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?