If you didn’t read last month’s post, Fear and Bicycles – Part One: Fear, please go back and take a look.
As a quick recap, last month I revealed that I taught my eight-year-old son to ride a bicycle in less than one day without using training wheels. We discussed that biggest obstacle to learning or trying new things is fear and we considered these three techniques for overcoming fear:
- Accept and Protect
- Dismiss and Do
- Address and Overcome
I revealed, that I used the Address and Overcome method while facilitating my son’s attempt to learn how to ride a bike, and in doing so, I broke the technique into four steps:
- Remove the Pedals
- Support – But Not Too Much
- Let Them Ride
- Stop Teaching and Start Cheering
Let’s look at how I did it.
Remove the Pedals
When we first got his bicycle, my son insisted that we install the training wheels. Even though I knew why he wanted them, I asked why. Unsurprisingly, he told me he was afraid of falling and getting hurt. I let him know that it was a rational fear and that he would, over the course of owning a bicycle fall several times mostly resulting in skinned knees. I told him about some of the more colorful crashes I’ve had in my bike riding history, and let him know that I was never seriously injured.
Then, to offset his fear, I took off the pedals and had him practice going in straight lines. This lets him “simulate” riding the bike by keeping his balance with the knowledge that if he fell, he could catch himself. As an added advantage he only had to concentrate on one skill, balance.
The purpose of this step is to break the task down into smaller, less intimidating steps. As kids successfully complete each step, they increase their confidence and reduce their fear.
Support — But Not Too Much
After some time coasting my son told said that was ready to try pedaling, as long as I would hold on to him while he learned. Because that was my plan, to begin with, agreed. Starting out, I made the mistake of trying to support him by placing one hand on the handlebars and the other on the back of the seat.
While at first he was comforted by this extra support, I quickly realized I was in control; he wasn’t, and when I let go he would veer off to the side and almost crash. So I started holding on to just the back of his seat. After several assurances that I wouldn’t let go, he agreed, and we tried again. It only took a couple of shaky starts for him to learn how to keep the bike straight while pedaling.
Let Them Ride
At the beginning of this process, I offered lots of encouragement, but when I felt my son was in control and well balanced, I just let go. I didn’t say anything or make a big deal because I didn’t want to remind him of his fear. He just rode.
It wasn’t until he stopped himself that I showed my excitement. That’s when I congratulated him. If I had yelled, “You’re doing it” or something like that while he was still riding, that would have opened the floodgates of fear and self-doubt. It’s like in the old cartoons where the character is perfectly able to walk off the cliff and suspend himself in mid-air until he realizes he isn’t on the ground anymore.
Stop Teaching Start Cheering
After this, I stopped being teaching and started being a cheer-leader. I held his seat a couple more times while my son learned to get started, but I didn’t tell him anything else. He figured out how to get himself going, how to steer with more precision, and what happens when he hits a curb that is too big for his bike. All I did during this time is tell him he was doing a good job and help him up.
As parents, we sometimes forget that discovery is the best way for our kids to learn. Self-discovered lessons are more easily remembered, they also build confidence and make trying new things easier. Fear diminishes when children are self-confident and feel they can take care of themselves.
Using the Address and Overcome technique you can quickly and easily get your children trying new things and heading off on countless adventures. Best of all, you get to spend quality time together. Have fun!