Copyright 2010 By Gary Benton
The children of America are in poor physical shape and we're the people responsible for the situation. Yep, I'm pointing the finger at us, all of us, the folks who raised our children to do little, except park on a sofa and watch television as they eat, or spend most of their time in front of a computer screen, chatting or sending emails.
How did all of this start? The period following the Second World War, the baby boomer generation (children born right after the war), was the first generation to see a big switch in our society. Veterans returning home from the war went to college, using the new G. I. Bill, and jobs in our society slowly changed from labor based to education based. These new jobs developed as many of the now educated military made significant scientific breakthroughs or discovered new ways to do old tasks. Our economy was soaring and the standard of living of our nation improved.
The men and women, who served our military during the war, were raised during the Great Depression and most appreciated the creature comforts they now had. Food, no longer rationed, was available, housing improved, and many used the G. I. Bill to purchase a new home, which only stimulated our economy that much more. Life was good, at the time, and parents tried to give their children what they'd not had growing up and in doing so, may have done too much for them.
At the same time, new inventions to make our lives simpler were coming out every week. We'd see improvements in recreation, cooking, music and entertainment, just to mention a few. Improvements developed in almost every area or our lives and in some cases, huge changes were made. We no longer had to carry water from a stream and heat it over a wood burning stove to take a bath or purchase enough coal oil to last the lamps a month, but instead new ways now provided what previously took energy and time. Radio was replaced by television and soon the black and white sets were gone, replaced by color screens. Microwave cooking replaced, or augmented stove cooking, as a way to prepare our meals. Cook stoves had changed too, with gas or electric being more modern and convenient, replacing wood stoves of yesteryear.
As science began to provide us with more and more, the physical efforts required to live a normal day-to-day life decreased. More jobs were office related, desk work, and few people could now find employment digging ditches or other unskilled manual labor. An education was suddenly important and jobs requiring physical strength were declining in number, and the few that remained were competitive or were jobs no one wanted due to poor pay. There are exceptions in all situations, but I think you have the idea wewere switching from brawn to brains.
Few children today, due to our big switch to brains, know the meaning of real physical labor and most do little that increases heart rate or burns calories. I think our change from agriculture to industrial based nation has contributed to the unhealthy lifestyles we now live. I'll agree, society has changed the last few years, some for the better, and the days of working on the family farm are over, but even today children can be taught to do things around the house. Younger children can learn to take out the trash, dust, or keep certain rooms in the house clean. Older children, teens actually, can mow the grass, edge and trim, as well as wash a vehicle now and again. However, most will not want to do the chore and even fewer will know how to do the tasks.
Start teaching your children at a young age and develop healthy habits that can last a lifetime. Here are a few things I suggest:
Love your children and assist them in developing a healthy attitude about life. Have time daily to speak to each child alone.
Discipline your children when needed, but do not abuse them and be consistent with punishment. Praise openly when deserved and discipline in private.
Do not force a child to eat all the food on their plate, as this may lead to eating disorders. I think eating too much is a learned behavior.
Serve healthy foods, watching fat content and sugars. Serve vegetables and fruits often.
Give healthy snacks, low in sugar and fat, such as fruits and veggies. Watch the chips and cookies.
Let older children assist in panning and preparing meals. Educated them on the major food groups and let it be part of their meal planning.
Watch the sugar loaded soft drinks, especially during hot weather, when children drink more often. Canned soda pop is loaded with unwanted sugar and calories.
Have a regular exercise program for the whole family. This may be an evening walk, camping trips, fishing, hiking, or just tossing a ball around in the backyard. Remember, some children will not want to play competitive sports, so don't force them into t-ball, baseball, football or similar sports. They could turn against all forms of physical fitness. Let the child discover where they belong in the exercise arena.
One final area of concern and then I'll get off my soapbox. Limit the amount of time children have access to television, computers, games, or various electronic entertainment. Many children today spend too much time in front of one screen or another. It's too easy for many parents to come home from work, turn the TV on for the kids, and let them watch cartoons until bedtime. Or, they may let them play games or chat online until it's time to retire for the night. I not only have concerns about the quality of movies, TV, and some games, but I know from experience you can meet just about any type of personality online. I'll not get into the violence and sexual content of some of our recreation, except to ask, is it what you want your child exposed to? If left alone, children go places they want to go.
Some of the newer games available offer physical activity, but I'm not really sure just how much. If you can find a game that increases heart rate and child enjoys it, I'm for it to a degree, but not to completely replace old fashion exercise. We, as a society, should not depend too much on graphic stimulation. Learn to exercise doing something physical that is enjoyable, like walking, running, or doing chores around the house.
Our society today has become a society of instant gratification. Fast food, instant email, worldwide telephone service, text messages, and even automatic check deposits, assures our needs are taken care of quickly. I'm not so sure all of these things are good for us, or even needed. What's wrong with waiting for a quality meal or receiving a letter in the regular mail? I feel we've become a lazy society, thinking only of ourselves and our needs, without consideration of others. We're always in a hurry and often meals are not taken together at home as a family. I suggest you slow down, spend time with your family, and develop a true understanding of your children. Many parents today spend years with their children, yet rarely know them well, due to the fast pace of our lives.
About Gary: He's not a fitness guru, medical professional, or fitness trainer, but a man who closely observes things around him. Gary spent over 26 years on active military duty, retiring in 1997. He is currently a published author of historical fiction. Gary has a Masters Degree in Psychology near completion, just needs to finish his thesis, so he has a fair understanding of the human mind. In addition, he spent a number of years working in mental health, mostly with domestic abuse and addictions, and has seen many different emotions and behaviors. Gary worked with abused children for a while, but moved on after having a difficult time with the senselessness of abuse.