So How Does a Child Become Self-Propelled?

Great question!  How DOES a child become self-propelled?

The answer is gradually and steadily.

Think about how you teach a child to ride a bike. Initially, you may take your baby or toddler for rides via a child-size seat on the back of your bike. But once the child is capable of learning to ride a bike independently, you offer him his own little bike as well as support in the form of training wheels. The child rides around the garage, around the driveway, and maybe even around the block with training wheels on his bicycle. Those training wheels are what support him, what keep him upright at that stage.

You also begin to teach him the rules of the road, right? You are going to make sure that the child understands the basics of bike riding. Learning safety rules is essential. We don’t expect the child to learn those on his own; we make sure he is well versed in safety and cycling rules before he is allowed to proceed to the next step. Before long, the child is ready for the training wheels to come off probably long before you are ready for the training wheels to come off!

Once the training wheels are off, the child needs to develop his own sense of balance. He has had a small taste of balance with the training wheels on, but the ultimate test comes once they come off. When the parents and child feel he is ready, off they come. How exciting! However, before the child learns to totally balance on two wheels, Mom or Dad needs to hold onto the bike seat and walk (or run) beside the child as he learns to balance on his own.

Before long, though, he is ready for you to let go.

You do.

He wobbles a little, but off he goes on his own. There may be a fall in the near future, but hopefully not many. You trust that he will obey the rules of the road, and you watch to be sure that he does so when he is within sight. Once he is out of sight, you have to trust him.

You begin to allow him to ride further and further from home, as you are confident that he is able to ride safely. You will make sure he is out of high-traffic areas as he begins to ride independently. He will not have the endurance yet to ride for long periods of time or to ride up long hills that require focus and greater athletic ability than he possesses initially. All that will come later with time and experience.

When you let go of that bicycle seat, your child becomes truly self-propelled!


About the Author

Joanne Calderwood has been called America’s Homeschool Mom. She is an underwhelmed Mom of eight great kids, owner of, and an author and columnist. Her new book, The Self-Propelled Advantage: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Independent, Motivated Kids Who Learn with Excellence, enables parents to teach their kids to teach themselves with excellence.


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