Car crashes are the number one cause of death today for teenagers (age 16-20). And several recent studies point to parents as a key factor in safety for teenage drivers.
Teens who say their parents are actively involved in their lives are 70% less likely to drink and drive, half as likely to speed, and 30% less likely to use a cellphone while driving. And teens who don’t have a car designated as “theirs” are half as likely to get into an accident. Read more.
These studies naturally lead to some questions and issues that a dad of a driving teen should address, applying common sense combined with insights regarding his child’s maturity. As with most areas of parenting, a child should be given new privileges as he demonstrates growing responsibility. With driving safety, it’s important to consider these questions when setting up rules:
- Can friends or other passengers ride along?
- What about cellphone use?
- Where do you draw the line when it comes to weather conditions and darkness?
- Who controls the keys?
- What are the consequences for speeding and recklessness, whether or not the child is caught?
Ken Ginsberg, a professor of pediatrics and the author of one of the studies, is quick to point out the powerful influence parents have on their children’s behavior in this area: “If you take this seriously and you are an active parent that gives appropriate rules and appropriate boundaries combined with warmth and support, you can actually make a tremendous difference here.”
Those are foundational insights for all fathers, whether they are dealing with a driving teenager, a tantrum-throwing toddler, a disrespectful twelve-year-old, or an uncooperative kindergartner. Kids do better on the road of life — they are less reckless, avoid harmful crashes, are more respectful of others, and assume more responsibility — when we give them rules and boundaries balanced with lots of love, support and encouragement. Children need clear limits and expectations so they have positive values, direction and purpose. They also need affirmation and a strong relationship with us, so they trust us to lead them and they’re motivated to do their best.
- Give your young child lots of affirmation and time with you. Build his trust, so you’ll continue to have a strong influence when he is a teenager.
- Spend a few minutes thinking of something new you’ve noticed in each of your children for which you can affirm them. Then tell them at the dinner table.
- Come to an agreement with your child on a new privilege she will receive when she demonstrates responsibility in a particular area.
- Talk with your child’s mother about how balanced you are as parents. In what areas are you too controlling or too permissive?
- Show your kids that you aren’t above the rules you expect them to follow: don’t eat snacks between meals; clean up after yourself; replace empty toilet paper rolls; take your shoes off when you come in the door; use your seatbelt.