Yesterday I saw a father trying to teach his young son (maybe 8) to ride his mountain bike down a steep asphalt road. It was obvious that road was much to intimating for the young boy. The father kept telling him to take his hands off the brake and push the pedal and get on the bike. The father wasn't being mean or nasty to the boy but I think after a couple of attempts and obviously the boy was scared, he should have given up trying to ask him to do it. I think he should have started the boy on a much shorter and less steep hill. The boy finally ended up just walking the bike down the hill, which I think was wise. As I went by them I told them in a friendly way that it was a tough hill and I probably wouldn't have done it either. That probably didn't make any difference, but I'm sure the boy was not happy that he couldn't please his dad and he probably felt like a failure.
It is very hard to understand a particular father son relationship based on one incident. I'm not saying the boy was not scared. The father obviously believes that the boy is ready for the hill, rightly or wrongly. I know sometimes my kids will not try things unless pushed. Sometimes it takes a couple sessions of pushing to get them to do what they are capable of.
I'm saying it is tough to judge a parents action when they are not your kids and you don't know the family.
Kids often do need a bit of a push to try things; eating new foods, reading books with no pictures, new rides at the fair, new bikes. Sometimes parents don't push enough, other times they push too hard. It's not an easy job. My Dad had me doing things that would scare the bejeezus out of most parents today but I'm glad he did.
The kid was afraid of the high speed he'd achieve rolling down that hill. The dad shouldn't worry about it, the kid will get faster on the flats, faster on the smaller hills, and then his friends will double-dog dare him to tackle the big hill. The fear of being labelled a sissy or a wuss by one's friends is far greater than disappointing one's father.