Dear parent who asking for help finding bike-riding lessons for your 7-year-old:

There’s a tendency these days to think that by contracting out what used to be basic childhood learning to ‘professionals’ who specialize in it we’re giving our kids a better experience. Learning to swim, cook, sew, stay home alone, ride a bike, throw and catch a ball, grow a garden, develop empathy, build a go-kart, you name it and there are ‘experts’ offering classes and parents willing to sign their kids up.

I think this trend is a sad one, because it undermines confidence and interrupts the flow of knowledge through the generations. It undermines both parental confidence (“how can I possibly teach my child to do ____ if it’s so complicated that people are paying experts to do it?”) and child confidence (“mom and dad don’t believe I can learn this without specialized help”). It produces a new generation of people who believe they won’t be able to pass these skills onto their own kids, because they were taught by specialists themselves. And also, of course, it contributes to the rat-race of over-scheduled kids and double-income cash-strapped parents, all of which reduces the amount of time parents and kids have to spend together.

So here’s my plea — teach your own kid to ride a bike. I know you’ve tried. You’re not done yet. Keep trying. Draw on the wisdom of other parents rather than the supposed expertise of experts. Trust that he will learn. Trust that you can help him. Spend the time with him. Make it a family event to go off to the schoolyard three evenings a week with daddy in tow so that you have the manpower to help the trike-sibling too. Stop for popsicles on the way home to make a special ritual. Create a memory of “that summer when you learned to ride a two-wheeler — remember all those popsicles! Wasn’t that fun!?” Do it with joy, trust, confidence, pleasure and time together with your child.

Contracting out parenting

7 thoughts on “Contracting out parenting

  • July 17, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Seriously scary stuff! Never came across that idea before, and I live in a town that has been rat-racing ever since its gold-rush birth. The other option which you didn’t mention is for another, somewhat bigger, kid to teach them. I taught several neighbouring kids to ride bikes (and bake, and play chess) when I was a young teenager. And of course, the ones who do the true teaching are the learners themselves. My mom sent me outside onto the lawn with a few tips about which leg to push, and made encouraging noises out of the kitchen door, but I really taught myself to ride a bike. And it was satisfying.

  • July 17, 2008 at 10:49 am

    This is a great post. In it you outline the most basic problem of modern, overscheduled kid life.
    and the dissatifaction parents feel about their lives.

  • July 17, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    Yah for your post Miranda. You’re a gem. I love that “and it interrupts the flow of knowledge through the generations.”
    In fact I’ve been wanting to tell you that through reading your post me and Ruby are now learning piano (I’ve wanted to for a long time and what a better incentive than with one of my children), we have the “four-fold way” stuck on the wall above the piano to remind me what is important and we just attended our first winter workshop which Ruby loved for the community of musicians. And me, I’m totally loving the whole how-are-both-my-hands-doing-that and learning something totally new at 39.Dh is now in his own way working away at book 1 too and my 3 yr old is working on humming the whole Book! Just wanted to let you know. Thanks for the inspiration. Jacinda down in NZ.

  • July 17, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    I’m lucky. I spend as much time as possible with my son everyday. I’m looking forward to when I can teach him to ride too. It’s something I will never “outsource”.

  • July 17, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Excellent post Miranda. I couldn’t agree more!

  • July 17, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    Very well said and I agree 100 %. Best blog post I’ve read in a long time I think 🙂

  • July 20, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    Wonderful post. I’m dying to teach my kids to ride bikes. Sadly, my six year old insists she is “NEVER” going to ride a two-wheeler and instead wants a bigger tricycle. My 3.5 year old is too small for the hand-me-down two-wheeler we got from a friend, so the trike is it for him, too. Guess I’ll have to wait a while longer! 🙂

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