Earlier in the year I shared how my 3 year old was a bit of a skateboard protégé. He was doing kick turns and navigating all the ramps. I had visions of X-games 2024 dancing in my head along with millions of dollars in endorsements. Unfortunately he hasn’t been living up to his potential. In fact he’s been acting like, well….a three year old.
He still enjoys skate boarding, but he also enjoys Legos, Avengers and playing with his sister on the playground. So he’s not as focused as perhaps he could be. He’s too busy soaking up life as a three year old. Plus, he prefers to skate outdoors.
During the winter months we couldn’t go to the outdoor skatepark, so we went to the indoor park. Which he kind of likes but doesn’t give him the same thrill as skating outside. He’s also hit a bit of a plateau. All of the skills that he’s physically and mentally ready for, he’s mastered. So he’s, dare I say it, a little bored.
I’m not saying he’s learned it all. There is still plenty for him to accomplish. He’d like to jump on his board and he mentally runs through the motions and practices them without a board. There is nothing like being in a hotel lobby and he’s next to you saying, kick up, slide foot, press down and jump. The problem is, he’s not developed physically enough to pull the task off. He doesn’t have the weight or dexterity.
One skill that I think he could master though is dropping in. He understands the rudiments of what it takes and I think he has the balance to pull it off. The problem though is he doesn’t trust himself yet. Mentally he is not prepared for it and this is where the lesson to me continues.
You might remember that previously I mentioned how I used to get frustrated with him and try to cajole him into doing things he wasn’t ready for, well no more. I try to be patient and encouraging and respect his learning process. We go to the park and I ask him if he’d like to try. Some days he says no and some days he says yes, but whatever the answer, the decision is his.
What I’ve learned is that even when I don’t think he’s learning, he’s learning. He is constantly taking in data, processing it and applying it. Just because his learning is not transpiring in a form I recognize doesn’t mean its not happening. Too many times I’ve discounted his process only to later see its results.
Now I just try to be supportive, so when he’s ready to take the next step its in a nurturing enviorment. When he agrees to try, it signifies that he’s got his head around a little more of it. When he doesn’t, no amount of my pushing is going to change the fact that his head’s not there. In fact, the risk is that I’ll elevate that fear. That fear will become counter active to his increased mastery and if allowed to grow unchecked, could lead to a disenchantment with skate boarding.
Sometimes we go and he skates down two ramps and then spends the next five minutes running up and sliding down the bigger ramps. This used to frustrate me to no end. I thought he was just wasting our time. Again I’ve come to realize that he’s not only learning when I perceive him to be learning.
By running up and down the ramps, he’s becoming familiar with them. He’s getting a feel for them. He’s testing his physical capabilities. In time they become a little less scary and he becomes a little more sure of his capabilities. There will come a point where he’ll be ready to tackle them with the board. I know this because I’ve watched it transpire over the last year.
I will say that I don’t completely leave him to himself. I let him run a little bit on the ramps then I gently steer him back to skating a few minutes. Sometimes I do it with a game. He loves to race Dad. Sometimes I do it with a bribe. “Lets go down a couple times and then we’ll grab a Sprite.” However I do it, I try to do it in a manner that makes him feel its as much his idea as it is mine. He needs to buy into the process.
I picture my role more as a guide then a leader. It’s my responsibility to create an environment thats as conducive to learning as possible. Now I could induce some rigor and demand that we skate three times a week for 30 minutes no matter what his thoughts or where he was developmentally. It just doesn’t seem like that would be very successful. In fact, when ever I’ve tried to introduce more rigor its never been a pleasant experience for either one of us.
Perhaps more rigor could make him a better skateboarder, but would he develop a love for it that would last his whole life. Would it become a place where he could find solace when life became challenging or would it become something you did just to get the overbearing task master to leave you alone? See my goal isn’t just for him to become an excellent skateboarder, its for him to find a life long joy in something he clearly has an aptitude for. I want him to enjoy the process as much as the outcome.
I’ve never worked an actual classroom but I’ve worked with kids my whole life. My wife does work in a classroom. When she describes her success to me they usually come from her providing a nurturing environment where the child could find their way. I can’t remember a single instance where she has relayed to me a success story derived from browbeating a child into submission. Yet we still paint more rigor as a pathway to success.
Now please don’t get me wrong. I’m not a non-believer in hard work. I just believe its something you demonstrate as well as instill. There are weeks my son doesn’t feel like going to the park. Some weeks I don’t feel like it. Still we get in the car and go. Even if its just for a half hour. Because no matter what, you do have to show up. How you spend your time there can vary but being in the environment is important. I also let him see me trying things that I’m not very good at, to try and demonstrate we are always learning.
Lately I’ve noticed he has developed a new skill. He’s starting to shift his feet and body weight to control the direction of the board. He’s still figuring this out so it’s led to a few more spills but apparently he’s hit a developmental milestone where he can do this. This is not something I’ve tried to demonstrate to him. Its just the logical progression after mastering the previous skill and developing physically enough to attempt.
This journey continues to be as revealing to me as it is too him. I try to keep the lessons he’s teaching in mind as we progress forward. These lessons will be just as important when he enters school as they are now. Learning is not a race. Its an ongoing process and as the popular internet quote says, we should concern ourselves less with how fast children are learning and more that its an ongoing process of varying speeds. At times its fast like a rabbit and others methodical like the tortoise.