How many responsible, well-informed, and sincere individuals you know who suddenly transform into careless, abusive, and dangerous drivers when they get behind the wheel?
An ancient Walt Disney cartoon featuring Goofy comes to mind. This was an otherwise extremely upright character that wouldn’t hurt an ant when walking on the pavement. But as soon as he got behind the wheel, he would mutate into a screaming, abusing, impatient driver, taking pleasure in hitting those who got in his way even if that meant suffering damage to his own car.
Fortunately, real life is slightly more sedate than that. In real life, how we do something is usually (though not always) how we do everything. A responsible and reliable person can be counted on in his job, when filing taxes, as well as in his relationships. Same is the case with the irresponsible and unreliable persons.
The point of this preamble is that our habits, of which driving is a part, are largely a product of our overall approach to life.
And how we live our lives, not just how we drive, sets a very profound example for our children.
Here are five traits that you’d do well to imbibe in order to give yourself the best shot of raising responsible children.
A Responsible Conduct
If you want to influence your teen for the better and want him to become a responsible driver, you will first have to become a responsible person yourself, and not just when it comes to driving.
This is what responsible behavior looks like in practice on the road:
You observe all the rules when you are driving. That means resisting touching the phone, tailgating the vehicles in front of you, exceeding the speed limit, pushing your luck with alcohol in your system, or relishing bending a rule or two and celebrating that you got away with it.
Off-road, responsible behavior looks like this:
- Being sincere in your job
- Paying your taxes on time
- Speaking to your wife and kids respectfully
- Taking good care of your possessions
- Taking good care of your health
- Being smart with money
Even many adults struggle with self-accountability. We seem to have it in us to see how far we can push something and get away with it. We tend to cut corners. We lie to ourselves, don’t change our harmful habits, don’t keep our word to our families and don’t even keep our word to ourselves!
In short, we let ourselves off the hook rather easily.
The problem with this is that it inhibits our growth. And it conveys the message to our kids that daddy doesn’t think it’s important enough to be exercising every day. Daddy never leaves for work on time. I’ve never seen daddy take good care of his car. Daddy always leaves the most important work for the last.
If it’s alright for daddy, it’s alright for me too, I guess.
Self-accountable people hold themselves responsible for their behavior, and generally don’t do stupid things on the road (or anywhere else).
But what’s the purpose of being so responsible or doing the right thing, when one can get away with the wrong one?
The purpose is to keep you out of harm’s way, and to prevent a negative habit from forming. Yes, people may get away without any accountability on a few occasions, but they will likely get into big trouble at some point because of it.
Your kids need to see why self-accountability is important.
A High Degree of Self-Regard
Peer pressure makes people do a lot of stupid things. It makes women go against their body type to lose oodles of weight and fit into a society-approved size. It makes men want to chase ambitions that are not truly theirs. And it makes teens want to dress, drive, or party a particular way just so that they are able to “fit in” and impress others.
But giving in to peer pressure so easily points towards insecurity within us or our inability to stand up for ourselves.
So what is self-regard and how does it help us?
For starters, it helps us by making us do things that benefit us, stops us from engaging in self-harming behavior, or putting ourselves in harm’s way -- regardless of how others see us.
People assured of their worth usually shy away from doing things that could harm their well-being, even at the risk of sounding ‘uncool’. Those with a troublesome relationship with themselves on the other hand are more likely to engage in behavior that could jeopardize their safety or happiness, without even knowing why they are doing so.
Your regard for yourself needs to be complete and your actions towards yourself need to reflect that, if you want the same to rub off on your teen.
Respect for the Law
It’s important to respect authority (without being obsequious) even when you disagree with it. What this does, apart from keeping you out of trouble, is cultivate a mindset that there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with things.
We may not feel all the rules and regulations are necessarily for our good, and we may even find certain laws silly. That is ok. But finding something silly and acting silly because of it are two different things.
Teens often have a hard time comprehending this. So help your child out with your own conduct and the rationale behind it.
Consideration for Others
There are a millions ways to be considerate. Not just to those you love but also to people in general. A very simple example is not to play music loudly after a certain hour, instead of (again) pushing it and waiting for someone to complain before you could be bothered with turning the volume down.
When you take other people’s convenience into account, you are telling your child in no uncertain terms that it’s important not to be a nuisance to others.
How does all this affect a teen?
Someone once said don't worry that your kids don't listen to you, worry that they are always watching you. In order for your words to have any credibility in the eyes of your children, you need to first walk the walk.
If our actions are screaming a lack of care and accountability, even the most beautifully phrased lectures to our teens about how to behave (on the road or off it) will likely fall on deaf ears, and it’s not difficult to see why.
How we drive is not just about how well we can parallel park or maneuver a car, but also a reflection of our underlying philosophy behind how we approach being in control; the regard we hold the law in; whether we truly cherish ourselves enough not to put ourselves in harm’s way (by getting drunk behind the wheel, for instance); and whether we have any consideration for other passengers in the car, or those on the road whom we could accidentally hit because we aren’t quite in our senses.
Will the above guarantee that your teen never gets into trouble with regards to her driving? No, it doesn’t. But this will ensure you’ll have done all you could have in order to set a very good example for your children to emulate. That is the best you can do as a parent.
Michael Georgiou M.A of Business Communications, Marketing/Advertising University of North Carolina at Pembroke Michael Georgiou is a dynamic business and marketing professional in the marketing division of Wilson Law, PA based in Raleigh, NC. He is an entrepreneurial guru with a proven success record in creative strategy, online branding, project management, and communication projects in both public and private sectors.