youngster riding first bike

Your seven year old son has been riding with training wheels since the age of four. Now, training wheels are off and he’s doing well and having fun riding his bike on the sidewalk in front of your home. A neighbor has just called you, saying that she saw your son riding on the busy road with a group of other kids. This is against the rules!

kid and friends riding bikes on the street

What do you do about it? Please choose one answer:

a. Yell at him, then tell him he can’t watch TV or use the computer for two weeks
b. In a rage, tell him he can’t go to his friend’s birthday party
c. Raise your voice, tell him how angry you are that he broke the rules and spank him
d. Let him suffer the predetermined consequences of his decision to break the rules

What is the correct solution? Let’s examine each option and discuss the probable results.

In option “a”, you’re assigning a punishment that has no relation to bike riding at all. It makes no sense to your son, but causes him to be angry and resentful. He may sneak behind your back and ride again.

In option “b”, you’re punishing your son by taking away one of his greatest pleasures, but, again, it has nothing to do with bicycling. His resentment and anger will be huge if he has to miss the party. He may misbehave in other ways to seek revenge.

In option “c”, showing your anger and using your size and power will only backfire. You’re teaching him to use physical force when he’s angry, so you shouldn’t be surprised if he gets into fights at school or hits his sister.

If you choose option “d”, it will nip bike riding on the street in the bud, without resentment or anger on his part. Here’s how this would work:

When you remove the training wheels from your son’s bike, you and your partner sit down with him and discuss the rules for riding it. This could entail locking the bike or putting the bike away after riding, safety issues and where he should ride it. You ask him what he thinks would be the safe boundaries of riding and discuss it quietly and calmly. You hear him out, and you listen with respect. After all, you’re much more mature, with years of experience that he doesn’t have. You offer your viewpoint of staying off the busy road and ask him if he agrees. Most likely he will agree, although if his friends are allowed to do so, he might object. Together, you might agree on a time that he might be ready for the busier street (when he’s a certain age, or had more practice with the bike, for example). Then, you ask him what he thinks would be the action needed if he breaks the rules. Not being able to use the bike for a set time might be a reasonable result and is connected to the misdemeanor, and you all agree on a set time that it can’t be used.

If he breaks the rules, (that he helped to put in place!), you say in a calm and loving tone, “Since you decided to ride on the road, and because we all decided that this would mean not having the bike for a week, the bike will be put away. After a week (or what you’ve determined as a group), when you decide to stick to the rules, the bike will come out again.”

mom discussing bike riding options

So option “d” is the correct choice. Your son has helped set the rules, and he has agreed on the results of breaking the rules. You are not the “bad guy”, as he is suffering the consequence of his own decision.

Option “d” does not produce anger or resentment in your child. He sees the logic, and he knows it’s because he made a bad choice. It’s a super training method.

Make time in your busy schedule for family meetings to discuss everything from setting limits, to homework time, to anything that is important to safety or maintaining the household.

Your attitude of patience and respect, and your approach of friendliness and warmth will help to ensure success and a happier family life.

I’m available to help you if you have questions. Your comments and questions are welcome!

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