Why is my 6yr old so fearful?

The night should have gone the way the day had started. It was a beautiful day, before leaving for school with his mother my son and I discussed riding bikes to a local restaurant the coming evening. I should have been suspect when he replied with a smile, ‘sure’. I’ve had experience with him agreeing to do something that makes him uncomfortable and later reneging. He agrees with the knowledge that at 7:30 in the morning, evening is a long ways off. To a 6yr old it’s practically an eternity. I’m not sure his reasoning for not telling me that there is really no way this is going to happen. Sometimes I think it’d because he knows this stuff is so important to me, the time we spend doing things together. At times, I believe he believes this time will be different, and he’ll do it. More often than not I think it’s the latter.

He knows how to ride a bike, although he will likely tell you he doesn’t. The restaurant I’m talking about, he’s ridden his bike there before. Last summer. It’s not a hard or long ride, its safe neighborhood streets & bike path, it’s with his mom and dad, so he’s not alone.

It was a bit of a task to get him to ride his bike in the first place. He was 4 and barely felt confident on his Stryder. But I wasn’t concerned, kids start early and if he was riding when he was 6 I’d consider that a success. But he did ride at 4 and got better at 5. Always a bit timid he was behind and wobbly. He stopped a lot and feared gravel or hills. But as his experience grew so did his fear. It was not the other way around, the more he did, the less confident he became. He fell on a gravel hill and now won’t ride the hill. He won’t even attempt a short steep bike path, paved, not because he fell on it. Simply because he may fall.

And that is the problem. His fears are growing from concern about what may happen. Not what has happened once and may happen again. Not because he saw something happen to someone else and is worried about it happening to him. The hard thing for me is seeing someone learn and then shy away.

It’s not just the bike. He now doesn’t ski.

We have a great area ski hill that two seasons ago I taught him to ski. He made such great progress and was moving about the hill. But as he got better he lost his ability, no longer wanting to listen and trust me. Suddenly terrified of runs he had skied the previous year. As this past season came to a close I had to forcibly get him down the mountain, him skiing between my legs. After sitting on the hillside for several long minutes trying to convince him he could do it…. had to do it so that he could never ski again if that is what he wanted. He says he’s not a skier but recently agreed to take a lesson at the start of next season. I’m certain that based on the way kids see 10 hours, next winter is a lifetime away.

Rock climbing! No way!!

Now don’t get me started on that. Or should I say, don’t get him started on that. We climb a bit in our house. We have a training wall built on the side of our house and live at the base of a canyon with hundreds of routes in an area with thousands.

He wouldn’t touch the wall until a few weeks ago. Going only a couple holds and two feet off the ground. His friends come over, and they want to play on the wall. Leaving my boy sitting and watching or bouncing on the trampoline. God, I feel for him. He says it doesn’t bother him, but I don’t really know what to think.

I’ll just keep trying.

Yup, I’ll keep at it. Through the fighting and tantrums he does at times capitulate and go for it. Always having a good time. It’s important although hard. The hardest part is keeping it from becoming about me and the time I am missing. But in the end, I’m raising a child. That is the important time.

He may always be fearful and never outgrow this. But I am not going to give up on him. Maybe at some point we’ll find what’s right for him. If nothing else he will learn something crucial. I’m always going to be there and am never going to stop believing that he can do it.