To Teach A Child To Ride A Bicycle, 5 Things Parents Should Know

Our twin daughters, O +ve and B +ve learnt to ride a bicycle. Basis of my first-hand experience as a parent, this is what I have to say on how to teach a child to ride a bicycle.

According to me, the process of teaching a child to ride a bicycle is as much about the parent as it is about the child. It is the parent’s approach and his/her application that determines how bicycle learning will pan out for the child. There are things that a parent should know/learn and be conscious of, before embarking on the bicycling escapade with the child.

Parenting Is Growing Up Together, and to teach a child to ride a bicycle is no different.

The Ground Work

The advice on when the child should learn to cycle is omnipresent. There will always be a child in the family/neighbourhood, you will be told, who has learnt to cycle when s/he was younger to your child. A parent might be made to feel that sooner is the better. Please remember, there are no bragging rights attached to when a child learns to cycle.

Each child is unique and learns at her/his pace. The same principle applies to learn to cycle. There is no point in starting early, seeing a child struggling to cope with and losing interest in the activity. A parent should be realistic about the ability of her/his child, learning curve and accordingly, decide on the age to introduce cycling.

Our daughters learnt cycling when they were 6 years, the right age for them, we felt as parents. My wife and I are at peace when someone tells us that there are children who learnt to cycle when they were 4 years old. Good for them at that age, good for our daughters at 6.

We involved our daughters in buying their bicycles, took them to the shop, they sat on various models and chose the colour. We spoke to them when we were delaying the process till they turned 6. They were also told that their bicycles won’t have training wheels and they might as well fall.

The Child Will Fall

No child has learnt to walk without falling. And, no child shall learn to cycle without falling. We equipped our children with safety gear – helmet, knee guards and elbow guards. We told our daughters that despite our best efforts to hold their bicycle, they might fall. It is fine. They just need to dust off and be back to cycling.

This point is applicable more for the parents than the child. As parents, we tend to get paranoid when we see our children fall. Our fears and worries get the better of us. We panic and rush towards the child when s/he falls and in the process; the child learns fear from the parents and the society.

Yes, the training wheels will ensure that the child will not fall. The same training wheels will also ensure that the child will not experience an actual bicycling ride. Our daughters’ bicycles never had the training wheels. All of us were prepared for the imminent bruises and cuts. Surprise, surprise; a few falls, scratches, one bruise which required first aid and our girls were cycling.

Trust The Child

When a child is introduced to an age-appropriate activity, s/he will hardly take time to learn. It is just about hand-holding, conversing and giving confidence to the child. We have witnessed this time and again in our daughters, and cycling turned out to be no different.

We had realized that the training wheels cater to the insecurity of the parents. Children have no need as such for the add-on/paraphernalia. They have the innate ability to learn, take care of themselves along with and what’s more – enjoy the process.

We kept re-assuring our daughters that they can, kept telling them that we are right behind them, trusted them to fly and flew they did, in no time.

Parent Has To Put In The Hard Yards

Not having training wheels also meant that Shiva, my wife and I got much-needed running exercise. Too bad, it got over soon.

Leaving the bicycle from behind without telling the child is a strict no-no. If you feel the child is ready to cycle independently, ask if s/he feels that s/he is ready. Only if the child says yes, let go of the cycle. If the child is scared to take the leap of faith, speak to them about their fears and help them develop confidence. In the meanwhile, keep holding the cycle from behind.

When our girls drove away independently from our outstretched hands, it was a moment to cherish for a lifetime

It’s Ok If The Child Takes Time / Doesn’t Learn

We have twin daughters. As with everything that they have learnt at their individual pace, one learnt cycling before the other. It was a tough time for us to handle. The one who did was on cloud nine, the other was crestfallen.

It was a life-lesson for them and we took it as an opportunity to discuss that even for similar efforts, we get dissimilar results. Both the girls were trying equally, one of them learnt before the other. It doesn’t matter how soon you learn as long as you learn. Life is not just a race, much more than that. There is no value to learn to cycle in 45 minutes/7 days and the like.

We told them to enjoy the efforts, the process, the journey; and the destination of learning to cycle did arrive 2 days later for the other girl.

This taught us that if a child takes time, does not learn as expected, it is all right. May be, s/he will learn after some days, some weeks, some months, it does not matter. As long as, the parents and the child persevere, there will always be the next day. And yes, even if the child does not learn, that is fine too. After all, as an adult, I haven’t learnt many a thing and I cannot have double standards.

Balancing Not Pedalling

To teach a child to ride a bicycle is to get the priorities right. Remove the training wheels and get the child to learn balance.  The rest – braking, stopping, starting, turning etc will just be a matter of time.

This is how we taught our children to ride a bicycle. Alongside, all of us picked some life lessons too.

What are your thoughts to teach a child to ride a bicycle?

 

Parenting Is Growing Up Together

Does parenting impact a person’s world views and her/his inner self? Would spending time and engaging with child/children have bearing on how a person would have conducted herself/himself otherwise? Is parenting all about raising children or does it influence parents too? Everybody will have their thoughts. I can answer for myself. For me, parenting is growing up together.

O +ve and B +ve have turned six. I have completed three and a half years as a stay-at-home father. What started as an impulse has turned into a full-fledged passion, with my wife’s staunch support. Turning back, I don’t think I would have done anything different than choosing to be a part of my children’s growing up years (yes, the finances pinch, that’s another real-life story).

What have I learnt with this experience? Was I better off in the corporate rat-race? Has this been the time of reckoning that I had been trying to find all the years before? Is it worth the deriding looks and scorn that I generate with my answer that I am a stay-at-home father? How has it been for the girls, their mother and me?

My answer, again, would be the same – Growing Up Together. Not anything but Growing Up Together. Why? Here we go.

Parenting is a never-before experience

Look at it like this. Whatever we do in life, we are taught/trained/instructed all along. Everywhere, school/college/job/profession, there would always be somebody’s watchful eyes over our actions. There are text-books/manuals/SOPs for outside/professional world. We have norms/customs/rituals for family/personal world. But what about parenting? Nothing but the instincts of parents.

Yes, the grandparents get involved. But, apart from their physical babysitting, their value-addition in other spheres is a matter of debate for parents. When parenting is such an experience without any precedence, without any prior preparation, without any hand-holding; how can there be no learning at every step?

In a job/profession, when done long enough, the surprises aren’t many. The situations/decisions repeat themselves. But for a single-person enterprise, there are dedicated functional teams to take care of peripheral stuff around you. You are the boss of your work.

Compare it with parenting. Here, no two days are the same. Even two hours aren’t the same. The situations, routinely, are never-heard/never-seen before. And, there are no teams to support a parent, except for an equally exasperated life-partner. You are the subordinate to your off-spring.

Tell me, how is it not possible to learn in situations like these, day-in and day-out? Every competency listed out in the performance appraisal charade will find resonance in the parenting. Every management jargon taught in, alienated from ground realities, B-Schools will find an echo in parenting. All the life-lessons emanate from life experiences and parenting is a key on-going life event, should you choose to be a parent.

The above is what I encounter/feel every day, hence I feel parenting is growing up together. At least for me.

Learning happens from children, too

On the face of it, adults teach children. Children are the receiving party to any learning and parents, along with schools and society, strive to make children life-ready. Can there ever be anything that parents can pick up from their progeny on whose education they end up spending a fortune of money, time and efforts? Unlikely, one might say.

My wife is an ardent believer that there is ample enough to learn from children. Only if, children are given a chance to express themselves and parents keep a receptive mind. Do not believe this?

Try teaching curiosity to children. What about exploring? Playfulness? Resilience? Spending an evening or morning with nature/plants/insects? Try teaching “having fun” to children. Or the dreadful “happiness” as defined by the equally dreadful Delhi government (do adults need to be taught to be happy or children)? I have not even reached innocence, simplicity and the likes.

Accept it. There are enough and more things to be learnt from children, only if we are game. We might teach them the hard skills, they can teach us the soft skills that we have long forgotten and stopped attaching any importance to. We can learn from kids if we get rid of the fascination and urgency to make them reach adulthood and be our replicas, sullen and inept.

I have bought this concept of child-led parental learning. It needs a lot of re-programming of the mind, my mind that is, and I am trying hard.

Growing Up Together

All of family/social/school/corporate learning is not of much use to me in hands-on parenting. I have nowhere to hide my weaknesses in front of my children. Even worse, they pick up from me. If I do wish good for my children, I have no option but to improve on myself, which I avoided/cooked up excuses not to do, all these years.

To do this course-correction for self, I also have the biggest of enablers – my daughters. Through their daily actions, I get a dose of what all is possible should I try and see the world through their eyes. Life is not as convoluted and mind-numbing as I have made it out to be. I can live a life if I give life a chance – my daughters’ teaching.

Needless to say, the change is not easy and there is a lot of friction as the old self refuses to let go.

In nutshell, parenting for me is – Growing Up Together.

5 Important Things To Speak And Do With A Child More Often

This is Part 2 of the article – 5 important things to teach a child, also the things that a parent can speak and do with a child more often. Click here for Part 1.

I don’t know. Let’s explore.

Children ask questions. They ask questions all the time. Expect them to ask unexpected questions at the most inopportune times. Till the time they indulge in their questioning, thank your stars. The innate and profound child in them is still alive. They haven’t yet started on their journey to silly and juvenile adulthood.

No sensible person would expect any adult, even an Einstein, to come up with answers to all the queries that a child comes up with. To a child’s question, the answer is, of course, important. Equally important is the process of handling and managing the question. To the child, her/his query is a matter of life and death. So, unless I know the answer, by trial and error I have ruled out the below responses.

Myself: I know the answer. The girl: So, tell me. The bluff does not work.

Myself: I will tell you later. The girl: When? When? When? Kicking the can does not work.

Myself: Ask me some other question. The girl: No, I want the answer to this question only. Diverting attention does not work.

Myself: You try and tell me. The girl: Um, um, um (thinks). Why are you asking me back (shouts)? It works once in a while, but recurring use backfires.

Myself: Behave as if I haven’t heard the question. The girl: Belittled, stomps out. The communication breaks down if done repetitively, very difficult to revive and get back the trust of the child.

Myself: Give an unconvincing answer, which in all probability is incorrect. The girl: Will keep raising queries, till I admit that I have no clue. To repeat, bluff does not work.

Myself: Shout. The girl: (unsaid) You are killing the curiosity and the child in me.

Suffice it to say, I don’t know. Let’s try doing it/read the book/search Google for the answer together.

Nothing better serves the quest for knowledge than the humility to own up and act in front of your child.

Speak Up

On the face of it, there is nothing more hazardous for a parent to teach a child than this: ‘Speak Up’. Even without teaching, the kids answer back. On top of it, when taught to ‘Speak Up’, the first victims of this newly taught and eagerly learnt skill will be parents. Who in a sane mind would want to increase her/his headache?

Believe me, if there is any learning that is going to hold the children in good stead in future when we are long dead, it is this: ‘Speak Up’. ‘Speak Up’ applies to the moral and ethical values that you would want your children to learn and hold on to. ‘Speak Up’ applies to all the discriminations, biases and injustices that the world will throw at your children and their resolve to face that head-on.

It is, of course, a matter of choice to teach this trait. The attribute to ‘Speak Up’ may not be considered a desirable quality in today’s world, wherein the ability to suck up to the powers-that-be is considered a virtue.

Given the current scenario of hatred and bigotry perpetuated by the right and the left, by the liberals and the radicals. I am convinced that without this quality taught to future generations, there won’t be a future left.

Childhood is the time to sharpen the cub’s claws, though the first blood that will get drawn will be parents’. For you would want your cub to grow up to be a fighter for the right, which may go against the might and the spite, teach them to ‘Speak Up’.

You are Unique

Right from the moment the baby is born, the parents/grandparents/relatives try to search for a bit of their selves in the baby. As the baby grows on to become a child, this search intensifies from the similarity of physical looks to the likeness of emotional and mental connect. The seeker, the adult, rejoices when s/he finds any parallel with the child, no matter how vague/made-up it might be.

As the child goes on to become a teen and an adult, the lurking world would want to co-opt her/him and bracket into already existing factions. The society would not let anyone enter the sanctum unless the norms are adhered to, the customs are followed, the rituals are respected, the rules are abided, all with staunch and unflinching allegiance.

This, again, is a matter of opinion. I get restless when anyone tells me not to raise questions but to follow. What good has ever been done by a person who accepts the status-quo, finds comfort in being a part of the herd and stays contented within the limits set by others?

Unless the boundaries are pushed, how will one ever feel the need to come out of the comfort zone/explore and determine/stand up for one’s self? Raising questions just for the sake of it is, of course, not the purpose.

The ultimate gift that a parent can give to her/his child – Individuality. Teach a kid to discover one’s self and have a unique identity.

These are the five things that we have been doing with our daughters in varying proportions. Hope to build on it further in time to come, speak and do with a child more often.

What would be your views? What would be your points that a parent can speak and do with a child more often?

5 important things to teach a child

Parenting means different things to different parents. As our twin daughters turned six years, my wife and I took stock of what parenting means to us. How we have been going about raising our daughters. Along the way, there has been un-learning and re-learning, going back and forth, sticking to the conventional, trying out the un-tested and a lot more in between.

We asked ourselves what we could have done more/less with our kids as parents. It turned out to be a never-ending list. To keep it simple and do-able, I classified the list into different sections. This article is about one such section of 5 important things to teach a child.

As parents, we want our children to do better than what we have done/are doing. We want our kids to be better human beings than us. In short, we would want our kids to be more than the sum of the parts (parents). If this is to happen, if it is to have any real chance to happen, it surely needs a conscious attempt from the parents. A lot of attempts, lot many times, and on a lot many things.

Below are the 5 important things to teach a child, that we wish we could have done/spoken about more to our twin daughters.

Take/Give No as an answer

Setting rules and indulging kids are two sides of the same coin – parenting. Doing one without the other can have disastrous results. There is absolutely nothing wrong in saying a ‘No’ to a child. Subconsciously we say ‘No’ to our kids quite often. It is just that when we have to mouth a conscious ‘No’ that leads to doubts in our minds if we are doing a correct thing/denying a child.

It is not just about preparing the kids for the external world, wherein they are going to get snubbed and slighted. Even within the four walls of the house, the kids need to get it straight that few things a strict no and few things are a maybe dependent on factors. They better learn to take ‘No’ as an acceptable answer. It is for everyone’s benefit.

Remember that the kids grow and that too, fast. S/he is going to be a teen and an adult, very soon. Imagine the situation if a teen has not been taught to take ‘No’ as an answer in her/his childhood. Of course, the ‘No’ has to be explained to children with logic, reason and clarity. Else, it will serve no purpose other than being a parent’s convenience/ego trip.

Giving and taking ‘No’ as an answer is again the two sides of the same coin – parenting. It is not a one-way wherein only the parent can have the liberty to say ‘No’. One might say that children say ‘No’ all the time, what’s to be taught in this? The real test is to teach a child the reasons and the judgement to exercise the power of ‘No’.

Taking and giving ‘No’ as an answer is what teaches children to give and take respect and also to develop and apply reasoning. An important thing to teach a child.

Get up/Do it yourself

One of my daughters has fallen/tripped. What would be my first reaction as a parent? I stay put where I am, I don’t rush to lift the girl and console her. I know, I get nasty stares from people around who doubt my capability as a parent. At times, even my family members don’t get my response. I tell them and the girl, if she comes to me at all, that she is fine and it is fine to fall, now that she is up.

I strongly believe that children are inherently resilient and brave. Time and again, my daughters have proven this to me, people around and their selves. Just that our fears and worries get the better of us. We panic and rush towards the child when s/he falls and in the process; the child learns fear from the parents and the society.

I too used to rush when my daughters were toddlers. I realized that more often than not the girls interpreted the fall basis my response and not the fall, per se. Hence, I started to hold myself back to see their reaction and it turns out that they are fine taking care of themselves. For every fall, I do take a mental note on the severity of the injury, if any, so that I can rush in future if need be.

Not the same context as above, but imagine the child trying out a new activity. For that matter, even a tried and tested pursuit. It did not work out as the child thought/planned/made it out to be. S/he starts getting fidgety, the murmurs start and a full-fledged howling follows. I again teach myself to hold back and not do the stuff on my girls’ behalf.

Falling and failing is not a chance to wail and wallow. It is an opportunity to rise by self, again get going and try not to repeat what led to the fall/failing.

The child’s learning of independence and self-belief comes at a price, at times blood and sweat of parents and child, too. Another important thing to teach a child.

 Click here, for part two.

Life Skills For Children: Vegetable Shopping

Vegetable shopping is a favourite activity for B +ve and O +ve that they look forward to every week.

Earlier, we used to go to the supermarket for vegetable shopping. I realized that it was not working out with the girls. They liked to touch and pick the vegetables. However, the crates arrangement in the supermarket was not conducive for the girls to get to work. So, we switched over to the weekly market that gets organized on the roads.

It has been a revelation for the girls and for the last two years, we have been doing this every week. The girls get their cloth shopping bags, the shopping list made by their mother and we are ready for the adventure.

I realized that it is not just the experience of vegetable shopping that O +ve and B +ve get in the weekly market; they also learn a number of life skills in the process.

Experiencing the real India

Weekly market happens on the arterial roads with vehicular traffic in full swing. The hawkers and the vendors put their vegetables on the road or on the pushcart – in the open. The girls experience the real markets with dust, dirt, heat, smoke, dogs, puddles, vehicles, people and everything else.

With the supermarket, they were seeing the sanitized environments. Now, they see the real India and they interact with ease.

I do not know how India will be when they grow up to be an adult. However, I feel that the transition from the road-side market to the sterile surroundings of the supermarket is relatively easy than the other way round. Navigating the maze of the weekly market as compared to the aisles of the supermarket may hold them in good stead when they grow up.

Talking to strangers

Due to the very nature of the weekly market on the road in the open, there are actually not many children out shopping. So, when the hawkers, vendors and the fellow buyers see two girls moving from one push-cart to another, they ask their names and what they are doing.

As the girls stay-at-home and do not go to formal learning environment, the weekly market serves as a good mechanism for them to get introduced to people and speak to them.

Understanding the concept of money

The girls pick their vegetables and also pay for their buy each time, taking turns.

In the weekly market, nobody accepts digital payments. So, we have to pay in cash. The girls understand that there are Rs. 50/-, Rs. 100/-, Rs. 200/- and Rs. 500/- notes. These are to be paid to the vegetable uncles and vegetable aunties and we get the change in return.

I understand that the girls are missing out on knowing about card payments and mobile wallets. But I suppose they will pick up along the way.

Knowing real vegetables

The girls did learn about vegetables from their books. However, they are all neatly coloured and of uniform shape and size. The supermarket sells graded and sorted vegetables, many a time. Going to the weekly market, the girls know how to pick tomatoes – red and medium-sized, and to avoid tomatoes with holes, that are green and soft. They know how potatoes and onions can be really out of shape and huge and tiny. They know how to pick brinjals, they know how arvi comes with so much of soil attached to it.

I felt that supermarkets, though they sold exotics, were weaker when it compared to stocking local leafy vegetables and gourds. The weekly market does not sell exotic vegetables. But they have all the local leafy vegetables and gourds – based on the season.

This has ensured that the girls know pretty well about the local vegetables basis their vegetable shopping experience.

Working at home with their buy

Coming back from the weekly market, the girls know that all the vegetables have to put in their respective baskets and bags. They practise their counting while putting the vegetables in their place. Having the ownership of their buys, the girls help their mother in the kitchen with all the cleaning, chopping, cutting and preparing the curries.

I suppose this has really helped in ensuring that B +ve and O +ve eat all the vegetables.

Going to the weekly market has another advantage that the girls do not get distracted by the processed food – chips and chocolates and the likes that the supermarket tries hard to sell to children.

Conclusion

Vegetable shopping can be a chore and difficult to get children excited about this task. However, for some reason, this has turned out to be an exciting weekly mission for O +ve and B + ve, till now.

I suppose they are not just learning vegetable shopping, they are learning a number of life skills along with.