| from Dr. Kathy Koch |

Do you remember learning how to ride a bike? You probably started with a three-wheeler tricycle that allowed you to learn how to pedal. Today’s children often begin with a plastic model they can even ride inside. Balance is easy.

When your parents thought you were ready, they presented you with a two-wheeler that probably had training wheels attached. This graduated step-up was a big deal so you might have received this as a birthday or Christmas gift.

Did both of your parents take turns watching you ride? I bet they were close by at first. Perhaps you had a long driveway to ride in, a safe sidewalk, or a country road without much traffic. 

Then, the day arrived, when they decided you were ready to have them remove the training wheels. You were mostly excited and perhaps a bit scared, too. They encouraged you to climb on the bike and maybe your dad was the one who pushed you to get you started. But he didn’t stay put while you drove off. He wasn’t distracted by anyone else, the weather, or a task to complete. No, he ran alongside ready to steady you with a quick hand so you wouldn’t fall or to protect you if he saw you were going down.

Now transitions continued, right? When you gained skill and confidence, no one needed to watch you ride. No one needed to run alongside of you. Then, when you proved you were ready, you were gifted with a larger and faster bike. Then larger still. The tires got thinner, the seat got higher, and off you went – independently riding.

Without beginning with well-designed support and then having it strategically and gradually removed, we would have been stuck riding our tricycle much longer than appropriate. We wouldn’t have felt safe trying to ride anything else. We never would have graduated to the taller and faster adult bikes.

I actually think we would have quit riding entirely. Eventually we wouldn’t fit on the tricycle. And we wouldn’t have wanted to be seen riding it because we would have been embarrassed. 

Or, think about this. What if you did graduate to a two-wheeler with training wheels, but your parents didn’t remove the training wheels when you knew you didn’t need them anymore? Again, you would have eventually been embarrassed and stopped riding. You might have gotten mad that your parents didn’t trust you to ride without them.

Let’s think beyond bikes. Children are back to academic learning and we need to discern how to best help them:

  • Are your children trying to learn something and you need to provide “training wheels”? What support do they need?
  • Do your children sense that you’re not involved and helpful? Do they think you’re distracted and not “running alongside”? What could you do now so they know you’re on their side?
  • Have your children plateaued in their learning because you’ve left their “training wheels” on too long and they need to be challenged? Do they think you don’t trust them to learn what they need to? What can you do?
  • Are you not challenging them with bigger and more challenging assignments that they’re actually ready for? How can you tell and what can you do?

You can do this!