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That's how you learn to err

"Imagine that you ask a young child a question. He answers your question and you say 'wrong'. That's not the right way. You have to ask him why he thinks so and whether he thinks about other options. This way you'll build the confidence he needs for thinking further. Once you shut him up, his thinking is over." Ilan Sela, a fitness trainer

When my eldest son began to ride a bike, I used the "patent" my father used to teach me how to ride: inserting a broom stick between the rear luggage seat and the bicycle' body, in order to balance the rider. I was not the only parent who risked his back, huffed and puffed - and hurt his child's learning experience. When I sensed that the boy reached balance, I pulled out the broom stick and prayed he wouldn't crash.

When his four years' younger sister wanted to start riding, I got a tip from a professional riding instructor I met in the park. "Take off the pedals, lower the seat, and let her push the bicycle using her legs", he said. "When she'll feel safe, she'll lift her legs and glide". "On the plain, there is no danger. That's the the fastest and safest way to learn to ride a bicycle at an early age", he assured me. So I let go of my doubts and my need of control and followed his instructions.

And so it was. Ten to fifteen minutes after I removed the pedals, I watched my daughter balance herself with a clear-cut pleasure, as she glided with her legs up in the air.

When this happened, I reconnected the pedals and raised the chair according to her height.

Control – It's not what you think

At first I refused to believe how simple and ingenious his tip was. My child's riding duration was far beyond my wildest dreams, without falling at all, and I didn't suffer from back pain and unnecessary guilt feelings. From that day on, every time I see a parent that tries to balance a child on a bike with a broom stick, I stop and try to explain that there is a better, more efficient way to help him learn to ride a bike.

Does it help? Usually not. Most parents shrug their shoulders, continue to hold the bar and run after their children. Only a few dare to try. Some claim that this is how they feel more in control. They are in control indeed, but the greater their control, the more diminishes their son's control of his learning process.

In learning, experience and play are the name of the game. As Piaget and many other developmental psychologists have already determined, experience and play are the most effective modes of learning and development for children. It is no wonder, therefore, that when we do not allow the child to make mistakes, we also do not allow him to experiment.

The brain needs errors