“Do As I Say Not As I Do?” What Do We Tell Our Kids?

I’ve been a lifelong motorcyclist. I’ve ridden hundreds of thousands of trouble-free miles. Unfortunately, I’ve also ridden a few dozen more that weren’t so trouble free. In addition to all of the great times I’ve had on two wheels, I’ve had a handful of occasions — especially in the early years — when I learned a few lessons the hard way and periodically placed myself directly off of two wheels and onto my arse.

Parker takes the MSF course

Parker takes the MSF course

So, when my son grew old enough to pilot a bike on the street by himself, I found myself feeling surprisingly conflicted. I was thrilled that he shared my passion. I thought of rides we could take together and how much fun it would be to head off on our own bikes. At the same time I found myself experiencing unexpected anxiety-filled moments when reality settled in. He would now be subjected to all of the threats out there in real-world riding that I have spent years learning to overcome. Having him as my passenger was one thing. Seeing him flying solo was different.

Parker gets on-street training

Parker gets on-street training

Was I encouraging Parker to participate in something that would put him in danger? The fact is, I recognized that he was destined to ride at some point and there would come a time when I would have no say in that. He might do what I did and buy a motorcycle when away at college and use that time to teach himself how to ride on the street. By accepting that, I was then able to concentrate on giving him the best headstart I could. Instead of fighting him on it, I focused energies on making sure he got all of the training he could get while still under my watchful eye. I made it easy for him to participate in a variety of training experiences, from the MSF Basic Rider Course to low speed parking drills to backroad jaunts and supervised rides through urban and suburban traffic. And, after he had a couple thousand miles under his belt, Parker participated in one of our Stayin’ Safe on-street rider training programs (a great way for parents and kids to improve skills together, by the way). My goal was to give him the ultimate year of training before

Dad and son make it to California as part of the "ultimate training tour"

Dad and son make it to California as part of the "ultimate training tour"

he headed off for school so, to the dismay of his mother, we set off on a 7200 mile cross country adventure that would expose him to virtually every riding environment imaginable. Today Parker is off at school and on his own where he rides a motorcycle regularly.

Parker ready to head off to college on his own

Parker ready to head off to college on his own

Was my approach a responsible move as a parent or should I have made more of an effort to discourage him fromriding a motorcycle until he was out of college? Should I have tried to keep him from riding at all or would I have been a hypocrit to say “do as I say and not as I do?” If our kids are destined to ride, what is our role and responsibility as riding parents? What can we do to assure they ride as safely and responsibly as possible? In my view, we need to do everything we can to give them the best training possible while we have them in our grasp.



3 Responses to ““Do As I Say Not As I Do?” What Do We Tell Our Kids?”

  1. FXD-Tim Says:

    Eric, I have felt the same anxiety as you times 2. My wife and son both learned to ride with my encouragement just after I picked it up. It’s not so bad as it was 4 years ago, but I still feel a twinge when either of them is out on the road without me. I’ve had to teach myself to trust their judgement, abilities and acceptance of the risk. It also help me to remember that they are both far better riders than I am.

  2. Ian Shuttler Says:

    Eric, I think you describe a text book example of how to do this! When my son was born, sat on the balcony in our German house and watching the motorcycles ride through our village, I thought ahead to the day when I would sit there and watch him ride off, turn right and disappear from view, with a lump in my throat – in spite of all the training he would have had. Fast forward 14 years and here we are in the US and with his 15th birthday looming, I’m freaking out at the thought of ‘my’ 16 year old in a years time in a car or on a bike! Sadly, he shows no interest in motorcycling :-(… (though my wife is ecstatic!).
    But as Europeans we struggle to accept the thought of 16 as a driving age, it freaks us out. So the plan is lessons from 17, then when he is 18 he gets sent for 4 weeks of advanced training in the UK as the hands of old police colleagues who have set up advanced driving schools. Hopefully this will set him up with this life skill? In addition, when learning it will only be on our manual transmission car.

  3. Pat Hahn Says:

    Eric, know what you’re saying, and I wrestle with it almost daily.

    My son is only 2 and already obsessed with my bikes. People keep asking me, “When’s he gonna learn how to ride?”

    So far, my only answer is “When he teaches me something I don’t know about riding.”

    Let’s hope for his sake that luck is an inherited trait. I’ve used plenty in my evolution as a rider.

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