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July 17, 2012 | Written by: Stuart Fink

W Is for Wellness: How Children Teach Parents to Live Healthier Lives

Being a parent keeps you on your toes. Those with young children are always on the lookout for imminent danger or an impending meltdown. I, however, tend to focus most of my energy on looking for something else: A Teaching Moment.

You pass a homeless man on the street. That’s a teaching moment. Your neighbor’s dog dies. That’s a teaching moment. Your daughter thinks every African-American person she sees on TV is President Obama. That’s a teaching moment.

I love these moments. And not strictly because I aspire to be a great father. But rather, when else in life do you have a captive audience that is forced to listen as you espouse your personal beliefs and deeply held convictions? Being a parent is great for the ego.

Being a parent can also be great for your overall health. And by health, I’m not talking about the absence of symptoms. My daughter is a walking petri dish. I am a walking nasal infection.

I am referring to one’s overall state of wellness—emotional health, physical health, spiritual health, financial health and psychological health. What is parenting, if not trying to groom a child into a well-rounded, emotionally well-adjusted adult? Is that not a pretty solid definition of wellness?

My daughter is not allowed to wear nail polish. And that is because her mother and I want her to spend more time getting dirty than worrying about her appearance. My daughter gets a dollar a week for feeding our cat. One third of that dollar goes in the bank, one third goes to charity and one third she gets to keep. My daughter knows that love and marriage is something that only happens after the Princess goes to college. My daughter is being raised with spirituality in her life.

Now it’s pretty hard to raise a child a certain way and behave yourself in a different way. And so, these teaching moments have, in effect, reminded me of how I should be living. Of what my priorities should be. Children don’t take kindly to hypocrites.

And so over the last four and half years, I have found myself eating more vegetables. Giving more to charity. Reading more books and watching less television. Trying to be more patient and understanding. Re-embracing the role of religion in my life. Taking better care of my body. And above all else, playing more and worrying less.

There is a lot I want for my daughter. Raising her has made me realize there is still much I need for myself. Teaching moments cut both ways.

Today’s article was brought to you by the letter, “W.”