Whether your child is near driving age or still in a booster seat it is never too early to think about teaching your child safe practices in a vehicle. They begin to form habits very early in their development. You have probably seen children in their Little Tikes car or their motorized vehicle tooling around the neighborhood with a “play telephone” to their ear. We think it’s adorable, but if you think about it, it is a child picking up a very bad habit. Talking on the phone and driving a car becomes a “norm” because they see Mommy or Daddy doing it all the time.
I have tried to do informational presentations to Middle School students and parents to talk about safe driving, but I have not been greeted with open arms. Instead I have had moms say “I don’t EVEN want to think about driving, it’s too early. “ It is my belief that it is never too early to start to help your child understand what a big responsibility it is to be behind the wheel of a car. By the time they get into high school their opinions and habits are often formed by the examples provided them by the adults in their life.
So, now you have a teenager that is either “hot to trot” to get a license or a teenager that is really in no hurry and maybe even frightened about the whole idea. What do you do? My first recommendation to parents is to get informed. Think about providing your child with a good foundation of driver training. Do your research, visit the schools and make an informed decision. Ask about curriculum and quality control. Let quality instruction, not price, be your deciding factor. If money is an issue then become educated. Knowing how to drive and teaching someone how to drive are two very different things.
The parent-teen relationship can be difficult at best. Add the elements of trying to keep everyone alive while trying to teach a skill – it is just not always a good combination. Even those of you that THINK you are really good drivers (90% of drivers consider themselves above average) have picked up some bad habits over the years and you will likely pass those on to your teenager.
Don’t assume just because your teenager presents you with what looks like “pretty decent skills” that it makes them a “good driver.” Too often I hear those words from parents; you need to remember they are a NOVICE driver. Even those students that can make a good right and left turn, with good lane position and vehicle control, don’t really know how to handle all the different situations that can pop up out there.
Finally, don’t rush this, even if you want them to get their license before they start the next school year and make your life easier. This may be the MOST important thing you do for your teenager. Don’t let convenience drive your decision making, let readiness drive it. Is your teenager ready to handle the roadways safely?
If driver training is not an option for you, we offer a Parent Class that provides parents with information and tips on how to work with their teenager. Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you spend a LOT of time talking to your teenager about safe driving and practicing with them in all types of situations. The more you are engaged in conversation and the more time you spend practicing with them, the better equipped they will be. This is a life skill that can keep them alive – don’t take shortcuts that you may regret later.