. All you need to do is put the ingredients together:    

  • Start with clear expectations
  • Apply consequences
  • Mix in generous amounts of praise

Set Expectations

Your kids need to know what you want to see from them; so define, explain and clarify your expectations. Whatever parameters or boundaries you set, make sure they advance your family's fitness goals.

Keep the focus on dos more than don'ts and empower your kids with choices! Emphasizing what your kids can do sets a positive, encouraging tone. For example:  

    • Do 30 minutes of physical activity every day (walk Fido, play backyard games, ride your bike, pick up sticks)
    • Have a set snack time with a healthy variety of options (sugar-free popsicles, yogurt, nuts or fruit smoothies)

You can even put your expectations in writing to avoid misunderstandings and any confusion. Check out this ready-made Summer Contract | Boys Town.

Serve Up Consequences

Consequences help kids see the connection between what they do and what happens as a result of their choices or actions. Positive consequences increase the likelihood a behavior will be repeated. Negative consequences decrease the chances a behavior will happen again.

Whether positive or negative, consequences are most effective if they are:  

  • Important – have meaning to your child
  • Immediate – are given swiftly to connect the consequence to the behavior
  • Appropriate – match the situation; not under-rewarding or over-punishing 
  • Consistent – are given every time the action of consequence happens to enforce "if you do this, then this happens"
  • Vary – change so they stay meaningful and motivational   
  • Manageable – are workable so they are not impossible or punishing for the person enforcing them

A menu of positive consequences might include:

  • Sleepovers at a friend's house
  • Trips to the local water park
  • Special outings (zoo, museum, favorite restaurant, etc.)
  • Positive attention and praise

A menu of negative consequences might include:

Heap on the Praise

Positive attention nourishes the spirit and is one of the most important gifts you can give. Praise motivates kids to continue the positive behaviors they're being praised for, while lifting their self-esteem and confidence.

To unleash the power of praise, remember to:   

  • Follow the 4-to-1 Rule
    Praise statements should outnumber negative attention or criticisms 4 to 1.
  • Be Watchful
    Check in with your kids (frequently with younger ones and periodically with older ones), so you can catch them being good. This special tool will help: Catch Kids Being Good: Praise and the Praise Box | Boys Town.
  • Be Specific
    Describe the effort or behaviors you saw and want to encourage.
  • Show Sincerity

Be authentic and heartfelt in word and action. Hugs, fist bumps and more time spent together are nonverbal ways of showing approval.

Your family's journey to better physical and mental health involves much more than the exercises you try or the foods you buy. Warm, loving and forgiving family relationships offer the best nourishment and are a must-have component for lifelong success and true family happiness!  

Family and Parenting;Health and Safety;Nutrition