Recently, while grocery shopping, I saw some kids who were not being cooperative. They were running around the aisles and grabbing things, and their parents were having a difficult time calming them down.
I get it. I have six kids, and their behavior is not always ideal. I have had times when my world is spinning because I can't seem to calm my children down.
But what this father did to calm his child down surprised me. He yelled down the aisle to his son: “If you don't knock it off, I will make you eat salad for lunch!”
His son then started wailing. “No, not salad!” The father went on to tell him that not only would his son eat salad, but he would not get the chili dog that he wanted.
Sure enough, as I left the store, I saw the same child eating a gigantic hot dog smothered in chili, cheese and all sorts of toppings.
I'm sure the father didn't mean for this to be counter-productive; he was likely just trying to get through a difficult shopping trip the best way he knew how. However, in doing so, he used healthy food as the enemy.
Many parents do this without even knowing it. “Eat your vegetables or you can't have any dessert,” parents will often say. And while it's meant well (parents want their kids to eat those healthy foods), it also makes healthy food less and less desirable while putting the unhealthy food on a pedestal.
The same can be said for fitness. A football coach will punish his team for not listening by making them run sprints or laps after practice. He is unintentionally (but absolutely) making running the enemy. No wonder most kids don't like to run.
Healthy food is not the enemy. Running is not the enemy. These types of threats and punishments run the risk of making children hate healthy food and exercise a bad road indeed.
So, what do we do?
For starters, make the punishment fit the crime. The fact that your child was running wild at the grocery store has nothing to to with salad. Salad did not do that. In fact, had he eaten a salad, maybe he wouldn't have the sugar jitters nearly as much. Likewise, that players on a football team were not listening was not running's fault.
Have a stern talking to your child about listening and behaving, and leave food and fitness out of it.
Lastly, give credit where credit is due by educating your children on what healthy food and exercise do.
“If you eat your carrots, I'll read a book with you. I'm sure your eyes will be so strong and be able to read a thousand words!” Or “Make sure to finish your eggs and drink your orange juice. You will need lots of energy and strong muscles to play outside!” And then there's my personal favorite: “If you work hard at practice, then we will do some fun races, so you can show me how fast your legs can go. After all, practice makes perfect.”
Healthy food is not the enemy. Exercise is not the enemy. They shouldn't be made out to be something they're not.
Arianne Brown is a mother of six who loves running the beautiful trails around Utah. For more articles by her, "like" her Facebook page, follow her on Twitter @arimom5, or visit her blog, timetofititin.com.