Saturday, October 8, 2011

Teach Your Teen: You Have Control

I like driving with teens. I like teaching them a skill and working on it for a bit and seeing them improve. It's amazing what an hour of concentrated practice can do.

My friend Diane expressed concern not too many months back about her daughter learning to drive. It's the worst part of having a teen. We're in different stages of life. Her children are in their teens and 20s. Mine are young (the oldest is almost 8). I asked her if she'd like to trade kids with me. Just for a few days. A week, tops. She's got a good memory, though, and didn't want to step back into the world of potty training and coloring on the walls.

One thing that I've only done on a couple occasions, is to ride with a new driver without my passenger-side foot brake. With it, I'm calm and assured. Without it, I get really nervous. Teens are notorious for doing random and unexpected maneuvers while driving. Gas/brake confusion is really distressing. Turning left in front of on-coming cars or lane changing into another vehicle are just as bad. And as I remember these situations, I begin to understand Diane's less than enthusiastic attitude about teen drivers. Aside from about 6-8 formal driving lessons, parents provide most of the practice time with their new drivers. And that can be terrifying.

Before driving with your teen, have the following conversation:

  • You: When I say stop, you stop. Do not ask questions. Just do it. We'll talk about the why when it's safe. 
  • Teen: Okay (Or something in the affirmative. If the response is less than 100% obedience, your teen may lack the maturity to learn to drive right now. A little time and a lot of walking usually cure this.)

Do not fear. You have a lot of control when your son or daughter is driving. Or at least more than you realize. In addition to this initial warning, you may want to discuss the following so that your child knows what to expect out of you.

  • You will be calm and give instructions well in advance.
  • You will be sitting in a ready position to take control of the vehicle if necessary.
  • The steering wheel is not sacred ground. You may be guiding it if there needs to be a minor course adjustment.
  • If there are gas/brake issues, they may feel you grab their knee to lift their foot off the gas or brake.
  • In an emergency, you may pull up on the parking brake. 
  • In an emergency, you may shift into neutral.
  • In an emergency, you may turn off the car.
Use this list of controls wisely and in moderation. You can avoid most of them by not putting your child in a driving situation beyond their abilities. Excessive stimulation from the radio, traffic, siblings in the car or new places usually translates into potential danger. You can do this. The more effort you put into practicing specific skills with your child, the better driver they will become.


  1. I needed to say that it’s great to know that someone discussed this as I had a hard time discovering the such a identical technical information elsewhere. This was the first web site that gave me the info. Thank you

    Drivers Ed Nevada

  2. My kids are young and I'm SO not ready for this stage of life. Good thing I have a while. Great tips!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Yes Bridget I believe you when you say that "The steering wheel is not sacred ground", as you've grabbed the wheel a couple of times when you were going somewhere with my wife. "Turn here", while grabbing the wheel, ha ha ha!

  5. Hi, saw your blog featured on Momcomm. You have a cool blog niche and good info on your site.


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