Michelle Obama's Advice for Kids: On Friends, Role Models, Playing Sports, and More

Yahoo! Shine senior editor Lylah M. Alphonse and her 7-year-old daughter, Alanna, joined first lady Michelle Obama and a handful of others for a discussion about fitness, friendship, role models and more this week. Given that it was also Bring Your Child to Work Day at the White House, our kids offered up questions of their own, and the conversation yielded some great advice on growing up. Here are the highlights.

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Make what you do count

Being the first lady is a surreal experience, she told my daughter. "I feel like Michelle, like I've always felt. But now I have this work to do," she said. "So I'm just trying to make sure I do good work. Because you're not First Lady forever, you're First Lady for a short period of time -- so that when we're done, I want to make sure that the time I spent here, I helped some people, so that when it's time for me to move on and be something else, I'm fine with it. "

Play both individual sports and team sports

The first lady gets up at 4:30 a.m. in order to exercise, but asking one's kids to do the same is impossible. Instead, Sasha and Malia play plenty of sports. "And they happen to stay healthy in the process," Mrs. Obama pointed out. "We don't talk about weight, we don't talk about health, we don't talk about diet -- we just do it. So then it doesn't feel like 'My mom is making me do this'; it's just a part of what they do."

Mrs. Obama says that she encourages her kids to practice a team sport, like soccer or basketball, as well as individual ones, like swimming and Tae Kwan Do. "I think team sports are important particularly for girls, where they learn the camaraderie of being dependent on other people for the victory," she explained. "And I think my girls need to learn how to compete. Whether they choose to do it long term, I just think it's an important opportunity for girls to have."

Individual sports give kids a chance to build a skill, she added. "That's the thing that they usually hone in on," she said. "That should be what we aspire to for every child. Because who knows what gifts lie within, and the kind of discipline that they learn just in the process of getting through the sport."

The girls get plenty of opportunities to try different sports at school, and their mom acknowledges that they're among the lucky ones. "They're fortunate enough to be in a school with a sports program and they have to take sports," she says, pointing out that her fitness and anti-obesity initiative, Let's Move, is aimed at encouraging activity in kids who live in communities that don't have such resources.

Make real people your role models

Beyonce recently thanked Michelle Obama for being an amazing role model, but the first lady says that your child's best role model is you. "You know, I think in the end our kids look up to us, first and foremost, whether they admit it or not," she said. "We are our kids' first and best role models, and that's true for me. I mean, all the wonderful people I've met -- my mom is my rock. Her messages are ones that spin around in my head. Everyone else is just a symbol of something. You don't really get to know them well enough to idolize them or to have them impact your lives unless you've had a unique experience."

Have a favorite superhero

Mrs. Obama's favorite superhero is none other than Superman, she told Yahoo! Shine. "The whole construct of powers that he has and the fact that he is like a real person most of the time, living amongst us," she explained. "Malia was saying, 'Don't you hate like when Superman who had these super powers and then people think that you're a nerd and you just want to tell them you're Superman?'" (Also? "Superman can fly and that's probably, if I were to pick a super power, it would be flight," she added.)

It's fine to disagree. Just make sure you talk about it

One guest at the roundtable, a young lady about the same age as the Obamas' oldest daughter, asked what happens when Mrs. Obama disagrees with the president. "Do you talk to him, or do you keep it inside?" she wondered.

"We talk about everything," the first lady told her. "And the interesting thing -- I don't disagree with him on a lot of policy stuff. I mean, we end up disagreeing about little stuff at home, like where are we going to go on vacation or whether Sasha's going to do a clinic or -- I mean, it's the little stuff. But we talk, yes. We talk all the time."

What's right for you changes during different stages of your life

"I have been a working mom. I have been a not-working mom. But it's been totally based on what I need in my life at any given point in time," Mrs. Obama said, alluding to the Ann Romney/Hilary Rosen working mother war. "I tell young, professional women you may feel one way today and then you have a child, I guarantee you, you will feel differently. And then, you have two, you'll feel differently. And then, when they get a certain age, you'll feel another way. Then, you'll get to a certain age and you'll feel another way. This is all very fluid. And what gives me a sense of calm is that I know that I have to figure out what works for me at any given time."

People will show you who they really are

When it comes to figuring out who your real friends are, Mrs. Obama counsels kids to keep their eyes open. "People show you who they really are over time. You just have to pay attention," she told kids in our group.

"You attract people who bring you joy, right? Friendships shouldn't hurt, right?" she pointed out. "And when they do, you move on from them. You don't stay in relationships or friendships that don't make you feel good."

Always be open to meeting new people

Getting out of the White House and onto the campaign trail opened her eyes to the fact that people all over the country have more in common than they might think, Mrs. Obama told the small group.

"The American people are decent -- they're kind, they're polite. It's just -- and I don't think it's just me, but you go in somebody's community and they appreciate that you're there, whether they like you or not," she said. "And that's the kind of stuff that you're reminded of when you campaign -- that this is really who we are as Americans. And that's why I always say I wish more people could do that, would have that experience of just spending a couple months traveling around the country, getting to know people that they wouldn't normally get to know and understanding that we're really not that different."

"We all pretty much the same thing," she added. "The stuff on the fringes is the stuff on the fringes, but the core of what we want for our kids and our communities, that's true regardless of race or political party. And then you see that when you get out there. You forget about it if you're here [in the White House]. And that's why campaigning is important and being out in this country is important."

Copyright © 2012 Yahoo Inc.

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