Teaching Children (and Parents) to Challenge Themselves

Coralie and Etienne - our remarkable little beings, at least to us

Children are amazing little beings. From the day we became parents almost eight years ago, we have watched as our daughter and our son grow from being completely dependent on us to crawling, walking, and eventually running - they haven't stopped moving since. Both our children also discovered the joy of two-wheeled travel at a young age, enjoying our family rides from the comfort of a trailer or on their own bikes alongside us. Not surprisingly, many times it's the excitement on their faces that make our journey all that more enjoyable.

From the moment I began sharing our cycling adventures through my first blog, Velo Family Diaries, friends and followers have told me how amazed they are to read about the long distances my kids have ridden.  It is quite common for them to travel upwards of thirty kilometres on an average sunny day, usually with very little complaint. While I do think my kids are pretty spectacular, and am proud of what they can do, I in no way think they are unique in their abilities. I firmly believe that almost any child is capable of the same feat and more, so long as they are given encouragement and opportunity.

Seemingly, there is a perception that the children of this generation are not as savvy, strong or self-aware as those of generations past. As such, terms like "bubble-wrap generation" and "hover-parenting" are frequently thrown around to describe children and their parents today. I contest that in order to move away from these labels, and to truly set our them up for the best possible future, it is time to start challenging these notions and give our kids a chance to prove just how resilient they actually are. After all, as pre-millenial children, we were given many freedoms, which, in my opinion, helped to make us pretty adaptable human beings, capable of succeeding in a world that changes so quickly.

Almost at Jericho Beach and still hamming it up amongst the hundreds of other riders

By realizing that children are able to do so much more than we give them credit for, we are allowing them to set their own limits and challenge themselves. Just a couple weekends back, we did just that with ours. As a family, we took part in a Solstice ride, taking place in the evening, and enjoying the full advantage of the late setting sun. We communication clearly with our kids, explaining it would be a late ride, and for them to tell us when they felt too tired to continue. Throughout the ride, we checked in, making sure the kids were still feeling energized, and reminding them each time they said they were okay that we were getting further and further away from home. In the end, they managed to make it all the way out to Jericho Beach in time to see the sun set, and even then, Chris and I had to insist it was time to head back.

Our children also learned about unexpected rewards. Specifically, a surprise fireworks show half way home!

 

Our children proved to themselves and those around them that they were more than capable of a journey like that, even at the later hour. They also received a valuable lesson on the ride home, as the sky turned from dusk to the dark of night - that sometimes they need to think past the immediate and realize how their decision will effect the future. For the most part our ride back was a fun and quiet night ride along the seawall, including an unexpected otter sighting and an impromptu fireworks show. As we got closer to home, though, both kids started showing signs of exhaustion. Circumstances made it that we couldn't catch the Skytrain from Main Street to home, so they were forced to ride that last leg home. They weren't happy, and some tears were shed, but we made it, and I'm sure the kids learned a little something about when to accept your own limitations, and when to challenge them.

As our children get older, we continue to encourage them to make their own decisions, within reason, and to push them to do more than they have done in the past. As a result, we have been privileged to see them experience the shear joy of overcoming their fears and doubts. From taking that first solo pedal on a bicycle, reaching the top of big hill without any assistance from Mom and Dad, or even pushing on for a long ride late into the night, our children prove that, despite their age and size, they will amaze if you let them. They are not alone, and I know many children just like them - kids that will grow to be confident, determined young adults, simply because we challenged them to test their limits, learn from the failures, and revel in their successes.