Sometimes it might seem hard for parents to convince children to choose a healthy lifestyle. But what if it isn’t about convincing? Psychological theory gives many examples of how, instead, it is crucial to create friendly environments for children to develop new habits.

When preparing the framework for the MOVE4FUN App, the consortium decided to use theory in a practical and fun way.
This article will show you how applying them can have a positive mark on your kid.

We focused on three theories (and how to implement them in everyday life):
— Self-Determination Theory (SDT)
— Physical Literacy (PL)
—Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS)

Self-Determination Theory
This theory describes our natural tendencies for growth. It offers a comprehensive structure for exploring human motivation and personality proposing that environments conducive to autonomy, competence, and connection promote the most authentic and effective motivation and engagement in various activities, leading to enhanced performance, persistence, and creativity. At its underpinnings, we can find three basic needs that are claimed to be crucial to guarantee power to natural tendencies for growth and integration:
→ Competence
→ Relatedness
→ Autonomy

What are practical ways to help kids and adolescents flourish by fulfilling those basic needs? A need for competence can be supported by emphasizing abilities that kids already have and by showing what progress a kid is making. In this case, you, as a parent, have to be aware that mistakes are common – your task is to find areas of progress and empower them.
We love to be surrounded by others, which is why the second basic need is relatedness. Being involved in sport with parents or friends where kids have healthy relations can foster them to develop a better lifestyle. When looking for a sport training, find a group where a coach supports team building rather than a competitive atmosphere.
Being able to choose what to do gives the opportunity to be more engaged. From a little fascination flourishes the possibility of targeting their behaviour, so that kids and adolescents can develop autonomy and independence. You can, for instance, let your kids decide your plans for family Sunday or choose what type of sport class they want to attend.
Fulfilling the basic needs in various ways will result in developing different types of motivation to become autonomous and controlled. Being guided to action by more autonomous forms of motivation means acting in one’s own volition and endorsement. On the other hand, being guided to action by more controlled forms of motivation means, for example, feeling externally pressured or avoiding negative outcomes.

The Self-Determination Theory also distinguishes motivation which can be described as not acting at all or acting without intention. Studies have shown that people driven to action by more autonomous forms of motivation stand out as more interested, excited, vital and confident, which can result in better performance, creativity, persistence and overall well-being.
Identifying what drives your kid to action can give you an opportunity to take care of their basic needs and develop new drivers.

Physical Literacy
Another theory that can be implemented in everyday life is physical literacy, Physical Literacy refers to flourishing one’s movement potential. The aim of the physical literacy concept is to develop poise and confidence among children.

Besides physical competencies, this theory also involves affective and cognitive aspects of human development. So what are elements of physical literacy that are claimed to be the roots of a healthier life?
Motivation and confidence (affective aspect) – “refers to an individual’s enthusiasm for, enjoyment of, and self-assurance in adopting physical activity as an integral part of life.”
Physical Competence (physical aspect) – “refers to an individual’s ability to develop movement skills and patterns, and the capacity to experience a variety of movement intensities and durations. Enhanced physical competence enables an individual to participate in a wide range of physical activities and settings.”
Knowledge and Understanding (cognitive aspect) – “includes the ability to identify and express the essential qualities that influence movement, understand the health benefits of an active lifestyle, and appreciate appropriate safety features associated with physical activity in a variety of settings and physical environments.”
Engagement in Physical Activities for Life (behavioural aspect) – “refers to an individual taking personal responsibility for physical literacy by freely choosing to be active on a regular basis. This involves prioritizing and sustaining involvement in a range of meaningful and personally challenging activities, as an integral part of one’s lifestyle.”
Being aware of these aspects and trying to implement them in everyday life can be a way to prepare your kid for a sporty life.

Fundamental Movement Skills
Last but not least, we have Fundamental Movement Skills which are explained as a set of basic movement patterns which aren’t shaping along with movement development. These skills should be learned in order to be involved in more complex sport activities. FMS in children prepares them to learn more specific and advanced skills needed in different sport disciplines. We can find three categories:
Locomotion (e.g. running, jumping);
Object control (e.g. dribbling, kicking a ball, catching);
Stability (e.g. balancing on one leg).
As you see, they seem quite simple but they need to be developed to give an opportunity to learn more complex ways of movement. Show them to your kid during simple play at home or close playground and give them the freedom to create their variations of it!

As you can see, being a parent takes a big responsibility in creating opportunities to develop a sporty lifestyle in your kid. This article gave you some tips that comes from research and hopefully can be implemented in your environment.

Remember even a small step at a time can give big outcomes in the future!

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