It is a seemingly endless battle that I have to continually wage with my two children. And it's a battle I'm not winning.
Like most parents, I just want what's best for my little ones, Shannon (will be 12 next month) and Grant (9). And from what we've all been told for decades, kids need a good dose of physical activity every day for them to stay healthy.
Children should be getting a minimum of 60 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. I'm afraid that Shannon and Grant aren't meeting that requirement. In fact, I think they're both falling way short.
I know both of them run around at recess at school and participate in PE classes a few times a week. They also take swimming and tennis lessons once a week. But I don't think that is even close to being enough.
What has been detrimental to my children staying active with physical activities is technology. Like most children their age, Shannon and Grant have all the latest gadgets. I fought long and hard to try to limit the amount of electronic devices the two of them could have, but it became a battle of attrition. To put it simply: they won.
From their Kook, to their Nintendo DS, to endless hours on the computer on YouTube and other sites, to spending exorbitant amounts of time watching television, they have almost become obsessed with their electronic devices. Once they had them, their mother and I tried to scale back their use of the electronics, but that never seems to last long.
Instead of spending so much time indoors staring at the computer screen and trying to beat the latest level in whatever game they're playing, I constantly try and encourage Shannon and Grant to go outside and play. Both of them have bicycles, scooters, skateboards, athletic gear and other fun things to keep them happy. Unfortunately, most of those things are collecting dust as my kids prefer to stay indoors.
We will go on occasional bike rides, but those have even become few and far between.
There are times when I just get fed up with the whole electronics obsession and I tell them to go do something else. But that usually leads to Shannon and Grant reading or doing art work or just complaining that they're bored with nothing to do. Going outside and playing just seems to be way down on their list of fun things to do.
That is just so different from how it was when I was a kid. Granted, that was before the explosion of technology and before the hand-held Mattel Electronics Football game that we enjoyed. That device was like a space-age gizmo to us. We didn't have anything to compare to the variety of electronic marvels the kids of today enjoy.
But as kids, we really enjoyed going outside and playing. Each neighborhood had its own group of children who would always be taking part in an array of physical activities. On our block, we had a group that met almost every day to participate in everything from sports to hide-and-seek to snake in the grass to races and other competitions.
During the summer, we could spend hours outdoors, taking just short breaks to get a drink of water or to eat something. Yes we had television, but being outdoors playing seemed a whole lot more fun. That was just our way of life and it seems that many youngsters today just don't embrace that same way of life.
Thank goodness Shannon and Grant aren't overweight. But with obesity becoming an epidemic among children in this country, I worry that this trend could lead to a lot more unhealthy kids. Unfortunately, more kids than ever are engaged in a sedentary lifestyle. It also doesn't help the cause either when schools cut back PE programs.
When I was in school, we had PE every day, it was the norm. But some districts have scaled back PE or gotten rid of it entirely because of budgetary constraints. That is truly a disservice to the kids.
As parents, we walk a precarious line when it comes to making sure our kids do what's right for them. I don't want to be the strict parent that forces his kids to go out and play against their will. But I also don't want to be the type of parent who lets their kids do whatever they want because they don't want to be viewed as "the bad guy."
I guess I have resigned myself to that fact that I will be forever engaged in a continuing struggle with my children and physical activity. Maybe some day they will see the light, ditch all their electronics and make the transition to a more physical lifestyle. But I won't hold my breath.