Written by Sally McGrath
Influential Health Values for Children
Children and values; what comes to mind when you think of values and teaching your children? It is a subject that is surrounded in opinion and debate, whilst most parents suggest that values are learned by example and the responsibility of the parent, others challenge this and suggest that some parents do not and cannot lead by example.
Values will set the tone for the life of the child, and will influence decision making in relation to the major factors surrounding, health, money, respect and connection. Health as a value needs be established early and be a consistent part of the child’s ongoing education that adds to the suite of values. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi;
“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver”
Values surrounding health are way more than what a child is putting in their mouth. Health values will also have an impact on how the child behaves. Much of our health is related to what is not consumed (by mouth). In the Health Coaching world, non-food based health is referred to as primary health which includes:
- Physical Activity
- Home Environment
- Social Life
So you want to teach your child and instil confidence in them to navigate their way in the world, so how do you do this? You’ll likely draw on the values that you know and have been taught by your parents and or parental figures. So ask yourself;
- What are your values surrounding health?
- Are the values about health, you hold still important and relevant as a parent?
- Can you / Are you prepared to lead by example?
A foundation of solid values is going to be one of the best tools in the child’s “values-for-life- toolkit”. These values, including health will need to align with the parenting of all adults involved in the raising of the child. A lack of cohesion will result in compromised and blurred values that the child will not relate to and therefore, ignore.
According to Sabina Read; Author of Blended Our Way. The most influential and successful plan to a blended family is not only the blending of families it is also the blending of values, (health being a fundamental value) and importantly the communication between the parents. Once parents are in agreement of blended family values the next step is to communicate consistently with your children as well as lead and educate by example. The values that we educate and instil in these children are more than values for now - they will be values for the next generation.
A Game Changer for Health related Values and Choices
How do you teach your kids the value of health when they are young, innocent and perhaps not aware of the impact (optimum) health will have in their life?
The answer lies in education, empowerment and yes – leading by example. You teach the child the lesson and give them the ability to make choices and decisions so they learn through their experiences. What is health to a child and what does it mean? Ask a child what their meaning of health is and in most cases, they will say something about; eating healthy food and running around at the park, playing sport – a great start! So what now?
Education at school will be one of the most influential parts of the child’s life, as they will learn from their peers’ opinions and the values the school places on health; for example; “Munch and Crunch” and what they see in other children’s lunchboxes.
Including the child in making their lunch is a way to empower and educate about making choices that will give them the energy to perform in their classes, specifically – feed their brain, play with friends during break times and give them energy to enjoy sport and physical activity. It is more worthwhile teaching someone than do it for them.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day-
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Monkey See Monkey Do
Remember Krispy Kreme Donuts? Yes the ones that once took up more overhead locker space than regular carry-on baggage! So when seeing an overweight toddler carrying (his own bag of Krispy Kreme Donuts) whilst shovelling one of the offending donuts with his also overweight mother or guardian was heartbreaking. What does the child know at that stage – just that the donuts taste great and if my mum eats them then it’s ok for me to eat them too? A little sugar and saturated fat goes a long way in a child’s body and as it has been shown sugar addiction can begin at a young age.
As soon as your child can identify with a positive role model (yourself, a friend, a sportsperson or teacher) open the conversation with them about health values. Reframe questions, so that the child can relate and has the ability to respond, open the conversation and encourage the child to speak up when they notice something they like, dislike or pass comment upon so you can understand their thoughts and opinions, as well as answer questions.
What Does the Mirror Say About Your Health Values?
Try this exercise:
Look into the mirror and say to yourself
“Would I be proud if my child did what I have done?”
“Is there room for improvement?”
“What else can I share with my child that I wish I learned sooner?”