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Nobody said it would be easy! (related article)

Some parents may think that it is naive to think that teens will listen to their parents. Teens will resist anything that sounds like preaching or patronizing, right? 

Wrong. In fact, dead wrong.

Scientific research shows that 60 percent of high school students say their parents are the biggest influence on their driving. You control the keys to the car. In most cases, you pay for the car or the insurance or the gas, or all of it. You, as the parent, are in the driver's seat. It's time to take control.

Is it easy? No, it's hard and painful at times. It can create friction and tension. How does that compare with the trauma of a dead child?

Here are some things to keep in mind when the going gets rough:

  1. You are not alone. Behind thousands of doors in Indiana, the same issues occur. Take encouragement from the fact that you are doing the right thing as a parent. Just as you once hand-fed your child and changed her diapers, you now serve as her guardian angel of life on the road. Sometimes your teen will listen cooperatively; other times, he will resent your repetition, nagging and over-protective attitude. Just remind yourself that the statistics show that no matter his demeanor and whether or not he likes it, kids DO listen, and it does save lives.
  2. Work your messages into daily conversation. Discuss crashes that appear on the evening news. Put articles or notes you write yourself in the teen's book bag. Discuss it with your spouse at the dinner table, so the child is a "third-party" to the conversation. This can be less patronizing. Make safe driving a recurring theme of family conversations every day, not just in a formal 'sit-down.'
  3. When your teen’s friends visit, talk with THEM about their driving. Ask how they like driving, whether they enjoy the freedom, whether they drive to school or not and other casual questions. If your teen’s friends are not driving yet, ask what they think of your teen’s driving! This gives you something to talk about with your teen’s friends, and it exposes TWO teens (the friend and your teen) to a message that driving is a major responsibility.
  4. When your teen doesn't want to talk, offer some reading material instead — starting with the guide. Clip articles from the newspaper. Pull things off the Internet. Be sure they read it. Provide this as a periodic alternative to dialogue.
  5. Draft a quiz for your child based on the information in this guide and have her read the guide and take the quiz!
  6. If your child resists your talks, use this message: "If you are not mature enough to talk about how to keep yourself, your passengers and other drivers from getting killed, then you're not ready for the keys to the car. Let me know when you're ready."

Easy? No. Necessary and effective? Yes. Remember, 5 minutes a week is all it takes to establish and reinforce phased-in driving privileges. Need some motivation? Clip these next few sentences and post them on your fridge: Teens whose parents talk with them about safe driving are less likely to die in a crash, according to statistics. Let’s say the same thing another way: Failure to talk with your child puts him at greater risk of dying in a crash. So talk!