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Teaching your child the rules of the road is a big job. It is a complex puzzle that cannot be completed unless every piece falls into place. It includes studying with your child using a practice test, letting your child get behind the wheel, and taking them into the DMV to pass the test.
But, if that’s all you’re doing to teach your teen how to drive, you’re missing an important piece of the puzzle—teaching by example.
Chances are, your child has been in the car with you for years while you’re driving, but they weren’t paying attention to what you were doing. Now that they are old enough, they are paying attention. Help support the learning process and lead by example with these tips.
Distracted driving is a real problem. It causes many accidents every single day. The more comfortable you get with driving, the more likely you are to drive distracted, but even teens without a lot of experience behind the wheel drive distracted. Their young minds convince them that they are invincible, which means they are more likely to make bad choices, especially if they’ve seen you drive distracted.
It’s not just your cell phone you have to think about either!
A few tips for remaining undistracted behind the wheel include:
- Use your phone only if you pull over on the side of the road first.
- Limit the number of passengers in the car, when possible.
- Have rules for the kinds of activities that are acceptable in the car.
- Never eat and drive at the same time.
- Never put on makeup while you’re behind the wheel.
- Keep the radio volume at a reasonable level.
Keep the Anger in Check
You aren’t alone if you have trouble with road rage. It’s easy to let others get the best of you on the road, but it isn’t setting a good example for your teenage passenger as they learn to navigate the challenges of the road.
When you get frustrated, there are things you can do to calm yourself down. They include:
- You can’t teach other drivers to drive better. You can only manage your reactions to their behavior.
- Creatively think of positive reasons why they may be driving like that (maybe they’re speeding to the hospital).
- Readjust your thought pattern and be thankful that everyone is safe instead of being angry that the other driver put you in danger.
- Be aware of the fact that you view things through an egocentric lens, and remember that the other driver has one of their own!
Follow the Rules of the Road
Do you follow the rules of the road? At all times? Chances are, you speed from time to time and you may choose not to put your turn signal on in a parking lot, but there are probably other rules you’re breaking that you’ve completely forgotten about.
For example, did you know tailgating is more than just a nuisance? It can actually give you a ticket! You are never allowed to cut across solid white lines, and it is illegal to cut through a parking lot. Follow every rule, which may mean brushing up on them, if you have a teenager in the passenger’s seat.
Demonstrate Every Skill They Will Be Required to Master
The best way to learn is to see it in action first! Before you put your child behind the wheel, demonstrate every skill. That may mean you have to brush up on your parallel parking skills.
There are other little-known rules of the road you can teach your child while you’re driving too. For example, did you know that left-hand positioned exit numbers on the interstate clue you in that the exit will be on the left? Teach your child these tips and they’ll thank you later!
Open a Dialog While You’re Driving
The easiest way to be a good role model for your child when driving is simply to open up a dialog while you’re behind the wheel. Talk about the road signs you’re following or how you’re going with the flow of traffic.
Point out safety tips, like keeping your phone in the backseat, and ask if they have any suggestions, insights, or recommendations while you’re driving.
Teaching your child to the rules of the road can be scary, but if you demonstrate good driving before they get their license, you will feel much better about how they’ll do on the road when you aren’t by their side.
Krystle Cook – the creator of Home Jobs by MOM – put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.