The Leadership Double-Standard: How We're Failing Our Kids

I had a bizarre experience this weekend. A lesson in contrasts…

Big South 5kOn Saturday, I ran my first 5K. Funny, but I've never been so excited to come in 142nd place for something. I was only slightly embarrassed that the person that came in 141st… was a 10-year-old kid!

I'm no great runner, but I enjoyed taking the race seriously. I trained, ran the route the week before, and set my own time goal. I even got up early and ate two pieces of toast with honey and drank some fruit juice so that my body would have natural energy it could break-down easily.

The race was organized well and at the finish line they had a bunch of water, fruit, and sports drinks for the runners to refuel. I was totally spent, so I immediately drank two bottles of water, a bottle of Powerade, ate a banana and a peanut butter sandwich for protein. I spent most of the day guzzling more water.

So here's the weird part…

After the race, I rushed over to watch my 8-year-old boys play soccer. It was a tough game and both teams were running like crazy. The ref blows the final whistle and both teams come off the field. I was watching the other team… and the other kids walked over to the sidelines where the team parent handed the kids some kind of pre-packaged cookie treat or chocolate chip muffin thing along with a big old sugar drink.

The contrast almost made me laugh out loud.

This is a big pet peeve of mine. As adults, when we are leaders of sports teams, church groups, or school classes… we have to start paying the same kind of attention to our kids' bodies as we do our own. We need to demonstrate leadership with food choices so that kids can learn the proper way to take care of their bodies. Can you imagine the flack the leaders of my 5K would have gotten if they handed out ice cream cones as people finished the race? But for some reason, we never think that way when it comes to kids.

Now, I've been there… and I know… everybody wants to be the fun parent that brings the cool snacks to church or the game or school. No one wants to be the parent that hands out the raisin granola bars. But because none of us wants to step up with tough leadership… the sugar epidemic is taking a toll on this nation. I spotted an article in the Charlotte Observer this weekend. The CDC now estimates that ONE IN THREE adults will have diabetes by the year 2050. That really scares me… cause I've got four kids between 8 and 11. Statistically, at least one of them will have diabetes by the time they are 42!

I know that this is one of the toughest weeks to think about this issue. I'm not a food Nazi and I'm certainly not going to make my kids eat broccoli for Halloween or anything. It's ok for kids to enjoy some candy now and then. But as leaders, we have to make sure that candy-events like Halloween are a RARE activity… not something that happens every single group party, every school event, every week at church, and every game on the soccer field.

I think that when we make those hard choices and start fueling our children well… there will be a lot more kids that will be beating out 38-year-old men in the local 5K!