Teaching your child how to drive is possibly one of the most, if not “the” most, scary experiences a parent can have while raising his son or daughter to be independent. How can you find peace with the idea of your baby pulling out onto a busy street in a lethal weapon? It doesn't have to be so bad, and here are some tools to have you singing while your child is “rolling down the highway” with you in tow instead of screaming in fear.
First, think things through. What type of personality does your child have? Is he calm and steady in his ways and behavior? Does he do his chores on time and finish his homework without any fuss? Then you probably have very little to worry about, but don't get too confident just yet.
A child who seems calm all the time most likely is careful when trying new things. That can be a good or bad thing when driving. Probably the worst problem with the child who is “too” careful is he is a hazard when pulling out in front of people. See, he may tend to over think things and may nearly stop after pulling out in traffic. The best way to prevent these types of hazards in the car is to talk with your child over a few months or weeks before they actually get into a car. If you talk calmly and give specific directions that are simple, short and to the point, he will be less focused on not doing it right because he will have the tools you gave him. A word of warning, however, is never let your child know you are afraid he will mess up. This will only further “freak” him out with “analysis paralysis”.
Here are a few tips for the “too-careful” child.
- Have him study his driving manual well and have it learned before taking the test. A quick short-term memorization will not cut it. He will need to have these rules firm in his mind before ever getting in a car.
- Next, be sure to take him with you on outings and watch as he talks to you about your driving. This will be a good thing. It means he has learned the rules well. If he has misunderstood a rule, now is the time to explain how it works when you are actually driving.
- Let him know you have confidence in him that he will be able to get the skill of driving with ease. This will calm his fears and stop the cycle of over thinking that can wreck a “careful” driver.
Another side to the “too-careful” personality is “over-achievement”. This can cause your child to try too hard. The result on the road is not good. A child who does this usually comes out OK, but he tends to jump out in traffic too fast, turn too sharp, stop too fast and things of this sort. He may even drive too fast or too slow to show he can do well at driving. Again, this is why it is so important to have him study really well and know the rules. Then be sure to let him know he doesn't need to prove to you that he can do it; you already know he can do it. By calming his fears early, the cycle of worry that accompanies the overachiever will be less of a problem.
Then there is the “know-it-all”. This child may be an “overachiever” in disguise, but he has to understand that a car is a lethal weapon and it can kill him, you and others on the roadways. If you must, show him videos of accidents. Your local police may be able to help you with this. A word of caution, however, is that these types of visual deterrents can also leave horrifying, lasting and even haunting memories. So, if that is not for you, then talk through what can happen when a person makes different mistakes while driving. Let your child give the answers, and you then can either validate him, or tell him what will really happen.
The “know-it-all” will not want to study the book. That will cost him when he gets out on the road. If you don't like paying for tickets, be sure to make him study the book. Get creative if need be and teach him actively. You can have a good driver who has the “know-it-all” personality, but you will have to work hard to remain calm and never let him see you sweat.
Are you one of these parents who left his last nerve back on the freeway somewhere? If this describes you, then you probably are having a nightmarish time. You really do need to get it together or let someone more calm teach your child how to drive. It's not a good idea to be a nervous wreck on the outside when your child who is already is nervous is behind the wheel. One of two things will happen.
- They will want to quit driving altogether.
- They will have that wreck you are so afraid of out of not being able to be calm in the car.
Keep in mind your reactions will have a direct effect on your child. The more you let him know he is capable of making wise decisions while driving, the more he will do just that. After all, he does want to please you deep down.
If your child is an “overachiever” or especially a “know-it-all”, you may want to rethink that new sports car you had planned to give him for passing the test. Having to drive an older car or a parents car for a while may get things under control before he ends up in a wreck that is his fault.
One final thought that always is helpful to any personality type is to think like this. Everyone else on the road is “nuts”. They're not paying attention. They aren't courteous until they are. This may seem outrageous, but if you drive with the idea that no one is watching what he is doing, much less what you are doing, and that you need to be watching what they are doing, you can avoid getting hit by them.
This type of defensive driving can be useful. It is not meant to be used to the point that you end up sitting at a four way stop for hours out of indecision, but it will prevent that wreck where someone waved you around him but didn't even look to see if there were any oncoming traffic or the one where someone came up in the turn lane too soon and cut you off.
If your child knows he is in charge in the car and that you have confidence in him with the expectation that he drive thoughtfully, he will respond with great driving skills that are learned over time. These skills will go a long way towards keeping him safe and sound for years to come.
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