Tips for Teaching Your Teen to Drive
Updated: Sep 4
Your children have turned to you for help in many things over the years. You helped them learn their ABCs, how to pet a dog and how to tie their shoes. Later, maybe you taught them how to make an omelet or what cycles to use when putting whites or colors in the washing machine. But it’s all child’s play compared to the most nerve-wrecking thing a parent will ever teach their children: how to drive.
With all the distractions in a car today, it is normal to worry about how this can affect your child’s driving. Providing them with the correct education can help them realize the danger.
Even if you let a driving school handle the heavy lifting, you’re probably going to have to get into a car with your teenager at some point. But teaching your teen to drive doesn’t have to be a super stressful experience if you remember these three rules of the road.
If you lose your cool, you’re going to create a bad experience for your child, and yourself. If you’re constantly yelling and stressing out, your teen may even eventually be afraid to drive, not because they’re afraid of what’s on the roads, but who’s in the passenger seat. Don’t push your child too hard or too fast. An argument in the car can cause unintentional aggressive driving habits.
Yes, you want to teach, and your inclination is going to be to say something, as you lurch forward and back while your teenager gets used to the brake and gas pedals. But whatever you say should be as pleasant and supportive as possible. Focus on building skills instead of criticizing their lack of skills. Try not to panic, you will only transfer that panic to them. Panicking during the learning stages can cause the young driver to panic in certain everyday experiences while driving.
And your teen should be talking, too. Ask your teen to talk out loud as you drive, narrating what a good driver should be seeing and doing to drive safely. Listen as your teen describes your driving. Check for any omitted steps. Give feedback—especially positive, encouraging comments. When a teen can describe your good driving habits as you drive, you’ll know that they are ready to get behind the wheel.
Not only do you want to model good driving techniques, but you also want to model safe driving behaviors. This is a formative period for your child—and a dangerous one. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than any other age group. A 2013 study by Cohen Children’s Medical Center suggests that texting while driving is a major contributor to that, even more so than drinking and driving. Therefore, you should never use your phone while driving, not only to protect you, your passengers, other motorists and pedestrians, but also to demonstrate to your teen what responsible driving looks like.
Be Sure to Practice
Because teaching your teenager can be stressful, you might find yourself – consciously or subconsciously – finding other tasks to complete instead, like cleaning out the garage you were ignoring for years. Consistent practice is what will often be the determining factor of whether or not their child earns their driver’s license on the first attempt.
Regardless of when they pass, the more your teenager practices, the more likely they will become a safe and responsible driver. If you plan on getting your child their own car, it is great to practice in that so they will be comfortable in the future.
And you don’t need to be out on the road for hours. In fact, it’s better if you aren’t. Shorter practice sessions, blocks of 15 to 20 minutes a day, seem to be more effective for teenagers than longer periods. Not only does this suit the attention span of the average high school student, but the aggravation, impatience and potential animosity that can be avoided by more abbreviated sessions behind the wheel can be better for the family’s overall well-being.
It’s a lot to remember, but you made it through potty training and a slew of other challenges. You’ll get through this, too. Preparing your child for the road ahead, through practice, positivity, and patience, will help them to avoid accidents which will in turn increase your premium. So, with any luck, when your teenager borrows the car for the first time, to perhaps pick up dinner for the family, you’ll be able to breathe easily and feel great about the part you played in preparing your child to engage with the driving world. But remember, since they are still new drivers it is okay to monitor their driving and stay on them about being safe behind the wheel.