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Sports Targeting: Why Should Children Have an Active Lifestyle

25.07.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

Your child spends half a day at school, sitting at the desk for six hours in a row. Then he/she comes home and sits again, this time doing homework. Then comes the weekend or vacation – and what does a child do? That’s right, he/she is sitting again – now at the computer. If you are lucky a little more, then with a book, at an easel or a piano. But still sitting. Good if he/she has no exemption from physical education. And if he/she has, completely forget about sports.

You sit in the office nine hours a day and know exactly how the body needs movement, how a slow-moving lifestyle affects health. And already, perhaps, you bought a gym membership and started walking after work. It remains to understand how to make a child go in for sports, because he/she does not yet understand what consequences await in a few years. These consequences can be the most serious: diseases of the musculoskeletal system, weak heart, obesity, general underdevelopment of the body, high susceptibility to stress, low immunity.

Do you know this problem? Then read our article. We will tell you how to motivate a child to do sports and what, in principle, should be a sporting lifestyle for children so that it would benefit.


  1. 8 reasons to go in for sports
  2. A healthy lifestyle without fanaticism: how should it be
  3. How to teach a child to go in for sports: effective methods

8 reasons to go in for sports

go in for sports

“How to make a teenager go in for sports? I really need advice! The son grows up smart, talented, goes to school with pleasure, there have never been problems with school, teachers are very happy with him. He goes to physics and chemistry classes, and built a laboratory for himself at home. I suppose that he will be a scientist. But the trouble is that he is not involved in sports at all. He is not interested in anything. He says it is a waste of time. Even in physical education he gets the only “four” for all years, but the teacher put it not to spoil his grade sheet. But I see that he is vitally stressed. He was always thin, weak, in my time such nerds were teased. He gets tired quickly even when he is just cleaning the house. I worry that in the future there will be serious health problems – scoliosis is already here, and then it can be even worse”.

– Valeria, mother of Dima, 14

Most likely, you have no goal of raising a child as an Olympic champion – in this case, you would hardly read this text now. Then, is it necessary to force the child to do sports at all? What for? Let’s figure out what a sporty lifestyle gives:

  1. Health promotion. Our body just needs physical exercises. They improve the functioning of all organ systems, slow down aging, and this is the best prevention of many diseases. People who exercise regularly – just do exercises and walk a lot – have a better heart and respiratory system, the weight remains normal, there are much fewer problems with the joints and spine. And a child’s body that is actively growing needs sport as air: it is the key to the correct formation of all systems, and health in adulthood.
  2. Character development. Even if a child does not play sports professionally, any training is a constant self-work, development of willpower, overcoming difficulties, defeating fears and weaknesses, healthy competition and the desire to become better than yesterday. Behavioral patterns learned in sports also appear in other areas of life. This means that if a person is able to achieve sports success, his/her career will also go uphill. People who do sports are distinguished by a strong-willed sphere, they know how to overcome obstacles and never give up.
  3. Good mood. Physical activity provokes the production of endorphins – “the hormones of happiness”. And they help cope with stress, avoid depression, and generally feel more optimistic about life.
  4. Improving brain function. An active lifestyle develops not only the body, but also the brain. Children who regularly do sports are characterized by a faster reaction, quick wit, and ability to solve complex problems. This is due to the fact that the human brain evolved under conditions of high physical activity. The US National Institute of Health conducted a study and found that after just 15 minutes of exercising, brain neuroplasticity is markedly increased, and after a 30 minutes’ workout it improves even more significantly. [1]
  5. Normalization of sleep. A sedentary lifestyle often causes insomnia. In turn, sports help make sleep deeper, because during training the body spends a lot of energy, and endorphins help distract from bad thoughts. As a result, a person falls asleep faster and gets enough sleep. Can you imagine, how important healthy sleep is for children? After all, it is in a dream that the body grows fastest and is gaining strength for study and communication.
  6. Improving self-esteem. There is an important law in sports: any person can achieve success if he/she works hard and does not give in to difficulties. Also, sports give a feeling of self-worth and self-confidence.
  7. Prevention of deviant behavior. Workout is often called one of the main measures to prevent addictions. The pattern is very simple: if a child is seriously engaged in something, if he/she is surrounded by people who strive for a healthy lifestyle, he/she will not look for friends in bad companies and try to forget about problems with alcohol or drugs – he/she has an own way of coping with troubles.
  8. Expanding the circle of friends. Joining sports groups always means training in a team of like-minded people, people with whom there is at least one common interest. In addition, sports often ensure a team atmosphere, mutual assistance, cooperation skill, enjoying the success of partners. So, this is a chance to meet real friends for life.

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A healthy lifestyle without fanaticism: how should it be

healthy lifestyle

Sometimes parents, in an effort to instill in their child a love for sports, go too far. Forgetting that not everyone is given the opportunity to become a Master of Sports, they expect incredible results from children, make them forget about hobbies and friends in order to devote themselves to training, take children to competitions and wait only for first places. But the original goal was the presence in a child’s life of minimal physical activity.

We suggest recalling that any professional sport always entails injuries – not only physical but also psychological – and does not always justify the effort. In addition, if your child is more than 4-5 years old, it is simply too late for many kinds of sports. So let’s talk about what a reasonable sporting lifestyle for children and adolescents should be and what it depends on.

Do not get hung up on the gender of a child

It is completely optional to let girls do traditionally “female” sports, and boys do “male”. As you will understand further, the choice of a sports group depends more on the age of a child and his/her individual characteristics. Simply put, if your son is dreaming about ballroom dancing, do not destroy his dream just because it is a “non-masculine” kind of activity. On the contrary, there he learns to communicate with girls, to be gallant, to show leadership qualities.

Similarly, sports for girls are not necessarily dances or rhythmic gymnastics. It may be important for you that your daughter grows up slender and graceful, but almost any sport develops these qualities.

In addition, do not forget that, despite the 21st century and the improvement of overall security, women are still one of the most vulnerable groups in society. Therefore, knowing the basics of martial arts, or at least passing self-defense classes, will definitely not hurt. If your daughter is not at all interested in sports, convince her to attend at least a few classes. So, you will be calmer for her future, and she will surely become more self-confident, enjoy physical activity and want to go in for sports further.

Consider age

Physical activity should be compliant with the child’s age. So regular physical education and sports are quite enough for kids up to 4-5 years old. Further it is already possible to begin to develop your child’s endurance, reaction, flexibility. At the senior preschool age, children are already ready for team or pair games, and here, football, martial arts, tennis, figure skating are perfect.

When a child goes to school, he/she is ready for sports that are associated with prolonged stress – of course, if he/she already has physical training. At this age, children begin to learn athletics, equestrianism, skiing, or basketball.

But for adolescents who are able to seriously take classes more traumatic and even extreme sports can fit – of course, with all the necessary security and under the supervision of an experienced coach: climbing, weightlifting, fencing, boxing.

Soberly assess the health status and body type

Before choosing a sports group, we recommend that you take your child to a doctor and check his/her health. Many sports have a lot of contraindications: for example, myopia can become an obstacle for practicing football and hockey, and in case of spine diseases, in no case can you do some types of gymnastics and martial arts. In addition, the doctor can assess the general condition of a child and give recommendations depending on his/her body structure and susceptibility to disease. For each disease, there is a sport that will become an excellent prevention or treatment – it is important to find the right one.

Temperament and character matter

This is perhaps the main criteria by which you need to choose a sport for your child. For example, if in normal life your son is hyperactive, shows aggression, constantly runs and screams – you should choose a more active type of physical activity, so that the child has the opportunity to give away extra energy. On the contrary, meditative sports are suitable for calmer children: swimming, yoga, running, gymnastics. It is also important whether a child likes to communicate. Depending on this, it is worth choosing a team, paired or single sport, competitive or more aimed at self-development. There is no need to take a shy and quiet child to basketball in the hope that he/she will learn to communicate and work in a team. All that you will achieve is the child’s aversion to sports. Classes should not be associated with violence, be a test and break the psyche.

How to teach a child to go in for sports: effective methods

How to teach a child to go in for sports

“My daughter, in my opinion, is interested in nothing. She quickly “lights up” and just as quickly “goes out”. She asks: “Mom, I want to go to the swimming pool”. I’m only glad, I choose the best one, I take her there, get acquainted with the coach, she goes there, she even likes it – and after a couple of months she’s already getting bored, lazy, she doesn’t want anything. She says swimming isn’t for her, now she wants to dance. Okay, I’m taking her to dancing, she is happy to run to classes, she already chooses dresses for the next performance – and the same story again: bored, uninterested, all the same, they don’t let her dance as she likes… And so happens all the time, it seems we already have tried all sport classes in our city. Now she says that she doesn’t need any sport at all. I’m already thinking: maybe it was necessary not to indulge her desires, but to force them to bring the things to a logical conclusion?”

– Marina, mother of Tanya, 10.

An important question that arises for each parent is whether to force a child to go in for sports. Is it worth it to force him/her to something that you think is right, in the hope that he/she will grow up and say thank you?

We are sure this is not the most constructive way. Yes, it may sometimes be easier to force a child if he/she is lazy or not interested in sports. But ultimately, such a violent approach is likely to lead to the fact that he/she will remain averse to any kind of physical activity for the whole life. To make a love for sports a sustainable model of behavior, a child should want to deal with it independently.

But how to motivate a child properly to play sports is a really important question.

“Children of preschool and primary school age are often characterized by a quick change of interest and a quick fading of the desire to do anything. This is due to the characteristics of the children’s psyche, namely, its instability and sensitivity to external influences. A child often imitates a significant example: he/she asks to take him/her to some sport group, because a friend joined the same group or his/her favorite cartoon / series character attended such classes. Then friends, idols, and interests change and, respectively, their own desires do – causing a quick change of hobbies.

The quick fading of interest may also be associated with difficulties that a child encounters at the beginning of the journey. He/she simply does not have enough patience and willpower to overcome them and move on to success, the achievement of which will motivate to go further. Not interesting, because it does not work. In this case, it is very important for parents to talk with their child, find out what difficulties have arisen, what does not work, and help overcome them. It is important to support the child before or after class and support / praise for success. If a child again loses interest, discuss with him/her to attend, for example, another 5 classes. It is likely that during this time he/she will begin to make progress, and it will support him/her, motivate to attend the group and achieve even greater success – and the desire will reappear.

Since the example of seniors is very important for younger schoolchildren, you need to try to show through a personal example how a business carries you along, how to cope with difficulties, how to overcome your doubts and obstacles on the way. The main thing is to prevent a child from forming a learned behavior model when, at the first difficulty or boredom, he/she will give up and change a type of activity without achieving any result”, as commented by Olga Fufaeva, a psychologist at the Center for Scientific Psychology “Ideal Technologies”, an official partner of the Institute of Distance Psychology PTE.LTD (Singapore) in the CIS countries.

To instill in your children a love of a healthy lifestyle, you can also use the following methods.

child sport

Give your child a choice

Entrust the choice of the sports group to the child – after all, classes should first of all be fun. Let him/her go to trial classes at several sports schools. If after some time he/she dislikes some kind of sport, there is no need to persuade him/her to continue training at any cost. Better turn his/her attention to the fact that there are many more options to try. A child’s motivation for sports increases noticeably as if he/she made the decision himself/herself.

2. Find motivation

Each child is an individual, and it is important for you to understand what motivates your child to do sports. For example, adolescents can be inspired by the example of an idol – some famous actor, blogger, singer. Even in adolescence, it becomes important for children to be attracted by the opposite gender – this can also be a great motive. For some, the argument that students with sports success are valued at the university will work. Tell your child that it’s prestigious to do sports, that such a person will always fit in a team. Sport develops leadership skills, helps get rid of diseases, makes you stronger and more enduring – these arguments can also work. A shy and not very communicative child who wants to make friends can be promised that in the sports group he/she will make new acquaintances. What if your child has some special dream – for example, to go on a trip or dive with scuba gear? Then tell him/her how sports will help get closer to it.

3. Support your child

In order not to discourage your child from doing sports, give him/her sufficient support. Do not put pressure and do not punish if he/she categorically refuses to go to training – better talk heart to heart and try to find out what causes such emotions. Perhaps your son or daughter has a conflict with peers or a coach. Do not let the situation go by chance: find out the cause of the conflict, discuss it with the coach or the parents of other children. Perhaps a child is better to join another group.

No need to compare anything with other children and discuss mistakes continuously. The result will be only a loss of interest in sports, low self-esteem and distrust of you. Note even the smallest successes of your child and praise him/her more often. For children, especially small ones, this is the best motivation to continue to train.

4. Show a personal example

A child who grows up in a sportive and active family is likely to join the family lifestyle and will not spend all free time at the computer. It is very important that children see a positive example of their parents, understand that sports have a good effect on their lives. Then, you just won’t need to spend many hours talking of a healthy lifestyle trying to convince your child of the need to go in for sports. Start with yourself, and children will definitely follow your example.

5. Find an alternative

If a child categorically does not want to attend sports groups or if you don’t have the opportunity to constantly take him/her to training classes, find an alternative to “real” sports. Ideally, physical activity should become an ordinary part of life, it does not need to make tremendous efforts. Encourage your child to walk more: for example, start a family tradition of going out for a short walk every night, while teenagers can be persuaded to walk from school, rather than take the bus. In the summer you can have picnics and play beach volleyball or badminton, in winter the whole family can go to the skating rink or just do snow fights – this is also a great alternative to sports. Hang a horizontal bar at home, buy a small simulator, fitball or install a wall-mounted ladder: when sports equipment is literally within a walking distance, the motivation to train increases sharply, and not only in children but also in adults. After all, your goal is not sports achievements in the child, but a healthy lifestyle, and in such ways it is much easier to achieve it.

Finally, if your child prefers running around with boys, climbing garages and street football to all sports sections of the world, and tired, happy, hungry and quickly falls asleep after coming home – just let him/her live for own pleasure, without burdening with additional sport groups. He/she has enough physical activity for health and communication with friends to develop communication skills. The only thing that we recommend is to get to know the neighbors and make sure that the street games do not turn into drinking beer behind the garages.

6. Turn to behavioral psychology

If you have already tried all the methods, and your child does not want to go in for sports, try to look for the reasons for the refusal in the deep attitudes that prevent him/her from leading a healthy lifestyle. Modern psychology will come to the rescue, in particular, the 7Spsy behavior modification technique. This is a patented method of behavioral psychology based on the theories of famous psychologists I.P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner and A.A. Ukhtomsky. The technology helps identify the attitudes that led to a destructive behavior model and change them to positive ones. Positive attitudes become the basis for a healthy behavior model.

We will help you to develop a love of sports and physical activity

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The behavior modification course is designed for children from 7 years old. Working on the 7Spsy technique will take up to 6 weeks, and the first step is to diagnose the problem. You and your child will be supported by a professional psychologist, with whom you can contact via online chat, e-mail or phone. You can take the course confidentially.

Thanks to the 7Spsy method, your child will change the attitude to sports. He/she will love physical activity and realize its importance for health, and the positive consequences of a healthy lifestyle will not keep you waiting.


1.  The Effect of Movement on Cognitive Performance (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5919946/).