12 Tips to Teaching Teens to Drive
Teaching teens to drive can start well before they turn 13.
One of my favorite memories of growing up was of my dad teaching me how to drive. He owned a bank building on a piece of property in the Arizona desert about 30 minutes from our house. The lone bank building was like an oasis in the desert with hardly anything else surrounding it. This was my dad’s first and only investment and somehow, driving out to see it every Sunday was a comfort to him—a way to envision how the land around it would get developed and yield a return on his investment when he sold the building years later.
He invited me to go on his Sunday drives to check out his investment as a way to spend time with me, his oldest daughter. Then one Sunday, he had the brilliant idea to teach me how to drive at the bank building. I was only 10 years old, but the wide open spaces and lack of traffic made it a safe haven for me to learn. No one was watching and what could I hurt? I’m sure it wasn’t technically legal, but hey! Most of us weren’t wearing seat belts and babies weren’t in car seats in the early 80s either.
My dad taught me how to go straight, park, and put the car in reverse in the bank’s parking lot. I also learned how to pull through the drive-through lanes where I drove up on every curb possible for years until eventually being able to go through without incident. I used to love stopping at the drive-up window and pretending like I was withdrawing large sums of money. My dad and I would talk and have fun on our drives to and from the bank building and during my time behind the wheel. More than 30 years later, the bank building that my dad has long since sold is one building among hundreds right off the exit of a major highway. Every time I visit Arizona, I drive by that bank building and memories of learning to drive nearly every Sunday with my dad for almost 6 years until I got my license bring back a flood of positive memories.
12 Tips to Teaching Teens to Drive
Contrasting my experiences in learning to drive with my oldest son’s helps me see that my dad did a few things right that every parent could learn from. So, when you start considering teaching teens to drive, here are 12 of tips to keep in mind:
- Start teaching your kids to drive at a young age. While some kids have no fear of driving whatsoever, others do. Starting your kids driving at a young age gives them time to warm up to driving.
- Give your kids hands-on driving experiences in a safe environment. Driving can feel overwhelming when you’re first getting starting. Finding a safe environment to get your kids behind the wheel is key. Wide, open spaces without other moving vehicles or people makes for the perfect learning environment.
- Don’t pressure your kids into getting behind the wheel until they are ready.Kids will learn to drive at their own pace. If they aren’t ready to start learning when you are ready or need to pause their lessons after they start, take a break. Let them know that they have time and can start learning again when they feel ready. Then, be patient! Your confidence in their abilities and trusting their time table will be just the right approach to get them on the road sooner than later.
- Turn the “learning to drive” experience into bonding moments they’ll treasure forever. Learning to drive was really the least of what my dad was teaching me every Sunday at the bank building. What he was really showing me was that he valued me enough to spend time with me one on one. I am the oldest of six children and I’m sure he was really busy. But he took time to go on drives with just me each week and ask me questions about my teenage girl life. He listened to me. He talked to me about his investment and his dreams.I don’t visit the bank building when I return to Arizona to conjure up memories of learning how to master going through the drive-through lanes. I visit it to feel my father’s love wash over me. Making the “learning to drive” experience a bonding moment is something you will be able to treasure forever with your children.
- Make drive time a fun time your kids will look forward to.Infusing laughter into any situation not only takes the stress away but also makes it fun. Tell jokes, take selfies and videos, share funny learning experiences with the family. All of these things will make drive time a time to look forward to and something the younger kids want to experience when they’re of age as well.
- Teach your kids to drive one on one. Not only does one-on-one instruction yield better learning results as it gives you time to share individual feedback in a way that specific child learns best, but it also helps your child to better focus due to decreased distractions. The best benefit though? You will get to know your child in ways you otherwise wouldn’t and form a tight bond with him/her.
- Take your kids driving on a regular basis. Driving isn’t a skill children master from a one-time hands-on experience. Learning to drive requires a lot of practice. Set a regular date and time weekly or monthly your child can look forward to. Then stick to it! Your child will be driving in no time.
- Vary the driving-related tasks you ask them to perform to teach them a variety of driving skills. Remember that driving involves much more than just pushing on the gas pedal and going forward. Things seasoned drivers take for granted are potentially overwhelming to our children. Make sure to teach your children to park, to use all of the gears including reverse, to parallel park, to drive in various weather conditions, to back out of a parking spot while turning, to use their blinkers, to turn on the front and back windshield wipers while driving, to defog the car while driving, to pull over if they need help, and more.
- Ask your kids driving questions as you drive to help them learn the rules of the road at a young age. Before your kids get their drivers license and as you are driving from place to place, ask them questions to involve them in the driving process. For example, as you are approaching a four-way stop, ask them: “Which car goes first at this stop sign?” This and other such questions will help them pay attention to and learn the rules of the road well in advance of when they are the ones behind the wheel.
- Explain your driving decisions as you drive to and from your selected “driving range.” As you make specific decisions when you drive, share your rationale with your kids. The other day, my husband could see the cars on the freeway were starting to press on their brakes miles ahead so he started slowing down. He explained that he could see traffic slowing way up the road and the need to be prepared by slowing down. He further shared the importance of always keeping your eyes on the road and looking ahead to know what is going on around you. This simple explanation helped our kids learn a valuable driving lesson.
- Ask your kids for feedback and implement it. As you are teaching your children to drive, ask them if the way in which you are teaching them is helpful. Then, listen to their feedback. Everyone learns differently. If your child tells you that you aren’t patient enough or your explanations are too long or are confusing, don’t get offended. Modify your instructions to meet your child’s needs.
- Capture your “learning how to drive” memories and reflect back on them as your kids grow older. Just like it was for me, learning how to drive can be one of a child’s favorite memories. Make sure to capture the memories with photos, videos, by writing in your journal and encourage your children to do the same. I would give anything to have a picture of my dad and I at that old bank building. I can only imagine my 10-year old self behind the wheel of that big car so proud my dad made time to spend with me.
Remember that teaching teens to drive is a milestone you will all look back on. Following those 12 tips will help create memorable memories. For more information on teaching teens to drive, check out these posts:
- Helping teens get their learner's permit
- Learning to live with a learner's permit driver
- How to help your teen pass their driver's license test with flying colors
What are your top tips for teaching teens to drive?