"Give me your best shot, OK, Dad?"
It's a question I keep repeating as I watch my dad take two or three backward steps. I'm a scrawny 10-year-old, tugging up a pair of Adidas tracksuit bottoms by the waistband and adjusting the gold-rimmed glasses which dwarf the majority of my face. My fingers flex in a threadbare pair of goalkeeping gloves. To my left lies a coat, crumpled in a heap. To my right, a tree stump.
"Don't be soft. Promise?"
My dad nods. You can tell that in his mind he's treading the turf at Wembley, gearing up to take what could be the winning penalty in the World Cup final. He takes his run up, and shoots: laces straight through the ball.
I soar like an eagle, an eagle who has his two front teeth missing and hair in curtains. And, with an outstretched arm, I palm the ball away before crashing to the grass.
Scrabbling to my feet, I triumphantly punch the air and yell as loudly as I can, which – thanks to my prepubescent voice – comes out as a mild squeal. My father says I am as good as David Seaman, which makes my day, and I spend the rest of the afternoon grinning from ear to ear – which, coupled with those glasses I told you about, means I look a bit weird.
There's a reason this particular memory has remained with me for over a decade. It's not just because of the incredible save: it's the fact that I knew that I had earned my celebratory punch, that my dad hadn't kicked the ball softly on purpose just to make me feel good.
It's a principle I'm passing on to my own children.
Don't get me wrong – when playing a game with either of my sons I don't set out to thrash them, to get all the points and rub defeat in their faces by doing a little victory dance. But it's about making sure they feel a true sense of accomplishment when they do win, knowing that I haven't dived over the ball on purpose, or timed the squares just right so that I slide down the snake just as I'm about to win.
It seems I am not alone. This competitive nature is shared by mum Colette Cooper, who echoes: "I'm too competitive to let my kids win. But they do need to know how to lose."
This is an important point: throughout your child's life they will experience disappointment, and knowing how to react is an important part of a child's mindset and good preparation for the future. Nobody likes a sore loser
, after all.
Claire LaRue agrees with this sentiment, and says of her children: "They will earn their wins, learn to compete, win every game on merit and skill. Losing is a part of life, not just childhood."
And even if your child does sulk at the time of losing, it's all character building: if you work hard to achieve something, it feels all the better for it.
Do you agree with Ben? Tell us what you think...
More on Parentdish: How can I help my son become a better loser?
- Beat a drum
<p>Learning how to play the drums is both satisfying and healthy. Drumming increases the heart rate, encourages you to use the whole body and helps with co-ordination and muscle control. It's also enormous fun. Choose between lessons or family drumming days and unleash your inner rock star.</p>
- Go walking
<p>Walk to school, walk to the shops, walk to the park and just keep on going. Little ones can handle a fairly steady pace and, if it's quite a hike, take along some water and a healthy snack.</p>
<p>The simple stride has oodles of <a href="http://www.ramblers.org.uk/info/everyone/health.html" target="_blank">health benefits,</a> is easy to do, doesn't need special equipment and it's free.</p>
- Get gaming
<p>A study by a professor of Exercise Science at BYU proved that <a href="http://www.parentdish.co.uk/2011/07/01/why-my-children-dont-need-wii-hab/" target="_blank">exergames</a> (exercise games) burn sufficient calories to form part of a valid exercise regime.</p>
<p>This means that you can enjoy Wii Boxing without feeling guilty. Most fitness and dance games are available for all three consoles (Wii, Xbox 360, Playstation 3) and some of the best include <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Take-2-Nickelodeon-Fit-Wii/dp/B004KJECWO" target="_blank">Nickelodeon Fit,</a><a href="http://www.ubi.com/UK/Games/Info.aspx?pId=9410" target="_blank">Dance Juniors </a>, <a href="http://www.majescoentertainment.com/games/display_game.php?PLTFRM=kinect-for-xbox-360&GN=zumba-fitness" target="_blank">Zumba Fitness </a>, <a href="http://www.ubi.com/US/Games/Info.aspx?pId=9808" target="_blank">Just Dance 3</a> and <a href="http://www.konami.com/games/walk-it-out" target="_blank">Walk it Out</a>.</p>
- Try yoga
<p>Yoga is a brilliant way to keep fit and supple and it is available in all sorts of flavours. You can start out healthy with <a href="http://www.nct.org.uk/courses/antenatal-courses/nct-yoga-pregnancy" target="_blank">pregnancy yoga</a>, follow up with baby yoga, upgrade to classes for kids aged two and up, and even use <a href="http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=yoga+for+kids&tbo=p&tbm=vid&source=vgc&hl=en&aq=f" target="_blank">YouTube</a>.</p>
<p>You’ll find classes in your area through the NCT for pregnant mums and the well known <a href="http://www.yogabugs.com/home.aspx" target="_blank">Yoga Bugs </a> offer courses across the UK.</p>
- Create an obstacle course at home
<p>Whip up an obstacle course <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00gmmv8)" target="_blank">Total Wipeout</a> style and prepare to be amazed at how much fun you all have.</p>
<p>Suck in your gut, sweep your legs back and forth and convert yourself into the Crazy Sweeper while giggling offspring jump over your limbs.</p>
<p>You'll get a whopping workout while they burn off energy. Turn yourself into the Sucker Punch, jump from one cushion to another, or clamber around the room without touching the floor.</p>
- Take a dip
Swimming falls into the category of vigorous exercise and is excellent for buoyant workouts that allow for all levels of fitness.</p>
Whether you hover in the shallow end playing with your water wary children or throw down some lengths, you will be moving muscles and burning fat. And thanks to lovely heated pools you don't have to plunge your shivering body into icy water in winter.</p>
- Skip to my Lou
According to the <a href="http://www.brsa.org.uk/pages/skip-yourself-fit.htm" style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;" target="_blank">British Rope Skipping Foundation</a><span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;"> a ten minute session of skipping has the same health benefits as a 45 minute run.</span></p>
If you can't remember how to skip, your kids will only be too happy to help, and laughing at a parent is a great motivator.</p>
- Don't spare the horses
Horse riding is great for improving posture, burning fat and keeping the body active. If you've never clambered aboard one of these amazing animals before, then one hour of riding will soon see you groaning at the aches and pains in new places. Horse riding can be tackled by anyone at any age except, of course, pregnant mums and newborn babes.</p>
- Try two wheels
Cycling is something that the entire family can enjoy and children love it. Teaching kids to cycle can be a tad challenging, fortunately <a href="http://www.sustrans.org.uk/assets/files/leaflets/sustrans_cyclingwithchildren_March08.pdf" style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;" target="_blank">Sustrans </a><span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">has a handy guide on how to introduce your kids to cycling and tips on keeping safe while on the roads.</span></p>
Then took a look at the <a href="http://www.sustrans.org.uk/what-we-do/national-cycle-network)" target="_blank">National Cycle Network </a> for scenic and traffic-free routes in your area.</p>
- Just roll with it
<p><span style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Scooting is a fantastic way to keep fit, have fun and enjoy the outdoors together (and it’s kinder to your purse - they don’t require pricey petrol!). Check out </span><a href="http://9nl.it/MicroscooterTrixx/" style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;" target="_blank">Micro Scooters</a><span style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;"> for wheels suitable for all ages. The range can help improve your child’s balance and co-ordination skills, plus the products are not just for kids – the brand also has a </span><a href="http://www.micro-scooters.co.uk/mums-fit.php" style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;" target="_blank">Mums' Scooter Club</a><span style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;"> (you know you want to…!). </span></p>
<p><span style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">A recent study by Mirco Scooters also found teachers who scoot to work garner greater respect from their pupils and the pupils' parents. </span></p>