you can do it!

learning to ride a bikeI once I saw a girl at the park with her dad learning how to ride a bike. She was fierce and determined in her impossibly large glittery pink and white helmet. After one particularly successful launch down the path from her dad, her front wheel caught the edge of the grass a little further down, she wobbled, veered off into the grass, and crashed at the edge of a hedge. As she was getting herself up, her dad sprinted toward her, repeatedly yelling her name. She looked at him and started crying, and was soon engulfed by the big parental hug and flurry of concern and checking of teeth and knees and elbows.

“Are you OK?!” the dad blurted, out of breath and at high volume. She nodded, the big helmet wagging forward and back.

“Where are you hurt?” he asked, and finally through her sobs, she managed,

“Daddy, you scared me.”

Children take cues from us to understand and contextualize situations, and about how to react. Not only do we adults help them to gauge the relative severity of a situation, in instances of learning, we convey expectation as well. Is falling down going to be a huge setback, or is it part of learning to ride a bike? In what I say and how I say it, does my child sense my confidence in her, or does she sense my fear and misgivings? Does she feel capable and strong, or overly fragile?

While it is easily argued that parental concern comes from a place of caring and love, raising our kids to be resilient and confident in the face of challenge often requires us to dig deep, push back our own worries, and put on a brave face. In our body language, tone of voice, what we say and what we don’t say, we help them get back on that bike. –t

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