“He was kicking and screaming on our way here.”
These were the mother’s first words to me as she and her eight-year-old son arrived. She said she told him on the way over that he was going to bicycle lessons. Mother knew that if her son knew beforehand that someone was going to teach him how to ride a bike, he would not get into the car.
Not all children are interested and excited to learn.
Why teach children who do not want to learn? Parents have several important reasons. The mother of the boy mentioned above wanted to go on family rides around their neighborhood, town, and on vacations.
Other families’ reasons include wanting their children to: ride with friends for socializing and more independence; ride to and from school to relieve parents of drop-off and pick-up; and have access to a healthy activity.
Why children don’t want to learn how to ride a bike.
“I don’t want to ride a bike, I can use my scooter,” said a ten-year-old student. When children tell me they don’t want anyone to teach them how to ride a bike, here’s what I hear: “I’m afraid to learn.”
In my experience, the two most common reasons for their fear is:
- They fell in the past when learning how to ride, or
- They fear falling — despite never sitting on a bike.
How do we overcome this?
Build children’s trust in their body.
My students and I remove their training wheels and pedals and lower their seat so their feet rest flat on the ground when they sit.
I assure them that their feet will keep them from falling as they walk the bike forward and experience the sensation of leaning without falling.
Eventually, they learn to trust their body. It’s at this point when lessons become fun. Students are now motivated and excited to learn.
The second secret has nothing to do with the child you’re teaching, yet everything to do with you:
Be calm, present and patient.
This is key to decreasing children’s fear and boosting their confidence. Your calm and patient presence helps them maintain the desire to continue working while they experience unfamiliar sensations and new ways of using their bodies.
Especially when children are learning a challenging new activity, our demeanor — as teachers, parents, and adults — very much influences their responses to instruction.
Having difficulty teaching your child how to ride?
Many of my students’ parents tell me that they’d rather have someone else teach their child. Their child may refuse to sit on a bike, or not want the training wheels removed. Many parents simply aren’t sure how to progress their child to the next step. Parents may recognize they don’t have patience or want to avoid arguments with their children.
If your child is having difficulty learning or you would just rather have someone else teach your child how to ride a bike, seek out a bicycle teacher. Let the teacher do the hard work, while you relax, cheer on your child, and take photos.