Gaining Confidence is Like Riding a Bike
The following question was sent to me this week: My third grade child is panicked that I will leave the room when she is doing her homework. She wants me there in case she doesn’t know how to do her homework.
The following is the answer:
School success is like riding a bike. Sometimes you just have to skin a few knees, fall down, and pick yourself up again to know that you can succeed alone. If I am riding a bike with training wheels, I will never learn if I can ride without them.
This actually happened to me. I was given a nice new Schwinn when I was five years old. It came with its own training wheels. The bike was a beautiful shiny blue and the training wheels complimented it beautifully.
My parents told me that these wheels would keep me balanced while riding, so I assumed it was the only way to ride this bike. I loved riding my bike, but wished I was grown up enough to go without them. My older sister, who was four years older than me didn’t have these wheels. I believed my parents when they told me I needed them to help me ride the bike.
Until one day. I am two and a half years older than my younger sister. My parents found a used bike for her, since she clamored for one of her own. This bike sat in the garage waiting to have it’s training wheels applied. My sister, not knowing any different, got on the bike and rode off.
I was shocked. Here I thought I needed those wheels. I begged to have them removed and my father asked me if I thought I was ready. Of course I was ready, after all, if my younger sister could do it, what would make them think I couldn’t. I visualized myself riding off into the sunset. It was so clear to me, that I knew I could do it. Did I ride off without the wheels? No, I fell over and over again, until I recognized that I could no longer lean from side to side like I was able to with the trainers. I was determined. I suffered many skinned elbows and it is a wonder that I even learned to ride without breaking an arm. But I did.
This event is one that makes me feel great pride. It didn’t come easily, and until I took off the training wheels, I had no idea I could do it on my own. Yes, I failed one or two times, but the joy I felt after riding successfully without falling was worth all the skinned elbows. My younger sister doesn’t even remember learning. It holds no great pride for her. It came easily and therefore was taken for granted. For me it was like climbing Mt. Everest.
There are two lessons here: 1. If we think we need help, we do. 2. The thrill of success is often preceded by failures we overcome. For our children to experience the thrill of success, they must also learn how to face challenges to see that they can handle it alone, make mistakes, and pick themselves up after having failed.
By offering strategies for dealing with homework challenges, your children will become confident that they can be successful alone. Encourage them to make sure that they look at the homework before they leaves the class to be sure they understand the entire assignment. This strategy will take them further than your helping them.
Be prepared for expressions of insecurity, because that is a natural reaction. The more they overcome the challenges, the more confident they will be.
I am often asked, "When should I begin expecting my children to do their homework independently."
I started in first grade.
Parents who have been through my program in the past, start much early with their younger children because they see how easy it is, and they love the power it gives their children to get their needs met from any teacher they may have.