And then let them go it alone
Do you remember that feeling from when you were a kid? Sitting behind the handlebars on your own set of wheels – freedom!
Man, it was so great!
You could ride over to your buddy’s and then hit the corner store for some hockey cards and Big League Chew bubble gum. Good times, my friends, good times.
But what was just a normal part of life back then is now becoming less and less common. When did letting your kid bike independently turn into another example of so-called bad parenting?
The risks and rewards of a safety-first world
Trampolines, climbing trees, hide-and-seek, riding bikes – there’s inherent risk in a lot of what kids do for play.
Pick a sport or activity and, if you’re looking for them, you’ll be able to dig up stats that can scare you into letting your kids stay inside and read until they’re 20. But rather than focus on the negative, let’s look at the benefits of biking independently and other alleged “dangerous” activities.
Research has shown that play is how kids learn. And play with risk lets them learn about things like boundaries and limitations. In fact, it’s showing them how to be safe. A risky or challenging scenario allows kids to assess a situation and then determine their course of action.
Adding skills and getting the chance to master them, be they physical, mental or intellectual, are beneficial in their own right, but they also lead to increased confidence and independence.
Risk management skills, social skills, ability to adapt and overcome – who knew a bike ride would lead to all this?
Now take into account the health benefits of the actual physical activity and you truly do have to consider that the rewards may be worth the risks.
As usual, let common sense be your guide
I’m not saying you should let your six-year-old fire down to the mall on their BMX to grab the milk for dinner. But maybe the nine-year-old can be trusted to head down the sidewalk to the neighbours’ to return some misdirected mail.
And, of course, helmets, reflective clothing, knowledge of traffic rules and overall street smarts all come into play. Consider the distances to be travelled and the traffic conditions involved, as well as your kid’s cycling experience and general awareness and go from there.
What I am saying is that you know your kid, and you know whether they have the motor skills and good sense to be out there in the saddle on their own.
Trust your instincts to let you know if you can trust theirs. And then, strap on their helmet, let go of the handlebars and enjoy the ride. Because you know they will.