My daughter, Nee, has finally learned how to ride her bike. It took two parents, one aunt, one godmother, one grandparent and one little brother to make the bike riding lessons sink in.
Nee avoided riding her bike for months because she didn’t want to deal with the inevitability of my removing her training wheels. I had to intervene or else she would have been riding with training wheels well into her high school years. When she saw me removing the wheels, panic struck.
“Daddy,” she asked nervously. “Why are you taking off my training wheels?”
“So you can learn how to ride a two-wheeler,” I said. “Now get on.”
“But I don’t want to,” she replied.
“I know you don’t,” I said calmly. “But get on anyway.” We argued back and forth until I finally demanded that she mount the bike. As I guided her down the driveway, she started screaming in utter terror.
“Calm down,” I said. “We haven’t even started yet.”
“But I’m scared, Daddy,” she yelled. I didn’t respond. Instead I guided the bike into the cul-de-sac to begin our lesson. Using the technique that my mom used to teach me how to ride a bike, I grabbed the seat and handle bars, told Nee to start pedaling, and ran as fast I could pushing Nee along on the bike.
“Daddy! Stop!” yelled Nee. “I’m scared. I’m going to fall!”
“You’re not going to fall,” I said. “Daddy is holding you.”
“Don’t let go,” she begged.
“I will let go,” I responded. “And when I do, you need to keep pedaling as fast as you can.” The thought of my letting go terrified her and caused her to let out a blood-curdling shriek. Fearing the neighbors would call the cops on me, I ended the lesson.
For the next few weeks, we repeated this scenario. After a while, I was completely frustrated and told my wife, KayEm, that she would have to teach Nee to ride her bike because I didn’t have the patience.
KayEm’s attempts to teach her fared no better. More screaming. More frustration.
We soon discovered that Nee’s godmother, Adie, had not only taught her kids to ride their bikes, but half of the neighborhood as well. Little kids were constantly knocking on her door begging her to teach them to ride their bikes.
“Let’s take Nee to Adie’s house,” KayEm said. “Surely, such a bike master can produce better results than us.”
I was reluctant at first because I felt like a failure. In my mind, teaching kids to ride their bikes is a job for Daddy and I couldn’t do it. However, the more I thought about the frustration that I felt, the more I warmed to the idea of allowing Adie to take over the lessons.
We were so full of anticipation as we drove to Adie’s house. Even Nee was excited. Our high hopes quickly waned when Nee fell off the bike and refused to try any more. I began to feel hopeless. My poor daughter was destined to never ride a two-wheeler.
A few weeks later, Nee’s grandfather (Paw-Paw) and aunt Camella were at our house for a visit. The kids were getting antsy so we told them to go outside and play. For some reason, Nee, wanted to ride her bike and asked her aunt, Camella to teach her how. Nee’s screams caused aunt Camella to give up after several minutes. That’s when Paw-Paw intervened. Of course, he fared no better.
Finally, I had an idea. I removed the training wheels from her little brother, N’s, bike and told her that I was going to teach him to ride a two-wheeler. Of course he was thinking, “Why are you dragging me into this. I’m perfectly happy with my training wheels.” I took N into the cul-de-sac and pushed him along as he pedaled. Although he was afraid, he maintained a brave face. Nee could not bear the thought of N learning to ride a bike before she did and demanded that I help her ride her bike.
To N’s relief, I sent him back to the driveway and grabbed Nee’s bike.
“Are you really ready to learn how to ride your bike?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
“If you start screaming again,” I said. “I’m going inside.”
“Okay,” she said demurely. “I won’t scream.”
“You realize that I’m going to let go,” I said. “And when I do, you need to keep pedaling.”
“Okay,” she responded. “Just let me know when you’re about to let go.”
I held the bike tightly and began to run. As Nee gained her balance, she began to pedal faster and I began to loosen my grip. I continued running beside her until I was holding on no longer and she was riding without my assistance. When she realized that I wasn’t holding on, she immediately crashed.
“Daddy,” she screamed. “You were supposed to tell me when you let go.”
“I know, baby,” I said. “But I let go a long time ago and you were riding all by yourself.”
“I was?” she asked.
“Yes, you were,” I said. “Now let’s try it again.”
For the next few minutes we repeated the process until she was finally ready to ride without any assistance at all. Her first few attempts were shaky, but she finally got the hang of it and was riding around the cul-de-sac with pride.
Paw-Paw, Aunt Camella, Granny, and K all came outside to cheer her on.
After Nee completed her loops around the cul-de-sac, I gave her a big hug and told her that I was proud of her.
“I told you you could do it,” I said. “Daddy is so proud of you for being brave.” Nee smiled and asked if she could ride some more.
“Of course you can,” I said. As she rode away, I was awash with fatherly pride. One down, two more to go.
If you are looking for techniques to help you teach your children how to ride their bikes, here are a few resources:
Questions: How did you learn how to ride a bike? How did you teach your children.