Why do I train with my kids?
I train with my kids for the same reason that I listen to music with them, play in the rain with them, throw a frisbee, play badminton, cook with them or watch documentaries. Kids learn the best when they’re having fun. Learning includes developing a work ethic and understanding how to push oneself physically and mentally.
I have three kids - almost 10, 6 and 4. The first is a boy, the next two are girls. My son had always been with me on the farm while I worked, but our first venture into organized sporting was with Brazilian jiu jitsu. Having wrestled, I wanted my kids to learn grappling as a sport to enjoy it and for self defense. My son started at age 6 and he was horrible at it. I signed up the same time he did and we trained together, both learning a new sport. On the drive to the gym I’d try to talk to him about his friends in the gym, and on the way home I talked to him about the techniques he thought were cool from that day. Usually, I wouldn’t watch his class because I wanted him to learn to respect other adults without his parents around.
Gradually, he got better, his sisters began training, and around the age of 8, he competed in an in-house tournament. He loved it and said he wanted to continue and go to tournaments outside of our gym. I told him he could, but it would take more work - he would have to start to lift with me. We have a well-stocked gym (barn) on our small farm in central PA, so we had the gear.
He began with a youth bar, doing overhead squats, learning the beginnings of clean and jerk, doing lots of bodyweight exercises, and climbing the rope. For a long time it was a big struggle to get him to train with me, even though he gained strength quickly. I always reiterated the same thing - if you like sports, you have to lift to be better at sports. His sisters will have to do the same thing - at age 8, or whenever they’re beginning to compete, they’ll lift. With them, it's easy because they want to be like their big brother. Often with the oldest, it isn’t as easy.
Starting the workout always seems to be the most difficult - I have gone to the lengths of taking video of him during workouts, interviewing him about how good he feels lifting, and then playing it to him the next time he doesn’t start. We also submit videos to Dane for technical review, which he enjoys because he gets positive feedback about what he’s doing well. One of the greatest benefits of lifting together, though, is seeing him learn how to adjust technique based on audio and visual cues. Not only is he learning technique that he’ll use for proper movement and lifting technique for the rest of his life, he is also learning how to learn. He listens to an expert who gives him feedback and he adjusts, truly a life skill.
His sisters want to be like him, and so they learn to mimic his technique with a bamboo staff or a broomstick, and they climb the rope when he isn’t on it. My 4 year old can climb a 2” diameter rope because its just the thing we all do together. These are kids who will think its odd when they meet someone who can’t climb a tree or a rope with ease rather than the other way around.
Kids should train to learn how to become more technical with their bodies, have a more positive body image, and to develop the muscles and connective tissue that will support healthy joints long into the future. Don’t be a hypocrite, though. If you’re going to make your kid lift, you better be ready to train yourself. Be the change you want to see in the world (or in your kids).