Driving: The Rules and the Rights
Driving is serious business. It is definitely a responsibility and not a right. Your son needs to understand the important nature of driving and the responsibility that necessarily goes along with it.
Automobile-related deaths are the number one cause of death for teens. More than 40 percent of teen deaths in 2002 were related to driving, according to the research center ChildTrends. The good news is that lawmakers and parents are taking driving more seriously, even if teens aren't.
The number of teens who get their license at sixteen dropped by 25 percent between 1993 and 2003 due to new state licensing requirements. Most states now have graduated licensing requirements. This means there are longer learning periods, curfews, and restrictions on behavior, including how many people can be in the car with your son during certain licensing periods.
Only about 60 percent of teens will get their driver's license at age sixteen. Only at age nineteen does the number reach 80 percent. This may contradict your beliefs or your son's statements about who is driving and who isn't.
Just as you have rules about everything else, you should have rules about the car. Getting a driver's license is not a right; do not allow your son to get his license if you don't feel he is ready for the responsibility. Your son should:
Show responsibility in most situations
Verbalize his understanding of road responsibilities
Be trustworthy when alone in a car
Understand what to do in an emergency situation
Understand that alcohol and drugs are never allowed near the car — ever!
Once he has his license, you need to set rules for your son. A written contract is a great idea because it clearly lists everyone's responsibilities and the consequences if the rules aren't followed. Then there are no surprises for anyone. You also need to be sure to enforce the rules; driving is one place where there should be no second chances.
Rules might include:
Who can ride with him
Where he can drive
When he can drive
Which activities are allowed and which are prohibited while he is driving (such as playing the radio, talking on the phone, eating food, and so forth)
Tell your son he can call on you no matter what the hour or what the problem. Remind him that his safety is your main concern. He should never ride in a car with someone who is intoxicated or drive if he is intoxicated.
The ability to do things by oneself precedes independence. Once your son is able to do things on his own, he will have an easier time making decisions for himself. This is one of the hardest tasks of growing up. It can also be a difficult issue for parents; it is hard to let your child fly on his own because sometimes you have to watch him stumble.
Your son wants to make choices for himself. This starts very early in life. When he was a toddler, he may have snatched his clothes out of your hands and defiantly exclaimed, “No! I'll do it!” Teenagers do the same thing. The difference is that the choices your son makes now have larger ramifications than wearing his shoes on the wrong feet. Basically, your son needs to learn to take care of himself. While he may have some of the basics down, like hygiene, it is important that he learn other tasks within the safety of your home.
Your son will need to learn many tasks before leaving home. You should be sure to include:
Basics of cooking
House keeping (vacuuming, dusting, etc.)
Writing a professional letter
Conducting a professional telephone call
Your son may see your lessons on the mundane chores of adult life as a punishment. He has every right to think that, and to him it may feel like a truth. After all, you have done his laundry for all these years, and now you're asking him to do his own. Remind him it is not a punishment but rather a life skill.