At last years annual Mother’s Day Classic Fun Run, there was a very common motivating factor for runners toeing the line. It wasn’t to better a time, gain personal satisfaction or beat a fellow competitor; rather, many runners stated their kids were their source of motivation.
While Mother’s Day is traditionally a day for kids to say thank you to their wonderful Mum’s, Athletics Australia challenges parents this year to set an example for their offspring by being an active role model. While it makes sense for children of active parents to be more active themselves, this trend can be investigated more thoroughly to understand exactly how and why it occurs.
Scientists and physical educators suggest there are various ways parents can socialise their children to be physically active. Four of these socialisation variables are explored further below, which are believed to particularly influence physical activity behaviours in children.
Parents encouragement refers to both verbal and non-verbal forms of encouragement and includes both direct (ie making a child play outside or restricting their TV viewing) and indirect efforts to promote interest and involvement. Numerous studies have confirmed young children rely heavily on adults, especially parents, as sources of information regarding their physical abilities. A child’s perception of physical competency has consistently been found to correlate with physical activity involvement. Adult encouragement indirectly influences a child’s level of vigorous activity by enhancing his or her perception of competence. Parental efforts to build competent and a sense of mastery are therefore likely to promote physical activity involvement.
Parental involvement refers to direct assistance or involvement in the child’s activity. This can include family walks, playing catch or practicing physical skills. While the activity itself has important benefits for physical development, the involvement of the parents also demonstrates to their children that they feel physical activity is important
Parental facilitation refers to efforts by parents to make it easier for children to be physically active. Examples of this include providing access to facilities and programs, and helping children obtain equipment. Providing access to physical activity is an increasingly important responsibility because many aspects of society make it harder for children to be physically active.
4. Role Modelling
Role modelling refers to a parents efforts to model an active lifestyle for their child. According to social cognition theory (a major theory of human behaviour), modelling promotes self-efficacy (i.e. confidence in one’s ability to perform a behaviour) and also informs the child of what is important or valued. While involvement in structured exercise or sport programs may spark a child’s interest, it is equally important for parents to model healthy activity patterns in their day-to-day life.
The influence of parents on children’s physical activity is particularly significant when considering the increasing levels of obesity among Australian children. While a variety of factors have contributed to this, it’s likely that declining levels of physical activity have played a major role. Many professionals have sought answers as to why children become inactive with age, but it is not surprising to an extent given society has engineered physical activity out of our lives and made it easier for people to be inactive. Children who may be naturally active at young ages learn through a variety of socialisation influences to adapt to the sedentary living patterns our culture embraces.
Because of these changing trends, parents need to make a more concerted effort to help their child develop an active lifestyle, and to receive activity-promoting messages and experiences at home. That is why we encourage all mothers to lace up their runners this Mother’s Day, and take part in the Mothers Day Classic - an annual fun run and walk in numerous locations around Australia. Not only will you be raising awareness and funds for breast cancer research, but you will be encouraging physical activity in your child.
To find out more information about the Mothers Day Classic, or to register, head here http://www.mothersdayclassic.com.au
Reference: “Campaign to Educate Parents and Guardians about Supporting Positive Activity for Children” https://www.cdc.gov/youthcampaign/pressroom/PDF/6.2.07-ParentsPlayRoleBG.pdf