Thursday 30 May 2024

Being a supportive parent to a learner driver

Prejudice is an ugly, ugly thing. We strive to combat it wherever we see it, and are quick to condemn it when it rears its monstrous head. But, unfortunately there’s still one group of people that fewer leap to defend. A group of people that society still seems to see as fair game when it comes to snide jokes, put downs and downright rudeness. A group for whom unfair stereotypes are an unspoken status quo. And as soon as your child dons the L plates, they join their ranks.

The uphill battle

Think about it, is there any group more discriminated against, more misunderstood, more unfairly reviled than young learner drivers? They have to contend, not only with the impatience and often rudeness of others on the road but prohibitively high insurance premiums, too.

Young learners are often unfairly stereotyped as being ignorant, reckless and irresponsible but evidence shows them to be mostly in favour of greater restrictions on learning to drive and far less tolerant of drink driving than their elders.

Your role

Learning to drive can be a fantastically liberating experience for a teenager. It’s a huge step toward adulthood and independence, but it’s also a big step down a rocky road. Learning to drive is hard (would you do it again, today?) and as a parent you walk the difficult line between being a supportive, nurturing influence while being stern enough to prevent them from falling into the kinds of bad habits that could have serious safety consequences.

Go pro or go solo?

As with learning any skill, there’s really no substitute for instruction from a learned teacher and a driving lesson with an instructor who’s vetted and trustworthy can be a great gift for a 17th birthday. However, the rising cost of tuition has caused many to consider teaching their children themselves. This can also be a great way for your child to learn… But there are caveats.

Doing and teaching are very different processes that require very different skills. As accomplished a driver as you may be, it’s how you communicate with the learner that’s what counts. As a parent you’ll have spent years communicating with your son or daughter so you may feel that you have the inside track but in some cases this may be more of a hindrance than a help.

Whether we like it or not, as soon as we sit alongside our child at the wheel of a car, we bring with us over a decade’s worth of emotional baggage. As such, the way we react if they make a mistake or unknowingly put themselves in a dangerous situation could be more emotionally led than that of an instructor.

Unless you’re prepared to submit your car for a serious refurb, you’ll also lack the benefit of dual controls so it’s worth asking yourself how you’ll react if they fail to notice an impending hazard where you’d normally slam the brakes.

Most of the time a happy medium is the compromise. At least get your child started off on professional lessons that you can supplement with unlimited home tuition. If you feel out of your depth then, cost permitting, you can opt for more lessons. Likewise, if you are happy with your child’s progress you can you can tip the balance toward home tutoring.

** This is a collaborative post

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