Do you have a teen that’s about to start driving? Yikes! Scary thought! When your “little boy” or “little girl” starts driving, it changes everything. Suddenly they aren’t so little anymore! Learning to drive is a right of passage and for most teenagers, it is one of the most defining moments of their life (at least up to this point in their life). You as a parent might feel torn. You feel a huge relief from having to be a daily chauffeur but you also fear for your teenagers driving safety and newfound freedom. This is a very emotional time for everyone involved, especially when it’s time to sit in the passenger seat as a brand new driver gets behind the wheel – your son or daughter!
Finding An Emotional Balance
As a professional driving instructor, I learned very quickly that in order to teach someone how to drive effectively, you must keep control of your emotions. If you’re acting like you’re terrified, your going to make your kid terrified! You may be nervous, but don’t let your son or daughter know that. Gather your composure and act like this is a walk in the park.
Before you even get into the car, you should ask your son or daughter how they feel. Are they nervous? Scared? Excited? Try to relieve their fears before you go driving.
Go Over The Ground Rules
A great way to help achieve a “zen” state of mind is to go over the ground rules before your driving lessons begin. It’s important to be on the same page. Here are some pointers and basic ground rules you should go over with your teen before you start:
- Stop means stop! Make sure that you as an instructor only use the word “stop” if you truly mean stop (as in, right now!). Make sure your student driver understands that when you say stop, they must stop immediately and ask questions later. Let them know ahead of time that you might be appearing to yell at them during the lesson because you might raise your voice, but it’s simply a reaction and nothing personal. Tell them this up front so they know what to expect.
- Communicating while behind the wheel is hard! Let your teen know that communicating can be tough while in a moving vehicle, especially while first learning and getting the coordination down. However, they still need to listen to you and discuss disagreements later, not while driving. This is a very common situation. You’ll tell your teen to do something that doesn’t make sense to them and an argument ensues. Let them know that all disagreements will be discussed later.
- Start small and build up. Let your teen know that you’re going to start off cruising around the neighborhood or on low traffic routes and go from there. Allow your teen to be part of that decision making. While you are the ultimate decider here, allow them to dictate if they are ready to move on, or if they feel they need more practice on the smaller roads. This website has a great series of free driving lessons.
- Allow for a learning curve. Your teen will want to be perfect right away. But tell them there is a learning curve. They will make embarrassing mistakes, they will hit the gas or brake too hard, they will overreact, etc. Let them know you expect it and that’s ok! With time, they will get better.