One of the greatest perks of being a parent is that you are your child’s first hero. There is no feeling like what you experience when your child looks at you admiringly and proudly announces that they want to be like you when they grow up. For a precious few years, you can do no wrong. Even in this fun phase, however, it’s possible that your child may not share all of your passions.
My husband and I are both ultra marathoners, and people often talk about what a great runner our daughter will be as she gets older. I can’t help but cringe at this, as no one seems to acknowledge that she may not want to be a runner. She certainly doesn’t have to like running, and I have no intentions of pushing it on her. I’d be lying, however, if I said I’m not excited to share running with her because it is such a strong passion of mine; but ‘sharing’ it with her doesn’t necessarily mean she has to run next to me every day.
If there are other passionate runners out there looking for ways to share running with their kids who don’t want to be runners themselves, read on for some suggestions.
Have your child ride his or her bike next to you on a run. This allows your child the freedom to go a bit ahead, drag behind, explore a quick side trail, or ride circles around you while you plod ahead at your normal pace. You’re both happy. This also creates time to talk. It doesn’t have to be about running; ask your child about their friends, what they did in school that day, what they’d like to do for the weekend, what they want for dinner, what they want to be when they grow up…anything! Your never know which conversations are going to be logged in their memories forever.
Encourage them to ask questions by asking some of your own. You could ask a child as young as two, “Why does mommy run every day?” and get a fun response. You can also ask prompting questions like, “What do you like as much as daddy likes running?” or “What’s your favorite place the mommy runs to?” These are great conversation starters that will help your child understand your running passion a bit better, as well as help you understand what they do and do not like about it.
The cheer squad
Every runner could use a personal cheerleader. If your child would rather watch you run than run alongside you, let them know how much it helps motivate you to see them along the route and hear their clapping or cheering. Emotional support is a big deal to runners – especially when the distances get longer, so be sure to express to your child how much their presence at the finish line means to you. Not only does it make them feel important and needed, but it’s also 100 percent true.
Let them take the wheel
Let your child take control of your running for a workout. You may be surprised at some creative workout ideas they come up, a new route they devise, a race they pick out for you to sign up for, or even the outfit they expect you to run in. Just got with it. It’s a fun way to get out of your routine and avoid burnout. Watching you perform something they played a hand in is a fun role reversal for children, where they get to tell you what to do for a change.
Use your running as fodder for conversations with your child about positive actions and decisions. Talk about how you run to feel healthy and strong; how you eat right in order to fuel your runs and avoid side aches; how good it feels to set a goal, such as running a new distance or time, and accomplish it; or how running helps clear your mind and hit the ‘reset’ button for your attitude if you’ve had a hard day. Ultimately, this boils down to you setting a healthy and positive example for your child and providing them with the knowledge and tools to take care of themselves someday, whether they chose to do it through running or something entirely different.
Even though parents know that their children are not carbon copies of themselves, sometimes it still shocks us when they disagree with us or do not share our interests and preferences. Overall, this is a sign of their independence and unique personality forming, which should make any parent proud. You’re doing a great job!