For most parents, driving schools are a godsend. While we could not agree more, it is also normal for parents to want to personally teach driving to their teenagers. For one, it saves them considerable amounts of money in training fees, and they also get to closely monitor what their kids do behind the wheel.
Before you think about teaching your kid how to drive, ensure that you are qualified, which means:
- You have a valid driver’s license.
- You know the rules of the road.
- You are comfortable sitting on the passenger seat with an unlicensed driver.
- You will take full responsibility if anything goes wrong, and that includes having your own driver’s license revoked.
With that out of the way, here is a list of helpful tips for parents teaching their teen to drive:
1) Be patient and keep your cool
In general, teaching is no walk in the park. You need to expect that teaching your teen driver will be difficult. Because teenagers can be particularly touchy, it is essential to be patient and keep your cool no matter how frustrating things become. Remember those days when you first learned to drive. You had your own share of difficulties, and teenagers are likely to have theirs as well.
Yelling or overreacting to their poor driving skills will not help. If anything, it erodes your teen’s confidence and will make the learning process extra cumbersome. It is also distracting and can lead to accidents. Instead, gently explain to your child what they are doing wrong and how to do it right. This reinforces the fact that you are there to help, and not magnify their weaknesses (as some teenagers tend to think of parents criticizing them).
2) Plan your route
There is a saying that goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” This especially rings true when teaching teenagers how to drive. Some roads just are not suitable for student drivers, and some drivers will not be forgiving toward novice drivers.
More importantly, choosing a practice route that is way beyond your child’s comfort range makes it challenging to assess their performance. Is the mistake a result of the difficult road conditions, your vague instructions, or because your child still lacks skill and needs more practice?
Remember that undue stress diminishes your child’s confidence and perhaps even their overall enthusiasm toward learning how to drive.
3) Start small and take things slowly
Give your child ample time to progress from one skill level to the next. No matter how enticing the thought, it is a bad idea to prematurely ask your teen to drive at a busy intersection.
Begin with the fundamentals. Have your teen first master basic car controls on quiet roads, such as an empty parking lot. When in the parking lot, teach them how to start and stop the car, accelerate, and turn right, left, or make a U-turn. Practice next in quiet neighborhoods with not many cars. As your teenager becomes more skilled, move on to roads with traffic.
4) Provide clear instructions
Teaching a teen to drive can be stressful for both parties, so make sure to not add to the tension by offering ambiguous instructions. Say “brake” instead of “slow down,” “watch out,” or “be careful.” Say “correct” instead of “right” when acknowledging that your teenager did the right maneuver or provided the right answer to a question. “Right” can easily be misunderstood as “turn right.”
Remind your teenager to always look beyond just the car in front of them. They should keep an eye out for pedestrians, roadblocks, traffic signs, cars braking up ahead, and emergency vehicles.
5) Practice a lot
Perhaps the single best way to ensure your teenager stays safe while driving is by giving them as much supervised driving practice as you can. After all, practice makes perfect.
During these practice sessions, make an effort to stay focused. Although it may seem second-nature, don’t bring up touchy subjects such as grades, homework, boyfriends/girlfriends, or anything else that may distract from the task at hand. Even if something goes awry, such as running a yellow light or forgetting to use the turn signal, remain calm and give feedback in a constructive and respectful tone at the appropriate time.
As your child’s driving skills advance, allow them longer driving time in more complicated road situations and with different routes. Have them practice driving at different times of the day, including at night, and in various weather conditions. This gives them a feel for how the car behaves on wet or icy pavements.
6) Lead by Example
Your obligation as a parent is to help your teen become a safe driver. According to a study by the National Institutes of Health, parental involvement in driving significantly reduces dangerous driving habits during a driver’s first 12-18 months behind the wheel. Although your child hasn’t spent much time behind the wheel yet, they have observed your driving habits throughout the years and have likely picked up on a few things. Somethings to keep in mind when setting an example for your child:
- Always drive the speed limit
- Always maintain a safe distance between you and the car in front
- Always wear your seat belt
- Obey all traffic laws
- Refrain from using your cell phone
What you teach them sets the stage for the habits they will carry throughout their lives. Your driving should set a personal example for your child to emulate.
7) Training by an Expert
While practicing with your teen is important, it shouldn’t take the place of expert training through a local driving school. Professional instructors have been trained on the common mistakes new drivers tend to make and they are current and up-to-date on best-in-class curriculums and courses in the country. It is a driving institute’s job to make your teen an informed and safe driver in a professional atmosphere.
Teaching a teenager how to drive is a serious responsibility parents should take to heart. Ensuring your kids have the necessary driving skills will keep them safe on the road, especially when they are out driving on their own.
If you need help from experts who teach drivers education in Colorado, Western Slope Driving Institute is a Littleton drivers education institution offering basic and advanced driving courses for teenagers. Call us for any questions or if you would like to enroll your teenage driver in any of our courses.