Bike riding – helping your child gain confidence

Diane Levy joins us to provide expert answers to your parenting queries. Send your questions to: [email protected] Diane can’t answer individual queries, but we will endeavour to publish a representative sample on this page. You can also request an order form for Diane’s parenting books from the same address.

Dear Diane

oy son is 13 and too nervous to ride a bike. We bought him a lovely one but he refuses to use it, although he did learn to ride – albeit in a wobbly fashion – a few years ago. His friends all get around on two wheels during the weekend but often he isn’t invited, and I’m sure it’s because they think, “oh, Charlie won’t be able to get to oliver’s place because he can’t ride a bike.” How do we get to the bottom of his fear – or lack of confidence?

Susie, Kapiti Coast



Hi Susie

There are two parts to your question – how to teach our children when the task is too hard, and how to advise them.

When a task is too hard, we need to break it down into manageable bites. Get him a small bike – so his feet can touch the ground – with hand-brakes. Unscrew the pedals and let him scoot around, learning balance and speed control. Next, let him master pedalling. After that he’ll be ready to try steering.

There’s a good trick to advising our teenaged children. our instinct is to warn by prediction, for example, “If you don’t learn to ride your bike then you won’t be able to play with your friends.” Teens dislike this approach.

I’ve had greater success when I begin with “I’m worried that…”.  That way if we turn out to be wrong, it’s easy to be glad for them and apologise.

If we turn out to be right, it’s a good time to be quiet and let our child learn the lesson. We have greater credibility now, so the next time we start with “I’m worried that…”, our teens will listen.

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