You may be wondering, is there anything at all you, as a parent, can do to have a positive influence on your child when they’re out on the road and behind the wheel?
Sure there is. Let’s start with you. Are you always calm, cool, and collected when driving? If so, you’ve been a great example for your children. They’ve watched you be courteous to other drivers. They’ve never seen you curse under your breath or flip another driver the bird for cutting you off. That means you’re halfway there for modeling the sort of behavior you can only hope they’ll emulate now that it’s their turn in the driver’s seat.
Of course, teens are a (road) raging mass of hormones and their brains are in a very active stage of development. They may find it hard to keep their emotions in check and their stress levels tolerable. And of course, if they get overemotional or stressed out, it’s likely those emotions will express themselves as aggression toward the other drivers on the road.
So how do you know if your teen is going to be able to keep it together while driving? Assess their overall behavior and see if any of the hallmarks of the typical road rage personality are there. Here’s a look:
When your teen is along for the ride and you’re driving, do they sometimes make cutting comments about other drivers?
Do they become irritated by the mistakes of other motorists on the road?
Are they quick to get angry?
Are they rude?
Do they criticize others’ behavior?
At home, do discussions with them often result in yelling and screaming?
If they do something wrong, do they take responsibility for their actions?
Have you set a good driving example for your teen? Are you always calm, cool and collected while driving?
When your teenager rides with you and you lose it, do they look happy to watch you “give it” to the other driver? Do they encourage your angry reaction?
Does your teen tend to be a bit of a show-off? Will they do anything to get attention?
When your teen drives and you’re along for the ride, do you see them taking too many chances?
If your teen identifies with any of these hallmarks, sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk with them—and even be prepared to take the car away…temporarily. Begin by telling your teen they can drive, but only with you in the car with them. Once their driving behavior convinces you beyond all doubt that they’ve learned their lesson, you can return the keys, reminding them that having driving rights is a privilege that must be continuously earned by stellar driving behavior.
If you only suspect your teen might be prone to road rage, don’t be afraid to ask others to let you know what they observe when they see them driving. Talk to other parents, their friends, and even their friends’ parents and ask them to watch and observe how your teen drives. Make sure they know you want to hear if there are incidents of erratic, angry behavior while your child is behind the wheel. You’re not asking them to rat your child out: you’re just asking them to help you keep your child (and the other motorists on the road) safe.
As a parent, always model good driving behavior for your children. Children learn their core values from their parents. Don’t let anyone shake your resolve to take action to prevent your child from driving if you suspect she has an issue with road rage, or is susceptible to developing such an issue.
Your teen won’t always be a teen. And someday they’ll be all done with the growing pains that cause them to take risks. Your job is to keep them safe until that day arrives.
It’s a difficult job, but someone’s got to do it. And that someone is you.
By // Varda Epstein