What I Learned From Teaching a Teenager to Drive
One of the most rewarding (and most difficult) things I’ve ever had to do as a father is teach my child how to drive.
When you’re teaching a teenager to drive, it’s not the process that is difficult; it is coming to the realization that your baby is growing up before your eyes. When it was time for me to put my 15-year old in the driver’s seat, I was forced to sit back while she learned how to maneuver a car around the streets of Vail.
We started off in the neighborhoods. She learned the street signs and how to tell when the speed limits changed. Once we both felt ready, she took her first trip down Mary Ann Cleveland to Houghton, and then all the way over to Speedway. She experienced lane changes, merging, and plenty of stop-and-go traffic.
It was a learning experience for us both. She learned how to drive a car and I learned what it felt like for my parents when they taught me how to drive years ago.
Patience is Key
When was the last time you learned something new? If it’s been awhile, you might have forgotten just how difficult it can be in the beginning. You fumble around and overthink every situation.
As an adult who has driven for years, this can feel a little exhausting. Driving has become second nature to you. It’s hard to sit in the passenger’s seat while you watch your teen struggle to get as comfortable behind the wheel as you are.
While you’re feeling your patience wear thin, remind yourself of the difficulties you had in the beginning. It’s natural for both of you to get frustrated while your teen learns how to drive, but working through the learning curve together will bring you both closer together.
Give ‘Em Freedom
It’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever had to do, but I’m glad I did. On the first day my daughter received her driver’s license, she was out driving on her own.
Even though it’s frightening, it’s important to let your child leave you (her safety blanket) at home and experience driving without supervision. Trust in what you’ve taught her and trust in the system. She passed her test and is legally able to drive. Give her freedom and independence, even if it’s more than a little nerve wrecking.
Don’t Go Too Fast
I’m a mechanic. More than that, I’m a car-lover. I love the feel of going fast, the hum of the engine, and the power of being in control when behind the wheel. Because of my (and my fiancée’s) car obsession, many people assumed I’d teach my daughter to drive stick right away. Not quite.
It’s important to let your teenager get used to being behind the wheel. A stick shift adds a whole other element to the driving experience. Let her ease into her new role as “driver” before giving her clutch, gear changes, and plenty of stall-outs to worry about. You’ll both be thankful you did.
Have you ever taught a teenager how to drive? What were your experiences? Share them in the comments below.