You Go First!

We grow up being told it’s polite to let others go first.  We serve guests first at the dinner table.  We hold the door and allow others to enter the building first.  We wave the other car past when we both approach the 4-way intersection at the same time.   So, when should we go first? 


Children are keen observers.  Whether we are the child’s parent, teacher, aunt, uncle, or grandparent, they are watching to see how we handle a situation or what choice we make.  That is particularly true when it comes to healthy choices.  Are we in sync with the expectations we often put upon our children when it comes to our exercise habits, cleaning up after ourselves, our sleeping patterns, the foods we eat, or how we interact with each other?  Are we leading by example?  Are we going first?


The benefits of regular exercise are heavily documented.  They include helping us maintain a healthy weight, increasing our bone density, and strengthening our muscles which can lead to better balance and increased athletic ability.  Do our children see us participating in regular exercise or do they see us lounging on the couch, sitting in our home office chair on our computer, or sitting around glued to social media on our smart phone?  I am unfortunately a bit of a workaholic myself and am often guilty of engaging in some unfinished computer task after dinner instead of playing with the children outside or skipping my morning run to get ahead of some emails before the day kicks into gear.  How can we expect them to try out for a new sports team at school, push harder at practice, or put down the video game controller when we are not doing the same?  Consider exploring a new sport as a family such as signing up for ski school together to learn to ski, hiring a tennis instructor to learn the game of tennis, spending the afternoon at a climbing gym or visiting a basketball court together to play a round of HORSE.  Find a way to sustain the regular exercise too, whether it be joining a gym and scheduling a time the entire family can work out together or planning an evening walk or bike ride a few times a week.  It is also important to remove some of the obstacles to movement such as unlimited screen time or afternoons filled with other sedentary activity.


An uncluttered space can help keep us organized and reduce anxiety.  It can also keep our possessions from being lost or damaged.  Take a peek at your own bedroom, office space, and kitchen.  Are you in the habit of leaving shoes laying around, work papers a skew, unopened mail in piles, or dirty dishes in the sink?  I am the worst abuser of leaving my shoes everywhere but put away in the closet, so much so that if my gym shoes are actually put away in the closet I often forget to look there first when I’m trying to locate them before a morning run.  A best practice is to clean up your current space before starting a new project or task.  This becomes particularity effective if you require this before doing a task you really enjoy.  Maybe you love to read, so make a pact to take care of the mail pile before you slip into that comfy chair to sneak in another chapter.  Maybe you thrive off of checking in on Facebook, so make a plan to ensure that you’ve finished cleaning up the kitchen after dinner before you mark that next post with a thumbs up.  If the children genuinely adore coloring, make sure they put away the board games they played with earlier in the day before they are allowed to bring out the art supplies.  If video games or playing on a tablet is extremely motivating use that leverage to ensure that rooms are picked up before allowing the limited screen time to begin.  Do not forget, that we must ask of ourselves what we are asking of them and practicing the discipline to unclutter our own space regularity.


Sleeping habits are no exception to this rule.  Do you tend to stay up late binge watching your next Netflix obsession, yet expect the children to go right to bed at bedtime?  Do you push the snooze button in the morning but expect the kids to hop right out of bed when you or their alarm clocks wake them?  Prioritizing bedtime routines to ensure 8-hours for adults and 9-11 hours for school-aged children can help with focus at work or school the next day as well as body recovery and growth. 


Do you regularly make a different meal for your children than for the adults in your family?  Why?  Picky adults?  Picky children?  A great habit to strive towards is sitting down as a family to enjoy the same healthy meal together and discuss the day’s events.  Making one family meal, versus many different meals to satisfy each individual in the household, can save the cook time and energy.   You get the opportunity to show the children that you eat whole grains, fruits, and vegetables too just like you’re asking them to.  Each meal might not be everyone’s favorite but try taking turns selecting the menu to add variety and experience new flavors.  It also shows the children that although it was not your favorite meal you were willing to try it.  Include the children in all steps from menu selection, food purchasing, food preparation, dining table set-up, and dinner clean up.  Children that are engaged in these steps tend to be more engaged in eating the meal once it's prepared. 


A please and thank you can go a long way.  I often hear adults ask children to say those polite words but forget to use them when they interact with their children.  Leading by example in this instance can be extremely powerful!  “Go clean your room!  Pick up your shoes!  Close the back door!”  Do you find yourself making those statements without a please included to your children, yet if they were to tell you, “Give me my milk!”  or “Tie my shoes!”, we would respond with irritation that they did not ask more politely?  Another layer to this is our interaction with other adults.  Are we polite to the telemarketer that called during dinner, the waiter at our favorite restaurant or even our spouse?  The children are watching those interactions and learning what is appropriate.


So, who goes first?  You do!  Leading by example is a key step to raising children that make smart decisions and treat others with respect.  It will also help us as parents to make better decisions as well.  So, the next time you ask the children to go outside to get some exercise be sure to join them or the next time you ask them to take out the trash, squeeze in a, “Please” first and a “Thank you” afterwards!

19 Comments22 April 2018
Tags: Parenting,Leading By Example,Emotional Intelligence,Picky Eaters,ExerciseCategories: Mindful Living

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