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Teaching your first teen how to drive is a frightening experience. Lingering between anguish over the thought of seeing her behind the wheel, and anxiety that one of your most valuable possessions might be damaged; teaching your teenager to drive is a milestone in parenthood. Make the experience a success for both of you and come prepared to your first lesson together – maybe you’ll make it back in one piece and, who knows, it might even turn out to be fun.
Making it a positive learning experience is not necessarily about your skills as a driver. Many excellent drivers turn into nerve wrecks when their child is behind the wheel, and the reason they’re such wrecks is usually the same reason that they’re such good drivers – it’s all about control. Not everyone can trust their child with the control they’re used to having and as soon as the driving happens in traffic, the calm parent becomes jumpy, shouty, and even a bit dangerous.
A friend of mine vividly recalls her own driving experiences with her mother, most of which usually ended up with my friend parking the car at the side of the road, and telling her mom to calm down or she wouldn’t drive with her anymore. Neither of them got much out of the lessons but a good fright.
Not only with regards to where you’re going to drive, at what hour and in what weather conditions, but also with your teenager’s knowledge. A few nights before you drive together, talk about the most common reasons that accidents happen and what you can do to avoid this – such as staying off the smartphone, and constantly being aware of other drivers. Have a good accident attorney at hand, and make sure your teenager knows how to handle an emergency situation. It’s a lot better to get this talk over with and feel confident with your teen, rather than bringing all of your anxieties with you to the car.
Use Positive Reinforcement
If you’re worried about your teen’s driving, try to stay positive rather than scolding, and avoid jumpiness by all means. Reinforce good driving behavior and make her aware of dangerous driving while keeping the mood light; it’s all about the balance.
Making a criticism a question is another excellent advice – when you feel like she is driving too fast, ask her what the speed limit is on this road. She’ll notice it on her own, and you’re planting the seeds for her to continue regulating herself on her own.
Remember that you are her teacher and she is brand new to the roads; give directions in advance so that she’ll have time to listen and act on it. Telling her to ‘turn right here’ will cause unnecessary stress if it’s done right before the turn – rather give it a good ten seconds and say ‘we’ll be turning right at this turn.’ Now she can easily steer you right without feeling stressed, and you get to applaud her for doing it calmly and correctly.