Not everyone was born a champion. Not everyone was born into a family of champions. To us mere mortals, reaching top levels seems so far away, so what do we do? We decide to start our children early into fitness. This has got to be the absolute best way to help them not only get a head start on their journey, but to help them correctly develop motor patterns needed for everyday life. While discussing with the Powerhouse Aesthetics team how to get kids involved in strength training and sports positively, I thought I would write an article discussing when parents push their kids too far. This isn't something parents purposefully do, but is something that effects the child's life greatly. If you are a parent who are thinking about helping your kid get a head start on their physical abilities, this article is more than worth the read.
When we first think of getting our kids into fitness at a young age what is usually our main objective?...To develop their motor patterns early. Fact is, majority of kids in high school still don't know how to squat properly. Hell, majority of adults don't know how to squat properly. For a species that spends majority of their life squatting down to sit, we suck pretty badly at it. So why do we suck so badly at s*** we do everyday, multiple times a day? Because over time we have developed improper motor patterns. Even toilets now are higher and aren't the natural way to squat in order to allow the body to open up and ease the process (no further description needed). No one had taught individuals correct motor patterns when they were younger. Glancing at a toddler when they squat down I realized they have better squat form then most adults wanting to "get swole this year". Instead of letting them slowly lose their mobility and motor patterns, I think having them stay functional is a key to starting early. I'm not saying to have them doing a crazy workout routine, but to teach them how to develop and continue maintaining proper motor patterns. How does this relate to pushing your kid too hard? Because most parents have no patience. When they try to get their kid into fitness early, they tend to take the easiest and shortest path possible thinking the kid will be a superstar before he's even 16 years old. Reality is, doing this first stage of the process wrong can lead to years of fixing what you messed up. Parents tend to push their kid into strength training or whatever sport they wanted to pursue but never did. They'll let them squat higher, bench with a bounce, add a belt/wraps/straps/whatever, and let their form go to s*** just to see their kid add weight to the bar. This is a sure way to develop incorrect patterns and actually take more away from them than benefiting them. In order for a successful early stage, just have the kid develop his motor patterns with an empty bar or pvc pipe. They have their entire life to get strong......or they could spend their entire life fixing what you messed up...
Sometimes you push your kid too far and feelings change. Pushing your kid too hard too soon can result in negative feedback. In early stages kids just want to have fun, period. You can't change their thought process just like you can't change their life because you missed out in college football and want to live your dream through them. Making fitness fun for your child at early stages will ensure they stick with it. Kids will naturally see what you do and want to follow, so why force them? I can't tell you have many times I would do an exercise, just to look beside me and a younger individual was watching. That kid later tried to mimic what I was doing....which brings me off topic, but with another point. If you're going to teach your kid how to do something correctly, quit being egotistical and show by example. Show them how to correctly perform something, because I promise you you could tell them how to do something, but they will always mimic you instead. Early stages kids will mimic rather than listen. Show them, don't tell them. Now that that's out of the way....back to my point. Negative memories result in negative feedback. You only tell your child he's doing something wrong? You always push your child until he can't breathe? You push your child to where he literally begs to stop? He won't ever want to workout for the rest of his life. Not only this, but kids will get the negative feedback that they can't do anything right and in result may have low self esteem, less desire to succeed, and low standards in life.
I'm not talking high-schoolers who should be to the point where they can man up and get s*** done, I'm talking elementary kids. I am a firm believer in physical discipline (physical tasks as punishment) and kids being pushed physically, but I'm talking pushing your child to workout when you yourself have no idea how to push them properly. The more they enjoy training when they start, the longer they will stick with it. Once they're middle school and above they should have developed the traits of discipline and commitment by then. Even at that age I would say it's more based off of their mental age. By high school you should be mentally ready to push your limits and be disciplined enough to be committed.
Anyways... kids should be receiving positive feedback when starting. This way they can have a positive experience and WANT to continue. It's not about making them do it, it's about them wanting to. That's how character is built. By doing things when you don't have to. Your personality and actions when no one else sees. Positively influence them into fitness and they will always want to workout with you.
Feeling aren't the only thing that can be hurt. The kid's body itself can become injured when pushed too far. As you know it takes years for the human body to fully develop. That means allowing the body to develop properly will ensure optimal use of their genetic potential. There are myths out there that strength training messes with a child's early phases of growth. Strength training doesn't....getting your child injured and pushing their body harder than it can recover does. Bones, skin, reproductive organs.....everything grows during an individual's youth. Why risk breaking a bone and inhibiting it's ability to grow correctly? Parents don't take into consideration that their child can get hurt. It is important to get a child active and developed....but it's just that, active and developed. Why do you think no one has videos or documentaries of them yelling at their kids to lift more weight on squat? Because it does not elicit proper development, positive feedback, and risks their growth potential.
The most important reason why you shouldn't push your kids too hard isn't due to injury. It isn't because of incorrect motor pattern development. Hell, it's not about their future opinion of working out (some people quit working out after high school regardless how they feel). The most important reason not to push your kids too hard and forcing them to workout is MEMORIES. Focus on building good memories. Though some people want to be a champion, everyone wants to have a good life. There is nothing as valuable and priceless at the same time as memories. Use working out with your kids as bonding....not because you want them to live your dream....because you couldn't! Think of how they feel, not how much of a head start you can get for them.
When it comes to getting your kid to workout when they are young, work on motor patterns not weight, be a role model, don't be negative all the time, and most importantly have fun with it. There's nothing as special as becoming better with people you care about. If you're not enjoying it, you're doing it wrong.
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