Parenting In Focus: A positive lesson for your teen

Being a parent is important, whether your child is 2 months old or 14 years old. In each case you need to be careful how you go about teaching each lesson or you can make things worse. One of those lessons for the older children in your family is about driving.

You want this learning experience to be a positive one. There are some ways to keep learning about driving positive, even though it isn’t always easy.

Try to keep your teaching about driving to one subject at a time. Talk about changing lanes or driving during rush hour. You can talk about them before you even begin the drive or later. You don’t want to overwhelm your new driver with too many details.

When you have comments about your child’s driving, try to be non-judgmental. When you are correcting his behavior, try to use optimistic words of encouragement when you are commenting about his improvements. Your child needs to feel you are positive about his learning.

Be sure to never use this time to discipline your child about other problems like cleaning his room or missing his curfew. There is enough to learn in the car without adding additional problems.

Remember that this is a learning experience. This is one that requires much parental patience and even patience from your child.

As your teen becomes a driver, you really want to make sure he drives safely. One way you can help is to write your own rules of the road and consequences if your child breaks them.

One parent set it up so that each week, her teen is expected to wash the car. Then, if he makes the honor role, he can use the car for school activities, errands and dates. If he drinks, there will be no driving for two months.

These rules really captured the attention of her teenage driver.

Rules that include consequences are useful to use for many different kinds of experiences with a growing teen. Rules about homework, including passengers when you are learning to drive, keeping up grades or ignoring speed limit signs all are more effective when your child understands the consequences if he doesn’t do the right thing.

Be sure to remember that you are the one who is modeling proper driving for your teen. Children need models rather than critics. When you go through the stop sign or go over the speed limit, your child is learning. Make sure he is learning the appropriate lesson.

Remember that even as you teach your child, male or female, the number of positive things you say to him or her should overwhelmingly outweigh the negatives. Do they?

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which published newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents.