Learning to Ride

Learning to Ride

Thursday, 10 September 2015  | Karissa - Assistant Principal - Secondary
I don’t know if you recall learning to ride a bike… those moments after the training wheels have come off, you’re pedalling along, and you’re doing it. Well, almost. Dad is still holding on with a firm grip to the seat, he’s just not willing to risk it yet. He can sense that you haven’t quite established your balance. He’s worried that when his hand comes off, you’ll realise and panic, perhaps even crash and injure yourself.

Eventually, after a little while of holding on, and perhaps with even a little begging of “Let me go Dad! Let me go!” he removes his hand and watches as you ride into the distance. A smile spreads across his face and yours. You’re doing it. You’re riding your bike!

Unfortunately however, you haven’t quite mastered the art of turning your head without turning the handlebars. You look across to see who’s watching. Crash. Down you go. Your palms hit the bitumen. Ouch. There are tears.

You’re not sure you like the idea of this ‘riding a bike’ thing. Best give up now. Quit while you’re ahead.

But Dad comes over; he helps you to your feet, brushes off the miniscule stones that have embedded a little into your knee. “You’re okay,” he says. “Hop back on, and try again.”

You see, your Dad knows what the journey looks like ahead. He knows that there was bound to be scrapes and bruises. But he also knows that you have the capacity to ride and that one day you’ll be riding on your own, going over jumps and up gutters. He knows that this day, this moment, will just be a memory; part of the journey of learning to ride.

As an Assistant Principal and Teacher, I have the privilege of seeing kids ‘learning to ride’ every day. They’re not learning to ride their bikes. Rather, they’re ‘learning to ride’ at life.

So how can we empower our children to ‘learn to ride’ with confidence and have the ability to be resilient enough to ‘get back up’ when things don’t go to plan?

How can we find the right balance of ‘support’ and ‘holding on’?

How do we move from being a ‘seat holder’ to a ‘keen observer’?

What happens if they ‘fall’?

It’s important to remember that progress comes through reaching for responsibility. Your child will never ‘learn to ride’ unless we allow them to take both feet off the ground and ‘go for it’.

Here are a few suggestions to consider:
  1. Set boundaries and allow consequences – make sure your child has clear boundaries to work within. If they step outside of these, or if they make mistakes, allow the consequences to happen. If we protect our child from the consequences of their decisions we will not allow them to develop their resilience to cope in the future.
  2. Hand over control and don’t take it back – find an area of your child’s life where they can make the decisions or pick up responsibilities. (What clothes to buy, what to wear to school, what sports club to join, whether to get a part-time job.) And if things don’t go to plan… Avoid “I told you so.” More often than not, their poor choice or lack of responsibility and subsequent experience will speak for itself, and help to guide their decision making in the future.
  3. Assist, but don’t take over – if your child is struggling to complete a homework task, don’t offer to do things for them, or tell them what to write. Rather guide them to read over the requirements, direct them to places to find information, and encourage them to persevere.
  4. Be willing to let go but remain on the sidelines - as much as handing over responsibility is important, so too is remaining present to encourage and cheer on. Remain interested in what is going on in your child’s life. Don’t stop asking about their day.
I still recall the greatest lesson that my Dad taught me when learning to ride my bike, and later when learning to drive a car. “Look well ahead. Focus on what’s coming. You’ll find it easier to move in a straight line.”

We have a Father in Heaven who has great love and compassion for His children. He has given us the freedom to negotiate this thing called life. He has taken His ‘hands off the seat’, but he is still right there. He has the whole picture in mind. He knows what lies ahead and His plans for us are good. But that doesn’t mean that we won’t ‘fall off’ or ‘crash’ from time to time. Being a Christian isn’t always a smooth ride. There will be times when the road is rocky and we lose control. In those moments our mindset might be to ‘give up’ or even think that God doesn’t care.

We need to remember God’s perspective. The ‘long-range view’. The hiccups of your life will develop your perseverance; they will build your resilience. (James 1:1- 12) And when you fall, God is waiting to pick you up, to brush you off, and to set you back on your way toward the amazing plans He has for your life.

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