Small girl wearing a red helmet and riding a red bike on the sidewalk with green trees and grass in the background.Creativity

How To Teach A Kid To Ride A Bike

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How to teach a kid to ride a bike can be a daunting task for some parents. And equally scary for the children too, who are learning to ride a bike. Their fear of falling and hurting themselves holds them back from letting go of their training wheels.

If you are having a difficult time teaching your child how to ride a bike, these psychological techniques will remove the mental blocks that are holding them back. As a parent (and coach), your job is to let them fly free and enjoy the thrill of riding a bike with their friends as soon as they safely can. Use these easy steps to teach your kid to ride a bike in no time.

How To Teach A Kid To Ride A Bike: The Simple Trick

There are just two main things you need to do to get your child riding their bike solo and without training wheels. The first is to let them know that you are nearby and they are not going to get hurt.

The second is to allow their natural ability and reflexes to balance their bodies to take over the bike riding process. You do this by actively preventing their conscious mind from transferring its doubts and fears on to their subconscious.

If you understand the process and do it right, in most cases you can get any child riding their bikes solo very quickly. Here are the three simple steps for helping your child to learn how to ride a bicycle.

Always use a helmet on your child and yourself when riding a bicycle. It is also a good idea to use other protective gear such as knee and elbow pads, and protective gloves.

1. Reassure Your Child That You Will Not Let Them Fall Off The Bike

A dad teaching his daughter how to ride a bike by holding her bicycle and helping her ride.

Start the process with making sure that your child fully understands that there is no possibility of getting hurt during the learning process.

Go with the smallest (shortest) bike that is still practical for them to ride. If their feet can readily reach the ground and stabilize them from a fall, they will be more confident. You can always go up a size once they get used to riding the smaller bike.

Before they start peddling and moving forward, tilt the bike and let them see for themselves that either their own feet or your hold on them will keep them from falling. Demonstrate and practice this several times till they understand this.

And when they do get going, make sure you are always a few inches away from holding them safely as you will likely need to do this in the beginning.

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2. Don’t Lecture Them On How To Ride A Bike

Young girl in blue jeans and a blue and white checkered top having fun while riding a red bicycle with her legs off the pedals.

Don’t provide many suggestions for how to ride a bike or balance themselves. Only reinforce to them that you are always close enough to catch them from falling.

If you provide too much verbal instructions, it will make them overthink the bike riding process. Their bike riding will become all the more unnatural. Plus, this will imply to them that the process is very complicated. Their fear level will go even higher than it already is.

3. Allow Their Automatic Reflexes To Balance The Bicycle

Almost all of us healthy humans have a natural tendency to re-balance ourselves when our bodies go off kilter. Think back on a time when you lost your balance. An automatic and fast response (the righting reflex) would have kicked in to quickly try and get your body upright again.

You want your child to use this as much as possible when teaching them how to ride a bike. However, our conscious minds which are full of doubts and fears, can inhibit this reflex and cause your child to hesitate and fall.

The trick is to distract their conscious mind and keep it occupied so that their subconscious/automatic sense of balance dominates. Luckily, our conscious minds can concentrate on only one task at a time.

Occupy Your Child’s Conscious Mind With A Repetitive Task

Tell you child that you are going to hold them completely during the bike lesson. All they have to do is loudly call out a sequence of numbers. Go with one that is not too hard remember but still needs them to memorize a small pattern. You can also ask them to repeat back a string of words or a sentence you have made up.

A number sequence like “876-24315” works great. As they start peddling forward and with you holding on to them, have them continuously repeat this sequence out fairly loudly. This keeps their conscious mind busy and less able to transfer fear to the subconscious mind that instinctively knows how to balance our bodies.

Black text in a caption saying 1, 2, 3... let's go!

Depending on your child’s ability and after some time of this, start releasing your hold on their bike for a few seconds at a time. Give them short bursts of solo riding and see how they are doing. If they are busy reciting the number sequence, they may not even realize that you are letting go.

Always make sure you are running alongside ready to catch them. Very soon they will be off on their own for longer periods. And solo bike riding soon thereafter. If you started with a smaller bike, have them ride it for a few more days. When their confidence and balance is more robust, transition to a bicycle of the right size.

Why This Works And Quickly Teaches Your Kid How To Ride A Bike

Boy riding a blue bike on a road with green grass and trees in the background.

The biggest obstacle to riding a bike is a fear your child has of falling and getting hurt. When doubts occupy someones conscious mind, they hinder your child’s natural balancing abilities. Your job as a coach is only to remove interference that is preventing your child from learning how to ride their bike.

Our bodies automatically have the ability to balance ourselves, even on a bike. Keep the conscious mind focused on a repetitive task and allow the person’s balancing reflexes to do the heavy lifting.

Use Repetitive Reciting To Coach Your Child In Other Sports

A common mistake parents and amateur coaches make with kids is that they provide too much verbal advice and suggestions. They spend time explaining and demonstrating certain techniques. As a result your child will overthink everything, be stressful and falter.

What a coach should be focusing on is removing things that inhibit and interfere with the kid’s ability to perform well. Usually this takes the form of hesitation and nervousness, specially when the children have to perform in a team or in front of an audience. All of this is driven by their conscious mind preventing their innate reflexes from taking over and excelling.

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Getting them to repeatedly recite a number sequence or a set of words during practice will again keep their conscious minds busy and thus, unable to disrupt the natural flows of their automatic reflexes which allow them to perform the action correctly.

It works great with tennis strokes, baseball or cricket pitches/catches/swings, football throws/passes, and soccer set pieces, passes and dribbling.


Shaun Mendonsa, PhD is an influencing expert and pharmaceutical development leader. He writes on the topics of influence and persuasion, and develops next generation drugs in human pharma by advising international pharmaceutical CROs and CMOs. He can be reached at smendonsa@master-influencer.com.


Keywords

How to teach a kid to ride a bike; How to teach your child to ride a bicycle; Coaching; Righting reflex; Parenting; Bike lessons; How to ride a bike; Bicycle riding; Sports.

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