I recently embarked on the adventure of teaching my boys (ages six and four) how to ride a bike without training wheels. After multiple sessions, our efforts paid off and both boys are doing very well at keeping their balance. (Now we just need to work on steering and braking!)
Our first couple of sessions felt a bit fruitless. We went out to a large empty parking lot. One of the boys would climb on the bike, I’d run alongside holding the handlebars, and occasionally let go for a moment. They usually couldn’t last more than a few seconds on their own (if that long!). As any parent who has followed this process knows, it’s rather demanding for Mom or Dad!
I was commenting to my wife that we didn’t seem to be making progress, and she did what any good millennial parent would do: she suggested I search online for tips. So I did, and discovered one strategy that appears to have made all the difference. Instead of running alongside holding onto the handlebars, the article said, run behind the bike holding onto the child. That way, they’re getting more of a feel for the bike since the parent isn’t holding onto it.
We gave it a try, and after just a couple of sessions, both boys were riding for long stretches without any assistance from me. Hooray!
As a father of young children, I’m not going to presume to have all the answers about how to raise godly children. I’m too early in the process. But it strikes me that my recent experience with bicycle training has some parallels to other aspects of parenting.
First, persistence and consistency are fundamental. Just as I couldn’t take my boys out once and expect them to master bike riding, I can’t explain concepts such as obedience, respect, the gospel, or anything else just once and expect it to stick. It’s a process. It takes time, repetition, and consistency. We’ll miss out on the rewards if we give up too early or practice too inconsistently. It’s easy to get tired, lackadaisical, or apathetic, but in truth, we can’t afford to indulge any of these. Too much is at stake.
Second, everything—and I do mean everything—must be taught. Now that my kids know how to balance, we have to work on steering and braking. Similarly, in other areas of life it sometimes amazes me the basic things I have to explain to my kids. Certain truths are so obvious to my adult mind that I have a hard time realizing that my kids don’t know them. But they don’t. And so my wife and I have to explain, and explain, and explain again, going over the most basic fundamentals of life until they understand. Whether it’s the proper way to wash our hands, how to have good table manners, or why they need to treat Mommy and Daddy with respect, my wife and I have to explain it all. But if we don’t teach them these things, who will? One lesson I’m trying to learn as a Dad of young children is to never take it for granted that my kids understand something if I haven’t explained it. It might be frustrating at times, but it’s important.
A third lesson from my recent experience is that the right strategy is fundamentally important. Now again, I’m still in the early stages of my parenting journey, so I’m not going to overstep my experience and tell you how to raise your children. What I will say is that the Bible gives us excellent direction. One of the fundamental principles I see as I look at Scripture is the importance of consistent parental involvement and instruction. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 is a classic passage on this subject. Here, God tells us to operate in essentially a constant mode of discipleship. It’s a high standard and one I frankly don’t measure up to nearly as well as I’d like, but it’s something to aspire to. It’s fundamentally a simple strategy, one that might even appear primitive by modern standards, but we’ll never improve on God’s model. As parents, we need to consistently—dare I say constantly—point our children to God and His truth.
We could probably draw more parallels between teaching bike riding and the rest of parenting, but these are hopefully enough to remind all of us of some simple things we need to be doing on a daily basis. And Lord willing, one of these days we’ll be able to look back at all that teaching, all that instruction, all those moments of working to help them “get it,” and see that it paid off.
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