The best way for parents to motivate kids to be active may be to emphasize a child’s feelings of choice, competence and social relatedness. Finnish researchers from the University of Jyväskylä conducted a study with 79 children ages 7–10 to assess how best to motivate them to be more active. The scientists concluded that psychological reactance (oppositional resistance) occurs when parents “demand” that children be active by coercively limiting screen time or by pressuring them into sports participation, which may lead to feelings of shame, embarrassment or even humiliation.

Instead, the best way to motivate kids is to provide a structured environment that supports being active and emphasizes positive feelings of autonomy, success in activities of interest and shared parental participation.

The findings are available in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (2020; 17 [7], 2315).

See also: To Grow Healthier, Happier Adults, Raise Fit Kids