Strict parenting may not always yield the best results, especially when it comes to making your kids take time off the screen and do some exercise, suggests new research. Rather, parents who know a child's preferences and participate in the activities become more successful in keeping him/her motivated to do exercise showed the findings published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Parental control, meaning varying degrees of coercion and disregarding the child's role in exercise-related decision-making, was perceived as undesirable and reduced enthusiasm for exercise.
"For example, strong, public and overt encouragement in tournaments and games was perceived in some cases as embarrassing and even shameful," explained postdoctoral researcher Arto Laukkanen from the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland. "In addition, underestimating and ignoring the temporary cessation of exercise motivation, for example, was perceived as controlling and reducing enthusiasm for exercise."
Elementary school children
The study involved interviews with 79 first-, second-, and third-grade students. The researchers found that children aged 7 to 10 years had a clear distinction between parenting that increases and reduces exercise motivation. A very typical unpleasant exercise experience for children was related to limiting screen time and the associated command that the child should go out to exercise.
"This is very contradictory, as parents try to take care of the children's screen time and adequate level of exercise, but at the same time they may be contributing to alienation from exercise," Laukkanen said. "Perhaps exercise should not be set in opposition to screen time, but one should strive to organize independent space for both of them in everyday life." However, the researchers said that further research on this topic was urgently needed from the perspectives of both children and parents.