Do as I say, not as I do? Set a good example for kids instead

This is one confident new bicyclist! (

Maybe you’ve seen the viral video posted on YouTube – it’s of a boy who rode his bike by himself for the first time.

He struggles for how to describe it.

“I feel… I feel… I feel… I feel… I feel happy of myself,” he exclaims.

The man recording the video — presumably it’s his dad – tells the boy he’s happy “of” him too.

When asked to share any words of wisdom for other kids who are learning how to ride their bikes, the little boy launches into a speech, like he’s a mini health president-in-the-making. He stands on the curb, still decked out in his helmet and cycling gloves, takes a deep breath and preaches:

“Everybody! I know you can believe in yourself! If you believe in yourself, you will know how to ride a bike! If you don’t, you should just keep practicing! You will get the hang of it – I know it!”

That kind of confidence and excitement comes from a parent who sets a good example.

Not every child’s first solo bike ride is a positive one. And they often result in a small crash or fall, making them nervous about getting back in the saddle.

My fiancé’s daughter is one such child. She hasn’t been the biggest fan of riding her bike, but her dad and I ride a lot. (He likes to do century rides, and until recently I was training for a Half Ironman triathlon).

We don’t tell her she needs to ride, and we don’t make her come with us; in fact we’ll usually take turns working out so that she doesn’t feel any pressure. We simply lead by example, hoping to show her that being healthy is fun and that working out isn’t a chore one does to lose weight. We take her to cheer on the other person at our events, and we make signs to hold.

Our strategy (if you can call it that, since we’re just doing what we enjoy) seems to have worked.

When my fiancé asked us if we’d like to do Bike the Drive as a family, the kiddo was excited at the idea of doing the 30-mile trek behind her dad on the tag-along.

We had a great time – until the little one had a small fall off the tag-along. She vowed that day that she never wanted to ride again. And we didn’t tell her she didn’t mean it; we just let her experience her emotions and agreed that she never had to ride again.

A week after the incident I asked her about Bike the Drive and healthy examples. Here is our short Q&A:

Me: How do people set a good healthy example for you?
Her: You tell me not to eat donuts from Dunkin Donuts. Daddy shows me how to bike and adjust the seat and what bike height I should use.

M: What did you think about Bike the Drive?
H: I thought Bike the Drive would be a little long, but I wanted to do it. I wanted free crap [note: that’s what we call post-race goodies]. My fingers were cold and kind of cramping. My butt hurt and my knees hurt… I would do it again when I am older and can ride my own bike that far.

M: What do you think about Daddy’s cycling and Kirsten’s running and triathlons?
H: That I want to do that someday, because it sounds fun. But I don’t want to do all of that now…. I want to do a triathlon. I want us to do a relay together, because I want to do the swimming part, Daddy to do the biking and you to do the running.

M: Should kids do that kind of stuff?
H: Yes, because it’s healthy… Being healthy is important to me… I’d rather swim than watch TV. It’s fun. It’s a better way to be healthy and not get blind.

M: How do you get to do a triathlon?
H: Keep doing my sports.

Her dad and I will keep doing our sports, too, and then maybe we can all do our sports together.
[NOTE: This post originally appeared on and, where I was a guest blogger.]

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