Effective Strategies For Dealing With Couch Potato Kids
We all strive to create a home that’s beautiful, functional and comfortable. The home should be a refuge not just for us but for the whole family. It’s a place in which they can unwind after a hard day at work or school, cuddle up together to share in demonstrations of familial love, trade witticisms, invite guests and truly feel themselves. But if we’re not careful, we can make the home a little too alluring to the point where it engenders an atmosphere of inactivity. We’ve all heard of the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle and vow to ourselves regularly that we will lead a more active life… But that’s often easier said than done. After a rough day at work followed by a nightmarish commute the TV and sofa are to us what an oasis would be to a thirsty explorer in the Sahara desert. But while the appeal of a night on the couch in front of the TV with a glass of wine in hand may seem heavenly, we should not allow it to become the way in which we spend every evening. When the sofa becomes a magnet for the whole family, we run the risk of setting a dangerous example to our kids.
As a result, we can find that our kids become more and more inactive. They are reticent or outright refuse to participate in team sports, dance classes, school play rehearsals, chess club or any of the other activities that contribute to the formation of a healthy, happy and balanced young mind and body. They become less and less communicative, choosing instead to superglue their eyeballs to the TV or their tablets and smartphones. Increasingly their default status is ‘headphones in, real world out’. This can be damaging to their cognitive, emotional, development and lay a wobbly foundation for their habits in their adult lives. Here we’ll look at the dangers of spending your formative years as a couch potato as well as suggesting some workable strategies that will get your kids off the couch without causing them to see you as some sort of sadistic ogre.
What will happen if you do nothing
You may be reading this and thinking, “So what?”, if my kids don’t get out and exercise and prefer to read, play video games and watch TV that’s not the end of the world is it?”. While these activities are all perfectly fine in moderation, however, they can be damaging to our kids’ development if they aren’t just one part of a balanced diet of activities.
Let’s just start with all the damage that all that sitting is doing to their bodies (and yours too). We human beings, especially in the West) are world class sitters. We sit down to breakfast, sit in the car or on the bus to work or school where we sit some more before coming home for a good sit. We spend an average of 7.8 hours a day sitting little knowing that the damage it does to our bodies can result in severe health problems. It can impair digestive function causing us to spend a lifetime not getting the right nutrients from our food. It can damage our posture causing us to appear shorter and fatter than we actually are and it can even increase our risk of heart disease and diabetes. Needless to say, the earlier kids are introduced to alternatives to sofa time, the less likely they are to become too reliant on it.
Understand the reasons why your kid won’t get off the couch
The answer to why kids’ butts seem inseparable from our couches is almost never because they’re lazy. Nor is it because we’re bad parents so let’s just nip any self recrimination in the bud right now. The simple fact is that kids are getting more and more inactive due to a perfect storm of factors. Some of them are within our control, others are not.
One factor that plays a big part is the fact that time is rarely on our side. Many parents work very long hours and endure stressful working lives in order to keep their families happy and well fed. By the time we get home, cook a nutritious dinner and perform the rudimentary housework that won’t attend to itself the last thing we feel like doing is whipping our kids up to go for a long walk as a family or play a round of volleyball in the back garden.
Another important factor is that many kids simply aren’t the sporty type and trying to force them into team sports can be counterproductive. While there’s an argument to be made that even the most ardent bookworm can show an interest when they’ve found the right sport for them, there’s always a chance that your son or daughter won’t take to the athletic world, no matter how ardently you insist that it’s good for them.
Furthermore, young brains have a poorly developed prefrontal cortex which means that they can engage in risky or impulsive behaviors. This may cause kids to fail to realize the health risks they may face in adult life if they maintain a sedentary lifestyle.
Talk to your kids. Ask them why they don’t want to get up and get active. When you know the reasons why you’re much better placed to find an effective solution.
Practice what you preach
If there’s one thing kids can smell a mile away it’s hypocrisy. Thus, if you’re to get your kids up and active, you can’t kick them out of the house while you sit down to half a season of Game of Thrones. If your kids are to take you seriously you need to suggest activities that you can enjoy together as a family. A bike ride through a local park, a brisk walk with the dog or even throwing a ball around the back yard are all perfectly acceptable ways to burn a few calories while unwinding at the end of a busy day.
Earn your video games
Video games can trigger the parts of the brain that deal with feelings of reward in the same way that a brisk jog or a workout can. Moreover, they can offer kids an alternate fantasy world that may be more palatable than the real world they occupy. For these reasons among others they can be addictive. But rather than adopting a prohibitionist approach to gaming, it’s far more beneficial to raise kids with a mature and healthy attitude to games. After all, videogames have their benefits too. They can improve concentration and focus, engender creative problem solving skills and even improve coordination. Gaming is fun and should be enjoyed as a treat for completing chores, finishing homework and getting life’s little essentials out of the way.
If possible, try and play some video games together as a family, opting for fun party games instead of the often violent and misogynistic fare which can populate the gaming industry.
Less screen time but better screen time!
The trouble with many families is that sitting in front of the TV or lounging on the sofa with head in a smartphone has become the default behavior. It’s not a leisure activity or even a source of enjoyment any more… It’s simply a way of occupying time. Rather than trying to force your kids off the couch, success may lie in resolving to make screen time a shared activity for the family to enjoy rather than passively participate in.
Fortunately, we live in an era where the choice of cable TV, streaming services as well as DVDs and Blu Ray discs gives us an embarrassment of riches when it comes to choosing quality TV content for family time. Check out these offers only from Optimum. With 4K fast becoming industry standard, a robust internet connection can ensure that you get the best streaming money can buy at a price that won’t break the bank. Having preplanned movie nights and allotted sofa time helps kids to understand that it’s just one of a range of viable leisure activities.
Cerebrally speaking, exercise is its own reward. It stimulates the parts of the brain that deal with feelings of reward and results in a hit of dopamine and endorphins which create a sense of natural happiness and wellbeing.
Team sports offer this alongside helping kids develop social skills and creative problem solving skills, teamwork and communication. But even if your kids can’t be coerced into team sports there are many other activities that they may benefit from. Martial arts, wrestling and boxing are great activities for kids that help them with discipline and anger management as well as being a great workout. Cycling offers kids heart healthy exercise while allowing them to spend some quality time with nature. Incentivize exercise by encouraging your kids to try a little bit of everything from life’s smorgasbord until they find an activity that resonates with them.
Finally… Balance social media with social experience
Social media most certainly has its place, but it’s absolutely no substitute for genuine social interaction. Moreover, less developed minds are not able to understand the difference between the airbrushed and stage managed world of social media and the real world we all occupy which can warp their perception of their friends and themselves, resulting in profoundly negative self image.
Make sure that your kids make time for their friends, visiting them at home and / or getting out in the real world with them. Their friendships in childhood will be remembered for the rest of your life and you want to ensure that their childhood memories are filled with pleasurable and meaningful activities.