There are swimming teachers, soccer teachers, violin teachers—where are the teachers who show your kid how to ride a bike? Until that glorious day, here are a few tips to reduce tears and frustrations (primarily your own).
• Start slow, stay slow. Rather than buying an expensive Skuut bike, take the pedals and crank off a five-dollar bicycle from Goodwill and lower the seat. (YouTube will provide instructions.) Find a grassy park with a SMALL 30-yard slope, and have your kid coast down, lowering her feet whenever she needs to. When she’s consistently keeping her feet up, put a Skittle in her mouth. (Be patient, this process takes a while.)
• Put the pedals back on. For now, stay on the grassy hill. Let her put her feet down whenever—but also start dropping tips like, “Don’t look down. Head up, and look 20 yards ahead.” And, “Steer with your shoulders, not your hands.” Think of your upper body, arms, and hands as one piece as you hold the handlebars. When you push from your shoulder, the body naturally leans and the bike naturally turns. Hands are too jerky, and quick movements lead to crashes. When she perfects this, stick a Skittle in her mouth.
• Now add feet on the pedals—with a hand riding the REAR brake. (That provides 30 percent of braking power, which is enough for now. Later, teach her to gently tap-tap the front brake until she learns how it will react.) Put your hand gently on her back and walk alongside, encouraging her to look ahead, steer with the shoulders, and that speed = balance. Put a Skittle in her mouth.
• Again, patience. This could take weeks, so stop for the day before the tears come. As for you, stretch out, wear running shoes, and let her know before you stop holding on to the bike, and she’s suddenly riding off on her own, graduating middle school, beginning to date, and marrying a drummer. Put a Skittle in her mouth. Better yet? A bag of Skittles. (And one for yourself, too.)