We all know that sheer sense of freedom that comes with the first time you felt a set of car-keys in your hand as a teenager. If you’re a parent with a teenage child, it’s likely that you’ll soon be gearing up to hand over a set of keys in the near future. The idea of your child being out on the road might be a little stressful and anxiety inducing, but the best thing you can do to ease your mind as a parent would be to teach them about driving responsibility before and after they get behind the wheel themselves. Here are some ways to do that.
Teach them to follow the law to the letter.
Be absolutely insistent that your teen follow the laws of your state for permit, graduated driving and licensing requirements. Everything should be done exactly according to the legal requirements, including the process of accurately logging all practice hours before taking their driver’s road test. I know it seems a little strict, but if you allow your teen to slide in any of these areas, you are basically implying that the rules of the road are not important.
Create a driving contract
Once they’ve passed all the state mandated tests, draw up a driving contract that caters to your specific needs as a parent. This is a great way to set expectations and maintain boundaries. What you include in your contract is up to you, but stipulations regarding passengers, cellphone usage, curfews and insurance coverage will be very helpful for both of you. While this might seem like overkill at first, creating a serious document that highlights your expectations for your child’s driving does clarify just how serious the situation is. Get them to sign it. Hopefully this will inspire your teenager to be more responsible, once they are aware of the consequences.
Get them involved in the maintenance of the car they drive.
Your teen should be required to keep the vehicle gassed up, clean and also monitored for any problems that may arise. They should be be conscious of when the car doesn’t sound like it usually does, and know the number of your family mechanic. Another great way for your teen to learn about driving responsibility is to read the car manual. It may be ridiculously boring, but knowing about the ins and outs of the car will make them much better drivers.
Give them driving chores
The fastest way to teach a teen responsibility is to give them responsibility. Explain that the car isn’t just for joy-rides and trips to the mall. Give them chores that include driving, like picking up groceries or running particular errands. Not only will this help them become more confident in their own driving abilities, but it’s also helpful to you.
Be patient and lead by example.
Fear, anxiety and even immaturity are common for the first few month of being a new driver. Be gracious and kind but firm as you deal with this new chapter in your child’s life. But above all, don’t forget to lead by example. It’s likely that your teen will learn most of their driving habits from you, so pay attention to your own behavior when on the road.
By Matt Stewart