Written by: Bowie Matteson
So far we’ve covered the importance of prioritizing fitness at a young age, as well as some of the significant character-building side effects that come along with it.
Now I’d like to touch on the social component of training: the interactions, communications and social benefits of training, both individually and in groups.
Kids are inherently egocentric. The majority of their lives they were (and maybe still are) the center of everyone’s focus and attention. In the later years of childhood and into adolescence, there is social pressure to develop their identity while still learning what empathy, kindness, sharing and social cues are. That’s a lot to process for someone who just recently discovered they aren’t the center of the universe. Aside from their parents, this is largely influenced by who they hang around with, the activities they participate in, and the presence of outside role models and mentors in their life.
Training has the potential to positively influence all of these critical factors that go into developing a sense of self and can set the table to understand working with others.
Working in a group fitness setting allows for kids to learn the basics of listening to instructions, organizing amongst each other, and completing a task. This gets kids to:
A) Work under leadership (following a coach)
B) Interact with other kids in a way that highlights their abilities and allows them to contribute
C) Demonstrates consequences for not completing a task (accountability)
This is all possible with a simple team competition. Kids are told the rules of the game, given roles on a team, and have to uphold their role in order for the team to succeed.
Its not rocket science, but it’s a powerful medium to get kids to buy into seeing themselves in the context of a group, which in turn, introduces them to different ways to interact with different kids. This is a must to understand what we mentioned earlier: empathy, kindness and ultimately leadership.
Also, kids are mean. Not inherently, but mostly because they haven’t really figured out what being mean is. They have yet to fully explore the complete spectrum of how to treat someone. Largely influenced by their home life, children have to experiment with what delivers positive results. Does being mean and selfish get them what they want? If so, expect a mean and selfish kid. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to say group fitness should be the source of your child’s moral compass (looking at you, Mom and Dad), it is a powerful reinforcement for the values that lead to well-balanced, contributing individuals.
Additionally, as mentioned in the previous post, failure is a big part of training. Failure is felt both internally and externally. So you’re disappointed and embarrassed that you didn’t do what was asked and now you have to face up to other kids telling you that you failed. Shame can leave a deep cut. Its a big deal! This is stuff that can really influence children later in life. (See this article on toxic shame)
A positive training environment takes moments like these and turns them into lessons. Not completing a task may be a “failure” technically but it does not make the child a failure. When dealing with a struggling teammate, encouragement trumps scolding. It’s up to parents and coaches to instill a growth mindset that sees failure as means for improvement and being a teammate as a supportive role, not a demeaning one.
When it comes to deciding what they look for in friends and teammates, we need to encourage kids to seek others that promote growth and learning. The saying goes, “If you’re hanging around 4 lazy and unmotivated people, you are the 5th”.
Youth fitness training gives kids the opportunity to grow and develop with like-minded kids with similar interests and priorities. It also gives them the platform to feel out and communicate with people in a supervised, controlled setting.
So for parents looking to influence their children’s social skills, get them up and moving! Find a fitness program and let them grow the valuable people skills necessary to be the best that they can be.
Click HERE to learn more about our CrossFit Kids program at CFWP.
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