10 Tips For Parents Teaching Teens To Drive.
Your beloved teenager will soon be taking charge of the family vehicle and precious lives therein. If the aforementioned reality were not confronting enough, you have been conscripted into the role of driving teacher, coach and mentor!
Let’s jump to the worst scenario right up front and consider the possibility that while learning to drive in real- time, they crash the car and they or others get hurt. Then there’s also the cost of your beloved teen destroying the car that you worked hard for and are quite possibly still paying off.
How did you get here after a lifetime of driving and feel so unprepared?
There are valid reasons why many parents are daunted by the prospect of their teens behind the wheel. The risks are high. There’s potential for pain at so many levels and we haven’t even begun talking about your relationship with your teenager.
Having journeyed this process three times in the past 3 years I offer you a few hard-earned insights to help you along your way.
1. Your relationship with your teen is the main game.
Don’t let this season create barriers in your parent-child relationship, a relationship you have spent many years nurturing. Let your love of your teenager frame your perspective on the whole driving experience. Life is long and this season is just one season of your teen’s life. This is new for both of you so keep the main game the main game. The main game is your relationship and developing driving skills is a milestone along that road. Ask yourself this question: What must I do through this process to keep our relationship strong?
2. You are the adult, keep it that way.
For some strange reason (like fear of imminent death), I felt the loss of control of the safety of our family while in the car. There were moments where I was very tempted to respond badly to my Learner Driver. I stopped myself. I am the adult and I must discipline myself not to act like a moody teenager!
3. Attitude check yourself
Check your attitude before you get in the car with your teen to supervise their driving. If you are not in a good headspace you need to wait until you are (refer point 1). You set the tone of the vehicle and it must be positive. Teens who feel like they are going to be yelled at for making mistakes will be handicapped by a lack of confidence for fear of failure
4. Attitude check your teenager
Don’t let your teen driver get behind the wheel with a bad or entitled attitude. Driving is a privilege not a right. You have the right to expect them to be calm, civil and teachable during driving lessons. Don’t allow your teens attitude to fool you into thinking that this learning experience is their right. Don’t lord it over them but do expect them to bring their ‘attitude A game’ into the driver’s seat (or don’t let them get behind the wheel until they do).
5. Aim for healthy confidence.
We want to foster confidence in our Learner Drivers but we must expect and require humility from them. Humility is their willingness to choose to learn from you. Humility can produce healthy confidence. Arrogance or foolish overconfidence (I know everything already and you can’t teach me anything) is the opposite of humility. You are aiming for healthy confidence, not overconfidence.
6. Get your teen involved in the whole experience of driving, not just the driving.
Isn’t it time they took over washing and vacuuming the car? Do I need to explain this one? All the benefits with no responsibility is parenting for a fantasy-land life. Work out a mutually beneficial arrangement with your teen. Responsibility for the vehicle is an important aspect of learning to drive.
7. Update and check your motor vehicle insurance policy and have your teen added to the list of registered drivers of your vehicle/s.
Our insurance policy required that we add each of our teens to our policies as they became drivers. Check your policy and update accordingly.
8. Save any yelling for life and death situations.
I chose never to yell at my Learner Drivers during driving practice. There was this moment when my son was doing everything right and without any signal or warning a car pulled out into the intersection we were turning in to. Without even thinking, I screamed STOP! He slammed on the brake. We didn’t die. Save your yelling for life and death situations.
9.Let them teach before they need to learn.
Allow your soon-to-be drivers to coach you from the passenger seat before they are learning to drive. Six months before Learner Driver practice begins, ask your over-keen teenager ‘what would you do if you were driving’ questions. Get them to tell you what to do when you get in the car. Encourage them to talk you through the process e.g. ‘Once you get in the car Mum, you have to check the seat and mirrors, check the handbrake and gears, check the surroundings.’ Start to build their confidence and your communication. Trust me, your teen will love the idea of telling you what to do!
10. Communication is key
You need to keep your teenager talking to you by keeping communication lines open and healthy. I don’t mean that your teen must talk constantly but that they will communicate with you as they are ready and as the situation requires. If you make a mistake, apologise quickly. Ask your teens for constructive feedback on the driving practice you are doing together. Empower them to keep talking and listen to what they tell you. Healthy communication is key to learning and to life.
Good luck and safe driving…but more importantly may your relationship with your teenager grow stronger over the miles ahead.