By Maria Russell
Most teenagers are excited about getting their driver’s license and some are even more anxious to get their first car. Certainly, there are advantages. Mom and dad are relieved of driving “Jr.” to and from school and his after-school job. Jr. can now help the family by chauffeuring his younger siblings to where they need to go and running sundry errands for his parents. Many parents will welcome this transition, but should every parent feel obligated to get their child a car?
Michael Venable, owner at Michael Venable State Farm Insurance, believes that brand new drivers are not “entitled” to have their own car.
“I always tell my 16-year-old clients that driving is a privilege and not a right,” he said. “I think, as parents, we should instill the work ethic needed to earn things. The lesson of working for things is very valuable and will pay off many times in our kids’ lives.”
Teaching our children a strong work ethic should begin at a young age. Children as young as 3 or 4 want to contribute and should be allowed to help around the house; it makes them feel valuable and needed. Entrusting small responsibilities to children early on pays much bigger dividends as they get older and mature.
Venable goes on to say, “Personally, I have told my children that I would match the amount of money they save toward their first car. I think this gives them a sense of pride knowing they worked for something. I also think it’s wise to make the kids work for the cost of insurance to show them how real life works. The sooner we can teach our kids life skills, the better.”
Young teens need to learn that there is much more to driving than simply knowing how to maneuver a vehicle and park it. Long before they are of legal driving age, parents can help their children tremendously by demonstrating that drivers are responsible for keeping their car in safe operating condition. Quality time can be shared by doing simple vehicle maintenance together, such as checking the oil and the tire pressure. Both sons and daughters should know how to safely change a flat tire — something that is bound to happen sooner or later, usually at the most inopportune time. Learning what warning lights mean and what to do when they come on is something else that every young driver ought to be taught.
Parents should continue to be involved with their child’s driving months after their teen gets their driver’s license. Becoming a good driver requires time and practice, and although a parent may be tempted to slack off of personally supervising, it’s a good idea to continue riding along from time to time. Besides having even more quality time with their teen, parents can observe the young driver’s level of attentiveness to what is all around them — not just what is immediately in front of them — and in doing so, help them become a more defensive driver.
Parents know their child better than anyone else and will sense when the time is right to allow Jr. to have his own car. His maturity level coupled with his sense of responsibility should be two of the guiding factors. If he’s not ready, don’t feel bad about denying him a car; explain your decision and tell him that you’ll revisit the idea in six months or so.
Just because “all” his friends have one shouldn’t be a reason for Jr. to have one. Keeping your child safe is much more important than keeping him satisfied.
By Maria Russell