As a parent and adult, I want to encourage children to lead a healthy lifestyle, expose them to nature, and present them with choices beyond the secure but artificial, hypnotic and self-limiting world of media and electronics.
My personal experience has been one in which I had been through periods of ambivalence in regards to running with children.
My son is ten years old, and even though he finished a 5K race, this was not a pleasant experience for either of us. So here is my advice based on what I learned from being a father and a runner.
Don’t make it about competition
We all want to be winners, and none of us wants to be a loser.
Sports activities had been traditionally centered around competition, but competition can be stressful. It is not only necessary to make a mark, but it is also expected to do better than the person next to us.
A disadvantage of competing is that a self-centered activity, such as running, is transformed into an other-centered activity. By this, I mean that the degree of satisfaction with the event is attached to the comparative performance with respect to the other.
This is an important lesson that even as adults, we need to keep in mind.
To do the things we do for ourselves, and not to compare ourselves to the individual next door. There always will be someone better than us. We and ourselves only should be our measuring stick.
Lastly, as adults, it is easier to rationalize the fact that we arrived nowhere near the podium in a certain event than for a youth who is probably competing in a smaller field in which some participants have different ambitions than others. A recreational youth may have to face in a very small field the kid who wants to make the varsity team or get a scholarship for college. As adults, even when we share the same field, we are never too close to the professional athletes who are competing for price money.
Make it (and keep it) fun
Once we decided it is not a good idea to psyche our kid to turn into an Olympic athlete, we can strive to try to make it fun. Most kids enjoy a sense of adventure. If you take them on a run, make it about exploring…