How not to learn to ride a bike

Yesterday, I saw two kids with their bikes, a woman and an older man (grandpa?) in a small parking lot. It was clear they were there for the kids to practice riding in an empty, nicely paved space.

As I walked along, I could hear the man’s loud voice. The taller of the two kids was having difficulty. She’d ride a short distance before her front wheel would wobble wildly side to side. Then she’d drop her feet to the ground to keep from falling. Grandpa shuffled as fast as he could toward her, his voice getting louder and louder. His tone made me stop and turn around just as he smacked the top of her helmet and yelled, “I can’t believe you’re seven years old and you don’t know how to ride a bike!”

The ridicule in his voice was palpable. My insides cringed. I could hear and feel his smack on her helmet as if it were on my head. My heart went out to that little girl.

I wondered, as she grows up will she use his anger and frustration as fuel to prove to him (and herself) what she can do? Will that disgust in his voice be in her mind every time she tries to learn something difficult? Will she ever love riding her bike?

It made me think of leaders who berate, yell, lose patience. Does that kind of leadership make you learn faster, better?

Coach Tom Landry approached development differently. Instead of focusing on fixing what a player did wrong, he’d pay attention to what they did right and tell them to repeat it. When they did something well, he’d encourage them to do it more often.

Had grandpa shifted his attention – and the little girl’s – to noticing the wheel stayed straight when she held the handlebars straight across, which is how she started each time, she could have practiced that. The shift in focus could have helped significantly.

I’m sure we’ve all lost patience and yelled at someone at some point. Maybe regretted it and thought of ways we could’ve handled it better, afterwards. We’ve probably been yelled at as adults, too. But, what results does yelling really get?

Share Button