Sunday, December 18, 2011

Teach Your Teen: Set The Example

My eight year old son sits next to his infant sister in our car. He likes to play with her and he's pretty good about putting her pacifier in when she cries. Recently, she was crying and the binkie wasn't calming her down. He got frustrated. And he yelled, "Come on! Mom, it's not working!"

Our binkie loving baby.
Seriously?! He just raised his voice? To a baby? Two realizations hit me. First, my son doesn't understand the difference between an infant's mental abilities and those of an older child. She's not trying to make him angry. He's just not meeting her needs. She wants her diaper changed or she's hungry, so giving her a binkie isn't going to calm her.  Second, it's obvious that I've been frustrated and raised my voice too many times. He's mimicking me. This isn't exactly the lesson I meant to teach my son.

I'm teaching him the same lessons each time I drive. He will pick up on all of my habits. For better or worse. Remember earlier this year when I stopped eating in the car? Well, my kids also stopped eating in the car, too. And driving down the big hill near our house...well he's learning that riding the brake isn't the best thing in the world to do. He's also learning that we stop at red lights. That we look before changing lanes. And mom talks on speaker phone while driving. In addition to the basics, there is so much more.

This time of year is usually tragic for many families. There are tons of parties and  holiday celebrations and  many people drinking alcohol. That makes for some dangerous roads. And yes, there are more patrols out trying to get drunk drivers off the road and keep us safe. But stories of fatal collisions continue to pile up every year. I don't want one of those stories to be about my family.

Whether your kids are with you at the party or not, it's important to teach them how to behave. Tell them how much they mean to you. Let them see you plan ahead for how you're getting home. They will learn from your example. Let them see you arrange for a designated driver. Or call for a taxi ride home. If you are staying home, open a line of communication with them about alcohol, parties, and driving. It' is safer to stay home than to be on the roads with drunks.

Set the example. The example of defensive driving habits. The example of planning ahead. The example that your actions speak so much louder than words.

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