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Teens behind the wheel

Tips for teaching your kids to drive

oany parents, myself included, are a bit wary about letting their teenagers learn to drive, especially if they live in a city where there is alternative transport. But some parents have no option but to teach kids to drive, especially when they have to travel long distances to school or sports. And then there are kids who can’t wait to drive because they just love cars.

Either way, you’re going to have to teach them or pay for lessons. If it’s you doing the teaching, then here are some tips to help:

  • Let your child tell you when they are ready to start driving. Not all kids are keen to get behind the wheel and some need a while before they feel ready. So tell them you’ll teach them whenever they want.

  • Accept it when they just won’t drive. This is becoming quite common with teens in big cities who can get around easily on buses or trains and find that owning a car is just too expensive. You might want to draw the line at being their taxi, however.

  • Let them drive you as often as you can when they are confident enough. You need to show them that you believe in their abilities, and the more practice they get the quicker they’ll get their licence and you won’t have to be their taxi anymore.

  • Be honest about which parent should do the teaching. If there’s a chance you’ll lose your temper, or if you don’t have a lot of patience, it’s probably best to let the calmer one do the teaching.

  • Teach by asking questions. Don’t yell, “You’re going too fast, we’re all going to die!” Instead, inquire calmly if they know what the speed limit is – then you are teaching them to be aware of their actions, surroundings and driving conditions.

  • Speaking of surroundings, remember that you will have to be their eyes and ears while they are learning the basics, so do be on guard and keep aware of what is going on outside the car, until they get up to speed.

  • If you have a manual car, use it. It’s best simply because it helps them understand the way a car works, plus you can’t always guarantee they’ll be driving an automatic for the rest of their lives.

  • Start slow and build up. Choose an empty car park and spend time just doing the basics like starting, stopping and turning and changing gears. Don’t rush this stage. once they are doing these things confidently, you can move up to quiet suburban back streets.

  • Don’t use the word “right” when you want to tell them they did something correctly, or they will turn the car right. Have another word, such as “good”.

  • Give them clear and concise directions in time for them to react. Don’t suddenly say “Turn left right now!” Instead, calmly say, “You’ll be turning left at the next street.”

  • Don’t make a day of it. Realistically, teenagers can usually only concentrate on something as challenging as learning to drive for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, so make that the time limit for each lesson.

  • Set goals that are achievable. You might only have to spend six lessons teaching some kids, while others will need 12 or more. What’s important is that you spend enough time teaching them while they build up their driving confidence.

  • Set a good example. If you run red lights or don’t “merge like a zip”, then neither will your child.

  • Remember that you’re there to teach them and share information so avoid the temptation to talk down to your teenager if they get something wrong. And try to remember to praise even the slightest thing they do right.

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