Of my three children, two of them love competition, working up a sweat, and getting out of breath. My daughter on the other hand? Not so much. And that’s probably one of the reasons she says that she “hates” her physical-education (PE) class.
Hate is a big word. There are reasons why she’s not enjoying the class. She is small for her age and rarely on a level playing field with the other students. Since her PE classes have been mostly focused on team sports so far this year, she’s grown to dislike the fact that she can’t really keep up with the other students.
As a result, she gripes about having to go to PE. If she had it her way, she would never go to PE class again. This is not easy as a parent. As an active mom, I believe PE should be a fun part of my children’s day, but that simply isn’t the case for my daughter.
What can we, as parents, do to nurture the want to remain physically active? How can we promote physical activity in order to establish prolonged healthy active living choices?
Here are some tips:
Have a discussion with your child
It’s important for kids to know that you’re listening to their concerns. When your child says they hate PE, talking about it will help you identify the reasons he or she doesn’t enjoy it. And it will help you come up with solutions together. It gives you the opportunity to discuss the importance of active living and healthy habits.
I use these conversations to affirm my daughter’s reasons for disliking PE, and to help her recognize that just because she doesn’t like the class, it doesn’t mean that she’ll dislike all physical activities. Nor does it mean that she’s not good at being active. She just needs to find a sport or activity that’s the right fit.
Encourage “enjoy doing your best”
I think it’s valuable for my child to push herself and learn new skills in a safe environment. I strongly encourage her to participate with energy and try to do her best. I remind her that the most important grade is the one for participation and effort.
When she says to me that she feels that she’s “the worst in the class,” I tell her that all that matters to me is that she’s trying her best. That seems to reduce the stress and anxiety that she associates with being graded. I also remind her to think of the class activities as personal bests (PBs) and not to compare herself to others. I repeat the mantra: “Enjoy doing your best.”
Be an active example
One of the best and most effective things you can do for your child is to set the example. Show your child that it’s fun to be active. Make time for yourself and let your kids know when you’re doing something active with a team or with friends. Emphasize that you too enjoy doing your best. Also, take the time to walk to school, the grocery store, or work to set the stage for physical activity in your daily routine.
Do things with your kids and show them that you enjoy it, for instance, biking to the library, walking the family dog, going for a swim, or geocaching together. Don’t forget to point out that they’re having fun while being active.
Encourage your child to share
My daughter took the opportunity to express how she felt through a video contest in which she won first place. Her video “Get Kids Out: Why can’t we teach hiking?” has been shared with kinesiology students looking to pursue careers as PE teachers. It helped them to understand how a reluctant PE student feels, and it offers a different perspective on what a PE class could look like. The process of sharing her feelings helped to increase her overall confidence, because she felt her opinion mattered.
Bottom line: You don’t have to be sporty to be active. Sophie would love more PE teachers to know that!