How To Apologize To Your Kid

After the discussion on why to apologize to your kid, it is time to put it into action. So, here we are: How to apologize to your kid.

It is not a child’s play to apologize to your junior version. A casual sorry tossed at the child can do utmost harm than any good. The after-effects of a botched up/slapdash attempt at trying to make up with a child can linger on and create havoc with a child’s and parent’s lives. So, beware and think over before saying sorry. It matters how to apologize to your kid.

As is the case in most aspects, there are 101 ways to screw up apologizing to your kid. However, the correct way is limited to just one. So, here goes the list of don’ts and at the last – a single do to apologize to your kid.

Apologize To Your Kid Personally

There will, normally, not be a tag-team action from the parents to hurt the child. It will be a case of one parent taking a lead in sledging the kid and the other parent trying to douse the fire. The one, who ignites, has the responsibility to put out the blaze with the child.

In the most Indian scenario, the mother tops in frequency at taking it out on the kid but the father does the maximum damage. Now, this is a problem on hand. The Indian culture does not expect the man to clean up the dirty linens he has left behind. So, more often than not, the father behaves like the man that he is and not as a father that he should be. Meaning, he does not apologize to the kid.

I have learnt from my personal experience that the mother apologizing on behalf of the father serves no purpose. I have also learnt that the well-meaning relatives – grandmothers/aunts can apologize as a substitute on behalf of the rampaging father, but again, it is a fruitless exercise with zilch benefits. The accountability to apologize to your kid cannot be outsourced to anyone.

The child has to be apologized to by the parent who has hurt the child. If the offender is a father, he has to learn to be a man – Learn to own up to his child and say sorry.

Do Not Seek Forgiveness

The parent does not know what he/she has made the child go through. There is no way to know what the young mind has endured in the frenzy that the so-called adult has conferred on the poor kid. Limit the damage by expressing regret and don’t try to over-do the repair job.

More often than not, the slinging saga shall be repeated by the parent and the kid will not at all find amusing at the second/third time – the forgiveness drama. The try at generating the positivity vibe is good, but if you are so good, then there would have been no need to apologize in the first place. So, stay put.

A plain vanilla regret to the child will suffice and not an overkill of pity/mercy/amnesty.

To  Apologize Is Not A Learning Opportunity For the Kid

Of all the ways and means to screw up an apologizing job, the worst is to treat it as a learning opportunity for the kid. No, it is not. You have made a mistake and hence you have to own up. Do not apologize as a ploy to try and teach a kid the benefits of apologizing, how to apologize etc. To do this is the heights of hypocrisy/pretence from the parent.

If the parent can’t do any good to the child, at least he/she should not further the harm by the apology deceit.

Once An Apology Is Tendered, Give The Child A Break

Ok, great, the parent has apologized to the kid. So, what should the kid do? Jump with joy and hug the parent. Maybe/maybe not. He/she has the right to sulk and be in a bad mood for the time he/she chooses.

Please do not rush the child and expect the regular behaviour to resume ASAP, even if you have apologized. You have not done a great favour to the child by apologizing, you have just done what you brought it upon yourself by shouting at the hapless kid.

You Apologize For Your Behaviour

An apology can go into details/finer points, but limit it to yourself. Do not try to intertwine the child’s behaviour and try to make him/her responsible for what you did. Similarly, do not try to bring in extraneous circumstances as an excuse. This is not called an apology but passing the buck. It is not a nice thing to do.

How To Apologize To Your Kid

As soon as you realize you have hurt your child, immediately and honestly own it up. Say – I am sorry for what I did/said. I have hurt you and I should not have done so. I am sorry.

It is easier said than done. I just keep telling myself that whatever else I do/speak about is going to worsen the situation, so keep quiet and apologize.

What’s your say on how to apologize to your kid?

PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, growing up together with my children. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Stand UP, Speak OUT!!! #IAmAParent.

Why To Apologize To Your Kid

Parenting involves tasks: planned/unplanned, routine/one-off, joyous/miserable, silly/mature. No task is lesser than the other or more important than the one up next. However, some of the tasks never get the attention they deserve from the parents. One such task: Apologize To Your Kid.

One might feel there is something wrong here. The child has to learn to apologize (this is an acceptable topic in parenting discussions). After all, the kids are always up to something that they should not be doing. The kids have every reason to apologize though they won’t. Saying sorry and owning up needs to be taught to kids and can be spoken about by parents.

But, a parent has to apologize! That too, to the child!! One’s own child!!!

Parents Make Mistakes, Too

The basic tenet: Humans make mistakes. When humans falter, they own up and express regret. Now, it so happens that parents are humans too. If humans can make mistakes, so can parents. If humans should/are expected to apologize, why not parents? Why would apologizing to one’s kid be a taboo subject?

The issue seems to be with popular culture. Somehow, somewhere, the thinking that has taken roots is that the parents do not make mistakes when it comes to their children. The parents have the best interests of their children in mind and actions, so whatever they do/don’t do has to be/is fine. The parents are next only to Gods, rather even more than Gods, for they are living Gods.

Well, parents, as mortals, can end up taking out their frustrations at their children for no fault of theirs. The child could make a tiny mistake, but end up hearing an earful because the parent had a bad day at the office.  Or even worse, the child did not do anything wrong but he/she was the only one the parent could take it out on.

The kid wants quality time and attention from the parents, but they are into their screen time. The child wants to voice/share his/her feelings/aspirations, the parents are busy with their rat-race/lives. Or, the parent is actually trying hard to do some good/worthwhile for the child, but the child has some other ideas.

At the best of times, even if the intention is right, the execution can go horribly wrong. And at times, even the so-called right intention gets misplaced/mistimed/misdirected. The parents can get it wrong – transactional/strategic/behavioural/plain bad luck. Who’s the adult in all these? Who has to own up? Why invoke notions of parents as holier-than-thou?

Doesn’t the child deserve an apology?

Change The Narrative

The social/professional life requires an adult to own up if he/she has goofed up. Yes, high and mighty, powerful and influential, gets away without owning up. Somehow, the parenting seems to mirror this real-life scenario. The child can be intimidated, is helpless to snap and vulnerable to be taken for a ride without a helmet. In short, no apologizing required by the parent.

Do we see examples of a public apology by parents to their children? Do we get to hear about private apology by parents to their children? Leave aside public/private apologies, have we known about our grandparents apologizing to our parents? Most importantly, have we ever been apologized to by our own parents? A resounding No. There is no precedence of a parent apologize to his/her kid.

Come on, he/she is just a child. The kid won’t even remember tomorrow what happened today. My parents did not apologize to me and I turned out fine. What’s the fuss? Well, the child has the full range of emotions and does have a strong memory than he/she gets credit for. Moreover, isn’t there that tiny reminiscence wherein you feel your parents could have done better?

In nutshell, the chequered past/misplaced notions cannot be the reason for junking an upright behaviour. If a certain aspect needs a change in thought and application, so be it. The logic that it has not been challenged till now so it’s fine, is outrightly flawed and makes us Neanderthal. Lack of sensitivity on parental apology to children is a sure-shot candidate for this distinction.

Apologize To Your Kid

Parents feel that they have every right to an apology from their children. They might as well learn to give one back – an honest regret.

Parents try hard to make their children decent human beings. They might as well accept that they too are humans enough to make a mistake when it comes to their children and raise a hand to it.

Parents want to teach owning up and saying sorry to their children. They might as well walk the talk by owning up and saying sorry themselves to their children.

It is a fundamental right of a child to receive an apology from the parent, as and when the parent – the human screws up. (Coming Next – How To Apologize To Your Kid).

What’s your say?

PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, growing up together with my children. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Stand UP, Speak OUT!!! #IAmAParent.

Childhood Obesity: Shame The Popular Culture, Not The Children

Being a child is a risky proposition. The kid doesn’t understand the hypocrisy of adulthood. One sure shot example of such societal double-standards is childhood obesity. Society looks down on obese children. And the same society promotes the food habits linked to childhood obesity in the popular culture. What’s the kid to understand and do?

It’s birthday/party/celebration/get-together/having a good time/feeling happy – What’s to be done? Have unhealthy food and sugary drinks and fried items and above all, chocolate. After having all these food on a varied basis, the child will gain weight and society will look down on the obese child. What’s the kid to understand and do?

Yes, childhood obesity is not linked to food alone. However, genetics is beyond one’s control. So, what remains within one’s realm of influence is food habits and lifestyle. Of these two, what can a child really influence? Practically, nothing. To make matters worse for the obese kid, there will be few children who will binge and not put on visible weight. What’s the kid to understand and do?

Let’s get it straight. No child wants to be obese by choice. Nobody has any business fat-shaming a child. If anybody has any business associated with childhood obesity, then that has to be with shaming the popular culture of having unhealthy sugary/salty/oily foods. This is what the kid will understand and can do.

The Popular Culture

Many things give nightmares to parents. For us, one of such things is the popular culture of having unhealthy food for any/all occasions. Fortunately, we do not have a television at home. But the messengers of junk food abound all-around – relatives/play-mates/hoardings/slick packaging of the unhealthy food products in the supermarket etc. There’s no way to hide from them.

We explain to our twin daughters: What’s good to eat and what’s not. They nod their heads. Then, they get invited to birthday parties. No prizes for guessing what’s on serve. The girls get confused. We tell them that it’s fine to have such food at times, and they do have it. That’s not the problem. The bigger issue is the assumption that one needs to eat sugary/salty/oily food to celebrate/feel happy.

Then come the relatives/friends from outside India. With all due respect to them, they assume that the best gift possible to native Indians is exotic chocolates. That’s it. I have been unable to tell them discreetly that a little chocolate now and then does hurt. I have been unable to ask them if they have not been able to find any healthy options abroad.

If nothing else, the visit to the nearby grocery store gives the finishing touches to whatever is left in corrupting the young minds. The shiny and glossy packaging will be omnipresent to entice the kids. What’s more – even the shopkeeper will try to hard sell to children, it’s his/her bread and butter. And, the child will think – yeah, that’s to be had/eaten to feel great about one’s self.

I sound like a killjoy for children, don’t I? But what’s spoilsport about it? What’s in this so-called popular culture that does any good to any children?

Shame The Popular Culture

It is time to call the bluff of the popular culture. It is time to call out the companies – be it MNCs or Indian on their predatory marketing for children. How can they keep attracting kids to consume food products that do no good to them or anybody else, including the environment? Though, to be honest, we are the ones perpetuating the popular culture and they are just providing the music.

Why cannot we have birthday parties without cakes and cold drinks and french fries? The marketing of tobacco/alcohol products is banned. How about banning the marketing of junk foods? The packaging of tobacco products shows the bodily harm done by those products. How about a similar packaging design for sugary/salty/oily foods? They don’t do any good to the body either.

The defunct Ministry of Women & Child Development can take out advertisements to inform children about unhealthy food habits and foods. The out of use CSR budget of corporate companies can run marketing campaigns highlighting the adverse effects of junk foods on children. The sportspersons can show during IPL matches – What the real secret to their energy is.

See, these suggestions have got nothing to do with consumerism. For people who want to promote consuming of unhealthy foods to children, let them do it. Simultaneously, they and if not them, the marketing and packaging of sugary/salty/oily food should inform children – What they are eating.

For once, let children see the pretences of adults about what they are making them eat to feel happy.

Childhood Obesity Will Only Get Worse

Among many losing battles, this one takes the cake, literally, even though celebrations can happen without the cake too. Who cares what children eat? How does it matter if parent’s lives become miserable explaining to children that others are taking the easy way out by offering them to eat, what’s easiest to offer and also, what’s unhealthiest to the body.

We as a society will keep making fun of obese children. And, at the same time, keep promoting unhealthy food habits, a prime cause for childhood obesity apart from genetics.

What’s more? We will also ensure that children go on to become hypocrites, just like us.

Popular Culture’s Mission Accomplished.

PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, growing up together with my children. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Stand UP, Speak OUT!!! #IAmAParent.

Safe Neighbourhood Is A Right Of Every Girl

Whom does the safe neighbourhood belong to? It belongs to people residing there and also the society and country, at large. It belongs to trees, birds, insects; and in India, it belongs to cars also! If the safe neighbourhood is a common resource, which it is; and an essential resource at that, I suppose a safe neighbourhood belongs to girls too.

(Neighbourhood is the area outside the gated community. It is the area outside the boundary walls of the apartment. It is a place with free access and not a restricted entry. With the shrinking of open spaces in India, the neighbourhood gets limited to by-lanes).

When there are so many burning issues around that require immediate attention, I know the safe neighbourhood for girls is an issue that easily goes on to a back-burner. Also, the refrain would be that the neighbourhood is already safe. Good people reside here, and anyway, there’s no issue as such. What’s the fuss?

Well, I also thought the same till the time B +ve and O +ve started cycling around – independently. What would be your reaction when you see six and half-year-old girls pedalling on the by-lanes in the neighbourhood? What would be your thoughts? You might say – What’s there to think? The girls are cycling. So, what’s there to react and speak?

I will share with you the exact reactions that our twin daughters get on their cycling expeditions. “What are you doing alone? Why are you alone? It is not safe for girls to be alone like this. Girls should not venture out alone. Why are your parents letting you out alone?” The girls get stopped on the neighbourhood by-lanes and are bombarded with these queries/statements.

The keywords are – Girls and Alone.

Why Can’t The Girls Be Alone?

I have been told by people who raised the questions about the girls cycling alone is that they are doing this out of noble intention. I don’t get the noble behind their intention. If they are scared about the well-being of the girls, they can ensure that no untoward happens to the girls – till the time they can see the girls (nobody would expect them to tail the girls).

They say that strangers can be bad for girls. Well, the people stopping my girls are strangers too and if they are claiming to be good, why would they allow any bad happening to a girl, or for that matter anyone, in their physical presence? They say that it is not their duty to ensure the safe passage of the girls. Well, if that is not their duty, what is their right to stop the girls from venturing out alone?

Everybody knows that India is no country to raise daughters. So, how shall we go about making India safer for girls? By locking them up at home (though, there is no guarantee of their safety at homes either) or by making the country secure – starting with safe neighbourhoods.

It seems that, for girls in India, the right to safety and the right to independence are mutually exclusive. If they have to be safe, they cannot be independent and if they have to be independent, they cannot be safe. It is nobody’s case that safety and independence have to be integral rights for every citizen and girls are citizens, too.

You might say that I am exaggerating/imagining. In that case, what are the premises under which my daughters, invariably, get stopped on their cycling independently? And yes, why only girls? Why not boys?

The Self-Confidence Of Girls

The continuous forewarnings hurt the self-confidence of my daughters. For that matter, they hurt the self-confidence of every girl who has to endure this. The “noble” counsel raises the fear/worry in their young minds that when they cannot even roam freely in a neighbourhood, what else can they do alone in this big world?

It becomes a difficult situation for a parent. You would want your daughters to sail the world, and then you realize that the neighbourhood, the very own neighbourhood where you stay, is beyond their reach?? The messaging that goes to the young minds is surely not motivational or inspiring.

When the girls, who have faced non-stop queries about their independent moving around since childhood, go on become young women, surely they do not feel emancipated all of a sudden. Rather, it would be more like they are used to be at the receiving end which they have accepted/forced to accept and they do more of the same to young girls in the neighbourhood.

Needless to say, it becomes a vicious circle wherein girls get ensnared right from their childhood in the name of being safe.

Safe Neighbourhood Is A Right Of Every Girl

Girls have a right to feel safe and be safe where they live. A lot is spoken/discussed about the rights of young women. This is, of course, par for the course – absolutely needed. What is also needed is that the girls get wings too, not far away but, in their very own neighbourhood.

The least a society and a country can do is to allow the girls to have the freedom to play and explore by the making of a safe neighbourhood. Girls have a right to enjoy their childhood and be treated as equal citizens of the country. The first step is letting them be, rather than locking them up.

Girls Can Do.

PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, neither an educationist nor an expert, just growing up together with my children. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Stand UP, Speak OUT!!! #IAmAParent.

Reclaim Open Spaces For Children: Car Parking

Children lack access to open spaces to play, have fun and live their childhood. Everyone agrees that open spaces are important for a wholesome and enriching childhood. But, the key ingredient – open spaces are in short supply. So, what can parents do about it? How can parents help the children to run around and well, be children?

It is a hard task. On the face of it, parents can say that children do not have access to open spaces simply because there aren’t open spaces around. What can they do about it? It is the Government’s responsibility to ensure the availability of open spaces and make it accessible to children. That’s all. The buck is passed and we, as parents, can have the satisfaction of having done our duty.

I also thought like this. What a single person or a group of people can do for a civic amenity? Then, I happen to look around. You also look around wherever you stay. Can you locate the open spaces? Actually, they are right outside your house/below your apartment/round the corner. Ok, they may not be huge but there are open spaces all around us, good enough for children to play and enjoy.

Where and what are these open spaces hiding in plain sight robbing the children of the opportunity to indulge in their childhood? If there are open spaces all around us, why cannot we see them and make it available to our children? Well, these open spaces have been taken up by a certain thing that has come to rule our lives.

Cars

Walk the area surrounding your house/apartment. We may or may not find the trees and bushes, or the stray animals. However, we are sure to find lots and lots of cars. The parked cars, stationary and lying idle, not going anywhere. These cars, in the process of going nowhere, take up lots and lots of open spaces.

All of us are aware that cars are hazardous when they move. Cars cause pollution – air and sound, traffic snarls, road rage, accidents etc. Yes, the cars on their own do not do any of these, the people driving them do. Similarly, when the cars are parked, they don’t do any good either. Again, it is not the matter of the cars per se, but the people owning the cars that create the issues.

A car owner shall not allow any play involving a ball in the vicinity of the parked car. Actually, a car owner shall not allow any play equipment to come near the car for the glasses may get broken.  Even worse, a car owner shall not allow a child to touch the car or even come near for the car may get scratches. Leave aside football/cricket, even tag/hide and seek are not allowed when a car is parked.

The car does not just occupy space as per its dimension/size when parked; it actually occupies space as per the car owner’s whim and fancies to keep the car unscathed. And, this space is much larger than the physical size of the car. After accounting for this mental space of the car owner around her/his car, there aren’t any open spaces left for children to play. Rather, even stand and talk.

Car Parking

One might say that cars are a required evil. But, how can even the parking of cars be evil? Per capita land availability in Indian cities is abysmal and that gets further compounded by cars parked indiscriminately, everywhere and anywhere. Why a dedicated underground parking lot is not considered a mandatory requirement to buy a car?

Some people might get offended by the idea of compulsory underground parking that it is too expensive and not a practical idea. For that matter, aren’t cars pricey enough to deserve a covered and committed parking? Why are cars parked on road-sides like stray animals and they can’t even be shooed away? Be it RWAs or commercial establishments, cars will be chaotically strewn around.

Have you ever tried speaking to a car owner about moving her/his car so that children can play? We try, the responses have been stares and outright indignation. For the car parked in front of our house, the truant owner removes the entity in question mumbling under the breath. For other cars parked in the lane, we are told to mind our business and not disturb the resting place of the prized possession.

If the cars have a utility to be driven, why can’t it be parked unobtrusively when not in use, without trampling upon the right of open spaces for children?

Reclaim open spaces

Imagine the open spaces that would be available for children to play and fool around if there are no cars on the ground except for moving on the roads?

Imagine the sounds of children revelling in joy and banter as compared to the ghastly silence of the parked car. Both of them vie for the same space in India and the car wins outright, as of now.

Along with children, imagine the space available for trees and plants, shrubs and bushes, if not for the idle cars lying around?

All the above and more are possible if we reclaim open spaces for the sake of children from cars.

What are your thoughts about the availability and accessibility of open spaces for children? Have I tried to over-simplify the problem by blaming the cars? What will it take for children to reclaim open spaces that are rightfully theirs?

Open Spaces For Children In India: A Myth

What is the ultimate joy of being a child? What should be the perk of being children? Where and how children get to live their childhood?

Few more questions. What is the most blissful for an adult in watching over children? What is it that delights adults, which a child engages in? For adults, what would be their childhood memories?

These are no trick questions. Think hard. A hint – All the above questions and even more questions that you can think of, similar to the above, has a single answer. Irrespective of who you are, where you are, varied social/economic class, the answer remains the same and yes, again an only answer.

For me, the answer is children in their natural surroundings, exploring, interacting and playing with other children, oblivious of the world around, just being children and having fun. There cannot be any other answer.

A child is not going to remember gadgets and toys, clothes and gifts when s/he grows up. A child is surely not going to recollect when s/he first saw the mobile and the countless mind-numbing screen time s/he had. But, a child is surely going to remember the experiences and the events that s/he has lived through; outside the home and more so, with other children. Come to think of it, these are the memories of your childhood that you still carry with you.

By default, these memories and experiences will have a common thread – open spaces. There is no exact definition of these open spaces. They can be a playground, an empty plot of land, a vacant parking lot, a gully/road with less vehicular traffic, with/without shade, but open nonetheless and also, safe and secure for children to mingle and goof around without adult/parental supervision.

Importance of open spaces for children

Open spaces and children obviously go hand-in-hand. Childhood connotes freedom and being self, uninhibited and natural. What better place to express this, than open spaces? Not just outside the confines of the four walls, but also beyond the endless directives of overbearing parents/adults?

Open spaces expose a child to all kinds of environs and interactions. It gives an opportunity to children for hands-on and experiential learning that no amount of simulated and artificial set-ups can ever do. And, yes it is free of cost, available any time of the day, never stocked out, fresh and novel every time and a lot more.

I can go on and on about the importance of open spaces for children. But I suppose, each one of us is aware of it and that’s not the point. The point is that even though all of us know about the benefits of open spaces for kids, all of us are blissfully unaware about the conspicuous absence of the open spaces, anywhere and everywhere, for children to express themselves.

Where are the open spaces?

Try to recall open spaces for children in any of India’s cities of today. Try harder. Come on, there has to be at least one, hidden somewhere, in the neighbourhood, in the ward/locality, or maybe in the entire city/state/country. Sigh, I cannot find any. You are lucky if you have found one for your child.

Mind you, similar to a spontaneous childhood not amenable to exacting adulthood, open spaces do not fall in the realm of adult understanding.

A playground is not an open space. It is not accessible to children across age-groups/it may not be free. More so, most of the playgrounds have now been taken over for some sort of sports coaching or the other purposes.

A park is not an open space. Do not believe me. Try visiting any large-enough park that is open from dawn to dusk. The trees will be taken over by swarming couples in dire needs of privacy. Surely, they are no places for children to be left alone. A community park is a shared resource between the retirees and children. Retirees do not like to have any kind of disturbance in their eternal chit-chats. The result – children of all ages are driven out from the parks or caged in one corner.

A play-area of a gated community is not an open space. Yes, it is open and accessible, but selectively. It is not within reach of the children of maids and drivers working there, children cutting across social and economic strata. This is a must-have condition of open spaces – kids getting diverse and heterogeneous exposure and not a mono-culture of ivory towers.

Vacant plots and parking lots, empty roads and by-lanes hardly exist in today’s urban India. If they do, they are not safe and secure.

Options, Choices, Future

In such a scenario wherein open spaces for children in India have turned into a mirage, what could be the options, the choices that we could have made and have actually made? What does the present herald about the future of open spaces for children? I have written about this in the second part to the current article. Publishing soon.

What are your thoughts on the open spaces, rather the absence of it, for India’s children?

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?