A few weeks ago, I taught my son to ride his bike. After too many episodes of running up and down the street holding onto his seat while trying to teach him how to ride, I finally wised up. We live on a slight incline and I told him that he needed to practice coasting down the hill with his feet out to the side in order to learn what it feels like to balance on a bike.
I soon noticed that he was actually getting pretty good. But instead of trying to right himself whenever he started to tip, he’d always take the easy way out and simply put a foot down on the ground. It was clear to me that he just needed a little nudge to get over his trepidation. So I made him an offer that he couldn’t refuse.
I offered him a dollar if he could coast to the end of the cul de sac without touching the ground. And after just one try, I owed him a dollar. Next up was learning to pedal.
I briefly explained to him what to expect when pedaling without me holding on. I then offered him another dollar if he could pedal to the end of the street. After a few false starts, he rode off and earned his dollar. But whenever he got to the end of the street, he would walk his bike back up the incline so he could start again, so…
I made him a final offer: ride back up the hill for a third (and final) dollar. After a couple of tries, he got the hang of starting of uphill, and he rode right back up to our house. Since that time, we’ve hardly been able to get him off his bike.
So… The next time you need to teach a kid to ride a bike, think about paying them off. Unorthodox? Maybe. Effective? Definitely. Three bucks beats the hell out of running up and down the street endlessly, and it was a lot more empowering for my son to essentially master this on his own.