Kids and bikes – riding free with friends through out the neighborhood – it seems like it is a natural passage of childhood to jump on a bike and ride like the wind! But, for a child who is anxious, the idea of learning how to ride a bike can be overwhelming and stressful. Using these tips might be helpful when trying to teach an anxious child how to ride a bike.
It has been an exciting week around here! Jude, who is almost 8 years old, finally got his confidence and rode his bike without training wheels!! Jude has been a child with anxiety for his whole life, we have learned that there are just some things in life that he will take longer to achieve due to this anxiety. Riding a bike has been one of those things. He thinks too much, he doesn’t think about the fun that comes with riding a bike but instead he thinks about how much it might hurt to fall, what people are thinking about him as he fails over and over, and the science of a bike. This was not an easy achievement but guess what? HE DID IT!!!!
We are not experts on what works best for all children when it comes to learning how to ride a bike but I do think we have a few great tips that might help other parents dealing with the stress and frustration of teaching their anxious child how to ride a bike. Before we dive in, I just want to let you know – we feel your frustration. It is so hard not to PUSH your child too much in these situations. Raising an anxious child is not easy but we are finding our ways.
How To Teach An Anxious Child How To Ride A Bike
For Jude, he needs to know what our plans are, it helps him feel like he is in control. Before starting this weekend we told him we would be going outside and taking off his training wheels and giving the bike riding thing a try again. This helped him come to terms with what activity he would be trying.
Once we got outside to begin this lesson, we told Jude that he would just have to give it a try for 10 minutes and then he would be able to play in the yard for a bit and then he would have to get back on the bike again for another 10 minutes. Once this cycle started he was comfortable and felt more in control!
This was my hardest tip to abide by. Honestly, I struggle a lot with Jude, he is just so sensitive and so anxious that at times I am not sure how to parent him. If you are the parent teaching the child or just there for moral support, stay positive. Anxious kids worry about letting their parents down. I could see this in the seconds with Jude. He was so worried that he was not EVER going to be able to do it and that we would be angry with him.
Try not to yell – even if it is happy yelling, you need to come off at positive. Keep all communication clear and with a positive voice. The words – “You got it!”, “Peddle, Peddle Peddle!” and “Peddle Faster” are great examples. You could also communicate with the child that when you are raising your voice it is just because you want to make sure they hear you as they are moving faster than you. Make them feel good about their effort no matter how long it takes!
Teacher and child will both need breaks. As stated before be clear with the time limits and take breaks to relax and get centered again. Breaks are important but make sure that you stay outside and around the bike so that the child knows it is just a break.
Practice Positive Self-Talk
I cannot tell you how many times I heard “I can’t do it!” from Jude when attempting to ride a bike. After saying it over and over again it absolutely defeated Jude. He was crying, frustrated and so upset. After telling him we did not want to hear that bad talk he stopped. It’s normal to be afraid of something we’ve never done but this is a perfect time to learn that thinking and talking positive can change your outcome.
Focus On The Destination
We noticed that Jude was more worried about falling and how he was sitting on the bike rather than focusing on where this bike was taking him. We picked an object for him to focus on while he started peddling, this helped him reach that object and stop thinking about the “What Ifs” of this bike ride.
Incentives (or bribes, whatever you call them)
After a few 10 minute increments of work on the bike, we decided to bribe…or give him an incentive. It was a big one but one that was attainable. A video game, if you are wondering. Something he has had on his wish list for months. Once he heard this, he worked and pushed and did it! It is important that the prize isn’t too big – do not go overboard because if he cannot achieve this he will then be even more defeated by losing the prize as well.
Call A Friend
Sometimes parents are not the best teachers – for many reasons. If this isn’t working for you and your child, find a trusted friend, neighbor or relative to assist in this activity. Often anxious children are so worried about not pleasing their parents that they cannot focus on anything else. Having a neutral party doing the teaching and coaching might help with this struggle.
Also, if your children are like mine, they probably do not hear what you are saying. Often my kids think I said something that sounded mad or upset when in fact I was happy. We read each other so differently, especially in a stressful moment like this.
Look at him go!!!! So happy!! And this wasn’t just a fluke, we have had numerous trips around the block without training wheels!! And now that we have seen this improvement and achievement, we are going to finally buy him a bigger bike. We knew this bike was too small for him, but the next size bike does not have training wheels so we had to wait until he learned how to ride without training wheels.
Are there any additional tips you would add to this list for teaching an anxious child how to ride a bike?
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