Thursday, January 12, 2012

Teach Your Teen - Effective Coaching

I've never been a parent to my own teenager, but am lucky enough to be a teacher to many of them. Once, I even borrowed a teen for the school year. Please meet Jovana, my exchange student.

Like most teens, Jovana wanted to be able to give her parents a surprise when she returned home. When that something turned out to be a positive life skill, I happily turned into an accomplice. It's difficult for exchange students to get their driver's license. Not only are there legal document signing dilemmas that need to be worked out for those under 18, but most programs also prohibit driving with host families. The only exception is driving with a licensed driving instructor. Enter in me. A licensed driving instructor.

I decided to help Jovana get a license because she's a good kid and turned 18 while living with us. She earns straight "A"s, is active in extra-curricular activities and very helpful at home. Best of all, she loves to play with my children.

Usually, we went out driving on the weekends. Sometimes, we ran errands and other times we specifically worked on skills. The atmosphere in the car was relaxed for the most part. And a little tense other times. Jovana has high expectations for herself. She wants to know everything all at once. But we don't learn like that. Skills must build on one another. We must drive in a straight line before learning to turn a corner.

With regular driving students, I have a finite amount of time to teach as many things as they can handle. Teaching Jovana, I had all the time I wanted. Just like you do with your children. Shorter segments of time turned out to be more effective than longer ones. Learning a new skill can be high stress. An hour is a long time to have your brain engaged in a new task. Three twenty-minute driving sessions reduce stress and give a better opportunity to build consistent defensive driving habits.

Remember that there is a place for every coaching style, even within the same driving session. There are times when you want to observe and not say a when  your spouse is driving. And other times when you may want to give very detailed instructions. Make each driving experience an effective learning opportunity by incorporating a handful of different coaching styles. It is also effective to teach your student how to judge their skills so that they can effectively provide their own feedback and turn into a lifelong learner.

Coaching Styles:
Our Defensive Driving School teachers employ the following while working with thousands of students each year.
  1. Focus: Instructor works with just a few concepts at a time.
  2. Discovery: Instructor questions student to help student recognize their driving know-how.
  3. Goal Oriented: Instructor gives student something to correct or improve upon in the next few minutes.
  4. Controlled: Instructor gives the student precise instructions as they are doing the maneuvers
  5. Example: Instructor trades places with the student for a minute or two to demonstrate a concept.
  6. In the future: Instructor prepares the student for situations in advance.
  7. Criticism: Instructor focuses on what not to do or tells them when they do something wrong. 
  8. Fine Tuning: Instructor helps student with more independent driving and decision making.
  9. Observation: Instructor watches student drive but gives no feedback or instruction on how they are doing or how to improve.
  10. Job is Completed: Instructor believes student is the best driver and offers no instruction or improvement strategies.
Jovana is back home now and driving on her own. It's been a few years and we continue to keep in contact every few days via email and Facebook. The best part that brings a smile to my face is that she still hears my voice in her mind as she drives. An effective coach stays in a student's heart and mind forever.


  1. Hi everyone. My name is Jovana. I got the opportunity to attend the Drefensive Driving School and to be one of Bridget’s students in 2008/09. I had a great experience with my instructor. I believe that I learned a lot from her and that I am becoming a more experienced driver every day.

    Since 99,99% of the cars in Serbia are stick shift, I had to take a few more classes with a Serbian instructor, in order to learn this "slightly" different driving technique. :) I noticed that I did not like the coaching style of my new instructor as much as I liked Bridget's. I believe that the aforementioned list of 10 stlyles presented the primary difference.

    I have to addmit that I was a little bit sceptical when it came to, first learining how to drive an automatic, and later switching to a stick shift. I believed it would be better to become good at latter, and than easily switch to automatic. However, I am very grateful that this was not the case. With a tremendous help of my instructor, by learning how to drive an automatic (or as most people may say: the easy one), I was able to direct my attention towards my surrounding, i.e. other traffic participants. Not having to think about shifting gears and pressing the clutch enabled me to focus on some crucial things like: following the movement of traffic, recognizing the signs other drivers are giving, predicting their behavior... Bridget taught me that good observation skills play an important role in the driving process.

    As a teenager it is sometimes hard to stay focused. Therefore, it is very important to choose a good driving school that has competent and experienced instructors, like Defensive Driving School, and start driving with someone who will know how to direct your attention toward important things, create the sence of social responsibility everytime you get in your driver’s seat, and adequately transfer his/her knowledge to you.

    P.S. : So true. I do hear Bridget's voice as I drive. :)

    1. Ahhh, thank you for your comment Jovana! I'm not sure if you knew this or not, but we actually do teach stick shift lessons. If we can help it, though, we don't teach someone how to drive first off in one. It's usually a lot easier and safer to add manual shifting after a person already knows basic car handling skills and how to effectively use their eyes.

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  3. I wonder what it would be like to have a parent as a licensed driver instructor. One of the best things about driving school for me was that my parents weren't teaching me to drive. (Lessons with my parents always ended in fights.) We definitely could have used articles from your site!

    Lily Vincent |


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