Kyran Pittman: Parenting for Fitness – What’s Your Style

What’s your philosophy and reality when it comes to physical activity for your kids?

parenting for fitness

My fourth-grader’s lunch menu comes home monthly, copied on pastel paper, the margins filled with fitness and nutrition tips. I find the nutrition tips somewhat ironic–I’ve seen the trays that come out of the school cafeteria. I’m not so sure the people who prepare the lunch menu are talking to the people who prepare the lunch.

The fitness prompts might as well be written in a foreign language.  Movement is just part of my boys’ everyday lives. It’s not something I have to orchestrate. We don’t even participate in organized sports these days. My formerly parkour-obsessed teenager is now on his skateboard almost every moment of daylight outside school hours. When my middle schooler needs to get to his friend’s house a mile away, he jumps on his bike. My youngest walks home from elementary school every day. Depending on the season, weekends might find them swimming, hiking, box sliding, or climbing around the playground equipment at one of our half-dozen favorite parks.

Those prompts remind me that what comes so naturally and easily to my boys is a luxury to some. We live in a neighborhood that is idyllic for kids. They climb trees, jump fences, crash through the woods, and splash through the creek, just as the first generation of kids who grew up here in the fifties probably did. The routes they walk and ride are benignly patrolled by parents and police. There are two immaculate playgrounds within a five minute walk, where I can send them without hardly a second thought, and they have phones in their pockets that save me from having to inform the entire neighborhood when it’s suppertime. Also, I’m home when school is out. It’s not all milk and cookies — I’m apt to be preoccupied with something — but they don’t have to stay in an after-school program, or lock themselves up at home.

Sure, there are risks to freestyle activities. I warn them not to roam secluded areas alone. I run after my middle schooler with his bike helmet. I don’t even want to know what kind of aerial skateboard tricks my teen is perfecting around the corner. But the risks of them not being active and outdoors are far greater than the odds of a worst case scenario, however horrifying to contemplate. There’s a line between being a protective parent and being a fearful one, and I have the privilege of choosing which side to parent from.

I wouldn’t want to raise children in a world where kids can’t be kids outside. I’m lucky I don’t have to.

What’s your parenting style when it comes to physical fitness? Are you into structure, by choice or necessity, or do you just send your kids outside? Do you appreciate ideas and prompts to get them moving? Are there health or temperament challenges that complicate activity? Is your climate or neighborhood a restrictive factor? Tell me about it.

Tags: ,