August 21st, 2013 02:13pm

Is learning to ride a bike a must?


Learning to ride a bike. It’s a skill all children must learn, right? Just like learning to tie a shoe or button a coat, there comes a time in every child’s life when the training wheels are unscrewed and a few scraped knees are almost guaranteed. But what if a child has no interest in learning to ride a bike?

My 7-year-old got a Disney Princess bike when she was 4 years old. She was so excited to see her sparkly pink bike when she charged out to the tree on Christmas morning. After opening the rest of her presents, she was quick to head outside, put on her helmet and ride her bike down the sidewalk. But after the initial glee wore off, she rarely rode her bike. Despite my encouragement, she simply had no real interest.

A couple months ago, my husband and I decided it was time Aubrey learned to ride without training wheels. We hoped she would enjoy bike riding more without two small wheels slowing her down. She reluctantly agreed to give it a try, as long as Daddy had at least one hand on her at all times.

Surprisingly, my hesitant little girl actually had pretty good balance. She was able to keep her bike fairly straight and avoid a fall. But her ride didn’t last long. She was fearful of falling, frustrated that she couldn’t simply hop on and take off, and she was ready to park her bike within minutes.

Last week, while we were playing outside, I decided to try to get my daughter back on her bike. A post-ride Popsicle was promised, and we were off. Throughout the entire ride up and down the street, she had tears in her eyes. We were parking the bike again, within minutes, and my daughter told me she “never wanted to touch her bike again.”

I was sad to see my daughter so discouraged, and I started asking myself, “Does every child really need to learn how to ride a bike?”

Do you have a child that has no interest in bike riding? Do you think every child should, at some point, learn how to ride a bike?

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  1. August 22nd, 2013 10:44 am

    There is no overarching parental authority to dictate what parents must teach their children. Every skill children learn, however, ultimately translate into feelings of (in)adequacy when confronted with other children or ultimately adults who have skills that they don’t. Notice, for example, that non-musicians sometimes feel inadequate when they watch peers playing music. People who can’t swim also feel inadequacy when confronted with the prospect of swimming.

    Children used to eagerly learn and practice riding bikes because they saw other kids doing so and wanted to join in. Kids were allowed more freedom to go places on their own, I think, so a bike was a way to get to a playground or a friend’s house faster than walking or taking a bus. Nowadays, they have personal chauffeurs and secretaries to plan and drive them to play dates, so the need for independent transportation may seem more abstract to them.

    Personally, I think it would be good to see more kids independently getting around to playgrounds and other activities. I lament the reign of fear for various types of predators that has all but killed youth freedom of movement. However, it’s a vicious cycle chicken and egg type problem where individual children may not get motivated to ride bikes until they see others doing so, which won’t happen until those individuals get motivated and go.

    With the current backlash going on toward every form of pedestrian-friendliness progress and energy reform, it may be that we are simply continuing forward with a culture of driving around between air conditioned venues, which all but prohibits the freedom to bike around and play in the heat. On the other hand, though, there also seems to be a resurgence and ‘backlash’ against the backlash, so maybe there’s some hope for reviving outdoor living for youth in the long run after all.

    Good luck empowering your daughter in every way possible without traumatizing her permanently in the process :)

    by Adam

  2. August 22nd, 2013 4:49 pm

    My son is 11 !/2 years old and does not know how to ride a book. He has never learned for the same reason your daughter hasn’t. I hope that he one day will learn, but am not stressing over it!

    by Terri McKinney

  3. August 29th, 2013 6:47 am

    the lessons she is not learning will not serve her well in life. What about perciverence? She WOULD have been able to just hop on and go if she applied herself to learning. She seems to want instant gratification as we breed so many kids to do these days. I wish her the best but fear she will wind up working at McDonalds if she lets the demon of instant gratification purvade throughout her life.

    by terry

  4. August 29th, 2013 6:35 pm

    [...] Is learning to ride a bike a must? ( [...]

    by Summer Of Summers: The Boys Learned How To Ride A Bike! | Dad's Pixels

  5. September 2nd, 2013 8:25 pm

    I appreciate all the supportive comments! I think we are going to give it a few months and try again. :-) I’d love for my daughter to know the joy of riding a bike, but I also don’t think whether she learns to ride or not will make or break her future. Maybe trying when it’s not 90 degrees outside will be a little more enjoyable for everyone!

    by Stacy Fournier

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