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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 22, 2007

Getting your child in the game

By Fran Bellinger

We've all seen the headlines about childhood obesity. It's alarming and we must all work to solve the problem and make activity a lifelong habit. It can be easier than we think.

Whether kids are active and remain active into adulthood may have more to do with how highly their parents value their efforts than their actual performance on the field. Here are some tips to help children get into the habit of activity:

  • Make positive experiences the goal. Show your children that what makes you proud is their effort, not whether they get a trophy.

    Even a child who sits on the bench can have a positive experience as long as he or she is with friends, building skills and having fun.

  • Value variety. Expose children to a variety of both individual (i.e., track, archery or tennis) and organized (i.e., soccer, basketball or softball) activities.

    Each activity teaches skills that can make the next activity they try easier to learn and enjoy. This, in turn, builds confidence.

  • Focus on skills. Mastering skills helps build confidence. Everyone tends to dislike doing things they are not good at, but perseverance and repetition will help to learn the skill.

    Skill building is particularly important for girls, who tend to already feel less athletically capable than boys when they enter first grade. As a bonus, when children are taught to persist long enough to master a skill, they are internalizing a lifelong attitude they will be able to apply to a variety of situations.

  • Give feedback. Kids want you to watch, help and praise them. Were their feet together, head down? Did they try their hardest? What did they do well? How can they improve?

  • No pressure. It takes time to build skills, so avoid criticizing or pressuring children too much. Make it fun, and your child will enjoy the activity much more. We all want our child to be the star, but we must avoid pushing our dreams on our children.

  • Be patient. It may take time for your child to find something he or she likes to do. Some kids need more positive experiences than others before they enjoy an activity. But with patience and persistence, everyone can find an activity they enjoy.

    This column is provided through the Hawai'i State Teachers Association. Fran Bellinger is a health and physical education teacher at King Intermediate School.