Predictably this is about learning to ride a bike.
But it’s also about about failure. About persistence, determination and patience. And slowly but surely, step by step, it’s about success.
Teaching your child to ride a bike is one of those parental rites of passage. It’s scary. It can be really, really hard. It will test your patience and resolve. It’s fraught with the potential to go pear-shaped at a moments notice, as both you and your increasingly frustrated offspring get closer and closer to the frayed edge of sanity.
It’s a hell of a rush when you succeed!
Let me fill you in on some background.
Jono broke his leg when he was 3 years old. 2 days after getting a new trampoline… It meant he sat in a cast for most of a summer, at a time that was critical to his physical development. So he’s kind of playing catch-up now, which has it’s pros and cons.
He loves riding his bike. He is on record as being someone who “Likes to go fast but not high“. We’ll work on the high part later. He flies down the sidewalk on his bike or scooter. He loves the feeling of the car accelerating. He thinks log flume rides are the bomb.
I’m a little worried about what kind of driver he will be.
So now that he’s 5 years old, the training wheels on the back of his bike were starting to gnaw at me. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with them, but there’s also no real reason for them anymore. He’s proven he can master the art of balancing, he was flying around on his scooter in the space of a couple of days. He’s also more than competent pedaling, steering and stopping so it was time to cast aside the safety net. How hard could it be, right?
As it turns out, not that hard. I mean I almost lost my cool a couple of times, mostly because it was obvious that he could do it but something was holding him back. He would stop pedaling the second the security of my hand on his back disappeared.
I’m not going to write up a step by step guide on how to teach your child how to ride a bike. There are already so many great guides out there on the internet. What I will share are a few little tips that I made up along the way…
1) Make it fun!
I’m big on making things fun. My child will never be the strong silent type because that’s just my style. He’s loud. He’s excitable. He’s curious. I did that.
Learning to ride his bike needed to be a bit of an adventure. There needed to be some kind of build up and interest. We started by giving his bike a “tune up”, oiling the chain, adjusting the brakes, adjusting the seat height. Then a ceremonial removal of the training wheels. Jono was central to this whole process.
2) Stay Brave!
Part of Make it fun! is to stay brave. Risk = Fun most of the time, so take appropriate risks. Encourage them to push the boundaries of what they can do. Stop them from doing things that will probably kill them.
For Jono this meant finding the biggest obstacle in the bike park and taking it on over and over again (video). Be brave. There will probably be crashes. Hopefully no broken bones.
3) Find somewhere cool
We went to the Onepoto Reserve in Auckland. It has an awesome bike track for kids, a huge playground space and some wide open walking paths that are great for gaining confidence while the early wobbles are king. It also has a nice little lake in the middle. Note – there is a bridge over the lake. When sending new-to-2-wheelers off to cross it keep a close eye on them – J almost found himself swimming with the ducks…
4) Keep your cool
This sounds like common sense. It is. But it’s hard to do. Jono is a very persistent little man, but this goes both ways. When he gets it in his head that he can’t do something it can be hard to persuade him otherwise. We had a little rough patch about halfway through the process where he would stop pedaling. It was infuriating. I had to take a little time out of my own and remind myself that “…he’s only 5, he’s only 5, he’s only five…“.
5) Figure out what pushes their buttons
Jono is an intensely objective-driven and competitive little man. You give him a mission and he will generally go out and achieve it. This might make him a good military man later in life. Or a great businessman. Or a pro athlete.
For now it’s the secret to winning parenting.
In the end the thing that got him riding that bike, to keep picking it up over and over again when he fell over, was a simple challenge.
“Ride from here to the One Way Sign without stopping.“
Once he had his mission he was off.
This won’t work for every child. You probably already know what makes your little one tick and how to use this to maximum effect. #OwnIt!
Jono was riding his bike withing a couple of hours of arriving at the park. He loves it. As far as I can tell he bears no long-term scars from the process. He has an immense sense of pride at the fact that “I am a two wheel rider!“.
I probably learned as much about myself as Jono learned about riding his bike on this day.
I discovered that I’m not as patient as I like to think I am.
That I expect a lot from my boy, often more than I should.
That once I get past this I can be a great teacher.
I’m reminded every day of the awesome capabilities that our children possess. Often these capabilities and talents lie latent and need to be unlocked.
When you find the key it’s one of the greatest feelings you will ever have!
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