Have you ever struggled to do something you thought should be easy?
My youngest son has been struggling to learn to ride his bike. He got his bike last year, but we realized soon after getting it, that it was too big for him, and he’d have to grow into it. We were excited to teach him this year. We took him out and followed the same steps we’d done with his older brother. We removed the pedals, and had him work on coasting and balancing first. Then we put the pedals back on in hopes he could balance and get his feet up on the bike. He learned to coast, and even get his feet up on the pedals momentarily, but without pedaling, the bike would tilt to one side and he would put his foot down. We kept trying to explain to him that the bike wouldn’t fall over if he started pedaling, but he didn’t believe us. He got frustrated and very upset. We even reminded him that he’d get a reward once he finally learned to ride his bike. That just seemed to make his disappointment in himself for not being able to do it worse. We abandoned bike riding that day and decided we’d try again the following, but the results were the same. He could coast, and get his feet up on the pedals, but would ultimately put a foot down without getting the bike going. He then let out a cry of frustration, disappointment and anger. “I’ll never learn to ride my bike!” he exclaimed and broke down in tears.
My husband and I were at a loss as to what to do; did we need to get him into a biking class, get him private instruction, or get him a different bike? I thought about how I learned. I didn’t appreciate how quickly I picked it up as a kid. I learned within an hour of my father and sister teaching me. I hadn’t struggled for long, and here was my son struggling for days on end. He desperately wanted to be successful, and was getting down on himself. We could tell that we had to figure out how to help him, or risk having him decide that there are some things in life he just can’t do (and that was *not* acceptable to my husband or I).
After two weeks of daily practice without success, I had an idea. What if one of us held the back wheel steady and gave him a push so he could pedal and get the feel of the bike in motion? We got our son up on the bike and he could push for a rotation or two, but when the bike leaned, he would put his foot down. He was frustrated, but we could tell he understood now what we’d been trying to explain. He tried again and again. Sometimes going a couple of rotations, sometimes not making it even one. We encouraged him not to give up, that he was very close. He got up on the bike again, holding the back wheel steady, he started to turn the pedals. One rotation, two rotations, three, four, five, and the bike kept going. He rode across the lot away from us. He got to a place where the pavement started to go back up and stopped himself. He turned back and shouted, “I did it!” It was a mixture of relief and pride. He continued his joy for the next minute saying so all could hear (and I’m guessing folks from a few blocks around could), “I did it! I didn’t think that I could but I did. I really did it!” By the time I caught up to him, he was happily shouting and crying. It made me cry. I knew how hard he had been trying, and how frustrated he had been. It was one of those moments where I felt I’d had some success as a parent. Those moments don’t come often, but when they do, they feel better than gold.
I think my son felt his achievement was better than gold too.
How have you helped your child succeed? How have you helped them when they struggled?
I will be taking some time off to enjoy the rest of summer break and will be back in September.