How to Be Patient and Encouraging When Teaching Your Teen How to Drive

Once the day comes, it’ll be a milestone for both of you. Here's how to be patient and encouraging when teaching your teen how to drive.

Once the day comes that your teenager can learn how to drive it’ll be a milestone moment for both of your lives. For them, it signifies growing independence and opens doors to new opportunities and freedom. For you as a parent, it is one of the biggest signs of progress of letting go and proof of trust.

However, even though automotive technologies and thus cars get safer and overall numbers show a downward trend, young drivers (aged 17-24) are still disproportionately represented in accidents and four times as likely to be killed or seriously injured. And while these figures certainly can be concerning, they shouldn’t deter you from taking on the responsibility of encouraging or teaching your teen. Quite the opposite: with the right approach, you can empower them to become safe and confident drivers.

The key lies in fostering a learning environment built on patience and encouragement. And here’s how.

Start slow and start steady

Patience is, so often, key. Remember that your teen is a novice driver, not a seasoned professional – and still a child. The initial focus should be on mastering the fundamentals, of course. We always advise to take professional lessons done by a licensed driving instructor, as they are equipped to guide them safely through learning the mechanics of the vehicle. And even though you’re able to install dual pedals in your car, it’s nothing that you really benefit from at the end of the day. But there’s nothing stopping you from taking them to quiet, out-of-town areas or residential streets where they can practice steering, braking, and maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles in a low-pressure environment. Remember to add the red L-plates to your car if you do so – and that your teen needs to be insured! Ideally, you can support this with a young driver’s insurance, which is specifically made to cater to their needs.

Focus on positive reinforcement

Everyone is making mistakes, especially when learning a new skill. During practice sessions, resist the urge to dwell on every minor error. Instead. Focus on highlighting the successes, no matter how small. Did they smoothly navigate a roundabout? Did they see a potential hazard in time? Checked the mirrors? Point it out with a short “Well done” or “Good.” Positive reinforcement goes a long way in keeping them motivated and feeling seen. It fosters a learning environment that feels supportive, not critical.

And once you come to a hold, only then talk about the things you need to focus on going forward. Remember, learning to drive should be a positive experience that builds their confidence behind the wheel in the first place.

Use direct and gentle communication

Clear and concise communication is vital in every aspect of life, and learning how to drive is no exception. Before setting off, explain your instructions well in advance, engage in conversation, have your teen feedback on what you are going to do – and always encourage questions. This allows them time to process information and plan their actions, and ideally, it’ll lead to smoother driving and fewer last-minute corrections from you. Make sure you are always on the same page.

Lead by example

Learning how to drive isn’t only isolated to when they sit behind the wheel; they are constantly observing your driving habits, both good and bad. Make sure you are setting a positive example. If you demonstrate responsible driving behaviour, you’re not just keeping yourself safe; you are also instilling the same good habits that your teen will likely imitate when they are taking over the driver’s seat.

Giving your child additional hours in your car in tandem with a professional instructor can give valuable guidance and more practice time to get comfortable on the roads. It can significantly boost their confidence and skills – but make sure that you are creating the best learning environment possible for them. The better your attitude, the more of your teachings will be taken to heart.

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