Is your teen lazy? When you come home from work at night or in from the yard is your teen parked on the couch watching television or a DVD? Do you seldom see your teen upright? Is he glued to his Xbox or is she constantly monitoring her MySpace page? Do the fingers of your teen seem to be permanently bent from text messaging? Would you like to see your teen become more active?
Cut the Cord
We're not talking about umbilical cords, here, but electric ones. If you can't seem to get your kids away from the screen, UNPLUG THE DEVICES! Yes, that's right, pull the plug. It's certain that the last time you checked you were still the adult in the family, and it's your prerogative to decide how much TV/movie/computer/video game/cell phone use is going on.
If you have a real addict on your hands, though, you might take it slow at first. Teens are naturally rebellious and will certainly give your problems if you try to make them go cold turkey. Have a time of day that all "screen time" must cease. If it has a screen, it must be off. Maybe it's during meals, or even a certain time of the evening. This can help encourage greater family relationships, too!
Set the Example
Hopefully by now, you have figured out that "Do as I say, not as I do" doesn't work. Your teen figured this out pretty early in life, and with luck you have too. Hypocrisy pretty much disgusts any teen, and if you are practicing it, you might as well tell the dog not to wag its tail; he's gonna do it anyway. If you yourself are a computer junkie, you're going to have to play by the same rules. If you want your kid to become more active, you're going to have to become more active, too. If you're both overweight, or simply need to get in better shape this can do nothing but help; both your health and your relationship with your teen!
Misery Loves Company
When giving up anything, after the "honeymoon" period passes - (that excitement and energy one applies to doing something new), sticking to a new habit or giving up an old one is hard. It makes us miserable. However, if you think it's hard to give up some screen time when you already love it and do something else that may be hard like taking up tennis or jogging, imagine what it's like for your teen. Often impetuous and all about instant gratification, goal-setting and working to achieve this goal may be foreign and something they'll resist. Take heart, so will you, but if you are both in it together, you are more likely to succeed and beat the screen addiction.
The Trojan Horse
If you are really committed to helping your teen make the changes you want to see, including making some of the same changes yourself but just can't find the right time to start, try a Trojan Horse...You remember, what the Spartans built to trick the Trojans into coming out from behind their walls to fight. While you probably aren't looking to start a fight with your teen, you are looking for ways to entice them into getting off of the couch.
Signing up for tennis or dance lessons (or any other type of activity that involves movement AND getting out of the house!) for the two of you may be the way to go. If you feel a need for even greater motivation, try a family vacation or at least a long weekend that involves little to no screens and lots of physical activity. Hiking, rafting, or even sledding or skiing come to mind. If you plan it right, the fun and excitement you all experience will carry over when you get home, and encourage your teen (and hopefully yourself!) to keep moving.
Remember, we are our children's first and best teachers. They do what we do. If we want to effect real change in their lives, we have to be willing to take the first step and effect real change in our own. Only by being the example can we truly inspire our kids to get up off the couch and out into the world.