Family of four running

Read an excerpt from Ann Douglas’ new book: Happy Parents Happy Kids


“In Happy Parents Happy Kids, Ann Douglas has written the quintessential handbook for parenting in the digital age. She’s covered every conceivable angle and topic, and gives practical, compassionate, non-judgmental, and research-based advice. Buy a copy (or two) for every expecting, new, or veteran parent you know.”

Richard Monette and the Active for Life team

Ann has been sharing tips and wisdom each week through #ProjectActiveFamily, you can read all of her posts here. Her inspiration comes from her new book which is a guide to boosting your enjoyment of parenting while maximizing the health and happiness of your entire family at the same time.

It zeroes in on how you feel about parenting; how you think about parenting; what strategies you use to manage your moods, minimize stress, increase your energy level, and safeguard your physical and mental health — and how you encourage your kids to do the same.

The book — which is based on in-depth interviews with more than 75 Canadian parents and other experts — explores the tremendous pressures that parents are facing these days (all the anxiety, guilt, and feelings of overwhelm) and then proceeds to offer a series of parent-proven solutions that can be tackled at the individual, family, and community level.

We are very excited to feature an excerpt below:

How parents and kids influence one another’s physical activity levels

It’s something we’ve talked about a couple of times already in this book, and that we’ll be talking about again: the fact that parents and kids shape one another’s behaviour in intricate and interrelated ways, in bidirectional ways, to be specific. Not surprisingly, this effect carries over into the world of fitness. Parents and kids can influence one another’s physical activity levels in many ways. Here’s what the research shows:

More active parents have more active kids. There’s even math to back this up! Every extra thousand steps you accumulate over the course of a day inspires your child to boost their own step count by an extra two to three hundred additional steps.

Active kids become active adults. Not only are your kids more likely to be active during their growing up years, as a result of having physically active parents, but they’re also more likely to continue to be active as adults. This is something that Margaret has witnessed first-hand. The efforts that she and her ex-husband made to encourage their two boys to be physically active during their growing up years continue to reap dividends now that the boys are young adults: “Twenty years later, the boys are still benefiting from this active lifestyle. They call me with stories about their mountain biking, climbing, camping, hiking, and surfing pursuits.”

Win a copy of Ann’s new book!

Enjoy reading an excerpt from Ann’s new book Happy Parents Happy Kids right here on the Active for Life blog. We’re pretty excited about the book. In fact, we’re so excited, we’re giving five copies away on social media. Enter to win by following #ProjectActiveFamily on Instagram and Facebook.

It’s important to help kids establish the fitness habit early. Parents have the greatest influence on health behaviours like physical activity while children are still young, particularly before the age of eight. After that, your influence starts to wane and the opportunity may be lost. If, for example, a girl isn’t physically active by the age of ten, there’s only a 10 percent chance that she’ll be active at age twenty-five. The good news is that it’s easy to inspire children who are young to be active. That’s what they’re naturally inclined to do. The challenge is in sustaining that interest as they grow older. Most children achieve their peak levels of physical activity at the age of six. After that, things start to decline—and that decline continues through middle school and adolescence. By the time an adolescent reaches the age of nineteen, he’s likely to be as sedentary as a typical sixty-year-old.

Having one parent who is physically active is good. Having two parents who are physically active is great. As a group of researchers from Australia and Germany reported in a 2016 study published in Pediatric Exercise Science, “Children’s sport participation is highest when both parents participate in sport as compared to neither parent, or one parent.”

Kids notice which parent is hitting the gym—and this affects their own physical activity decisions. “Maternal sports participation remained significantly associated with higher leisure-time physical activity in girls, but not in boys. In contrast, paternal sports participation was significantly associated with higher leisure-time levels in boys, but not in girls,” the same group of researchers noted.

More active kids have more active parents. Having a child who is active in sports doesn’t just result in that child being more active; odds are his parent is more active too. That’s the word from Statistics Canada anyway. So, it appears that parents don’t just inspire kids to be more active; kids can inspire parents to be more active too. Of course, it could be that there are certain families in which everyone is naturally inclined to be more physically active—they all carry a sports-loving gene, perhaps, or the family environment fosters a love of all things sport. But whatever force is at work, it’s worth noting the general effect: active living seems to beget more active living in families. In a perfect world, it would be easier for parents to be active alongside their kids. Brian, the father of two school-aged boys, thinks that recreation facilities should come up with creative solutions: “You take your kids to the Y for their swimming lessons and you end up just sitting there. They should have bicycles that the parents can ride while they’re watching their kids’ swimming lessons.”

Active kids benefit from greater parental support and encouragement when it comes to being physically active. Here’s another interesting tidbit also via Statistics Canada: parents are more likely to support and encourage physical activity in a child who is already physically active as compared to a more sedentary child. It could be that parents do a cost-benefit analysis and decide that they’re likely to get better results from encouraging a sports-loving kid to be physically active as opposed to trying to sell a sports-loathing kid on its merits.

Excerpt from Happy Parents Happy Kids by Ann Douglas © 2019. Published by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

2 responses to “Read an excerpt from Ann Douglas’ new book: Happy Parents Happy Kids

  1. Thanks so much for the feedback, Van. I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the book excerpt. I love what you said about parents not necessarily having to be sporty to be active. I’ll never be a sporty person, but I love being active. I’m happy our conversations about physical activity have evolved to the point where we can make that distinction.

  2. This is so well put together. Great job Ann. It is very important for us, as Moms and Dads, to set the example. And in doing so, we enable our kids to set healthy habits. It’s also very important to take care of ourselves and show our kids that we make time for our own physical activity. To create opportunities to be active as a family, though challenging, is equally as important. It doesn’t mean that we have to be sporty to be active…after all, most of us can put one foot in front of the other and easily walk or hike! There is access to so many beautiful walks in Canada, for all different levels, and it’s an easy way to get out as a family. I also really love the idea of bikes in the spectator section!!

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