Whenever you think people are exaggerating about how children are always watching you, just hang out with a child for a few hours.
Thanks to God, I get to hang out with my son for more than just a few hours, so I get to see first hand on a daily basis just how great he is at imitating me and my wife.
Never had this been so obvious until this past weekend, when I was doing one of my P90X3 workouts. As we’ve written about extensively here at NFI, a dad’s health is intimately and intricately linked to the health of his children on a number of levels. It is critical that dads model healthy behavior for their kids, because if they don’t, chances are they won’t learn those healthy behaviors, even from mom!*
So, Sunday morning, I headed into the basement to do my Day 11 workout for P90X3, the aptly named, “The Challenge.” The thing that puts the “challenge” in The Challenge is that it is 30 straight minutes of alternating pull-ups and pushups of various kinds, without any real breaks. You pick two numbers at the start – the number of pushups and the number of pull-ups you think you can do – and then stick to those numbers for the ENTIRE workout. Wow.
During week one, I picked 4 pull-ups and 10 pushups. By the end of the workout, I was barely doing the 4 pull-ups and could only do 5 pushups.
But on Sunday, I felt great! I started off thinking I would do 4 and 10 again, but by the middle of the workout it was clear that I could do more, so I increased to 5 and 12. Somewhere during that time, my 4-year-old son came downstairs to observe why I was making such a racket – yes, I was yelling to force myself to crank out that last pull-up or pushup in each set.
My son immediately (and hilariously, I might add) started mimicking exactly what I was doing, down to the funny “workout sounds” I was making, to being out of breath (even though he really wasn’t out of breath), to needing a drink of water after each (of my) sets, and even pretending he was writing down how many reps he did, just like I was doing.
Talk about an eye-opener! Not only did he want to workout, he wanted to workout exactly like I was working out, down to the smallest detail. If he is that attuned to the little nuances of a workout routine, think about what he is attuned to on a daily basis when my wife and I are just going about our business. Every facial expression, every change in tone of voice – they all must register with him.
I am so grateful I got this stark reminder from my son that he is watching our every move.
First, I am grateful that he sees me working hard to be healthy.
Second, I am grateful that I am reminded that every aspect of my life is under scrutiny, but in the best way possible.
My boy is looking for guidance – and where else is he going to get it? I certainly don't want our culture – which is usually more interested in the profane than the profound – to model proper behavior for him.
So, I will continue to do my best to be a well-rounded person for him. In this case, I am pumped (no pun intended) to be a #P90X3Dad! With his health issues – Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease – it is even more critical that he learns healthy habits right from the start.
P90X3, at least right now, is making that possible and fun for me to do. I can’t wait until my next workout (today is my day off!), so that I can watch my son watch me. It is the best workout motivator I’ve ever had.
Wake, M., Nicholson, J.M., Hardy, P., & Smith, K. (2007). Preschooler obesity and parenting styles of mothers and fathers: Australian national population study, Pediatrics, 12, 1520-1527.
Figueroa-Colon R, Arani RB, Goran MI, Weinsier RL. “Paternal body fat is a longitudinal predictor of changes in body fat in premenarcheal girls.” Department of Pediatrics, General Clinical Research Center, Medical Statistics Unit, Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Trost SG, Kerr LM, Ward DS, Pate RR. “Physical activity and determinants of physical activity in obese and non-obese children. School of Human Movement Studies, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland 4072, Australia.
Fogelholm M, Nuutinen O, Pasanen M, Myohanen E, Saatela T. “Parent-child relationship of physical activity patterns and obesity.” University of Helsinki, Lahti Research and Training Centre, Finland.