Parent Tips: Helping Your Teen Progress Through In-Car Lessons
Is it almost time for your child to begin in-car driving lessons with a professional driving instructor? You might be wondering what your role is in this process. And when should you start thinking about supervised practice? Our regional driving instructor trainer and recruiter, Kris Kluis, shares his tips on how to best support your child through this stage of learning to drive.
Kris, tell us about your job.
It's my job to interview, hire and train DriversEd.com's professional driving instructors in California. Before that, I was a professional driving instructor myself.
You're well equipped to talk about the role of parents in the process of a teen getting their license! How important are parents in this journey?
Parents are absolutely an integral part of a teen getting his or her license and they play a huge role during the stage of professional in-car driving lessons.
What's the first thing for parents to think about?
All states have different laws on the exact process of getting a drivers license and I can only speak for California (the DriversEd.com website has DMV information for all states). However, the one piece of advice that applies to parents regardless of where they are in the country is that if you trust your child's professional driving instructor and take their recommendations, your teen will progress towards the best outcome. By the best outcome, I mean they will be better, safer, and have the best chance of being a crash-free driver.
So, parents need to be in contact with the child's driving instructor?
Yes, this is very important. Before a student's first in-car lesson and before and after all subsequent driving lessons, our professional driving instructors attempt to have a face-to-face chat with parent(s). If a parent is not available, our instructors will place a phone call to touch base-as a minimum the instructor will leave a voicemail so the parent has their name, a short summary, and an office contact phone number. The driving instructor also makes each lesson's history/comments available for parents to see online.
Why is this contact so important?
To build trust. Parents need to trust and feel that the person taking their child out driving cares for their present and future wellbeing behind the wheel. That is, giving them the very best opportunity to be a crash-free driver.
How does trust between a parent and professional driving instructor benefit a teen learning to drive?
A parent who has placed trust in their child's driving instructor is more likely to listen to the instructor's advice and recommendations about a myriad of things relating to driving, for example, whether the child is ready to progress to supervised practice with them. A parent who hasn't got this relationship with the driving instructor often goes ahead and becomes the (unqualified) teacher, and starts supervised practice before the child is ready. This causes frustration for them both, which leads to neither wanting to spend time practicing with each other whatsoever.
So, parents should wait to start supervised driving practice with their teen?
Yes! Patience at this point will be greatly rewarded later.
The minimum period for in-car drivers training varies between states. In California, all new teen drivers must complete a minimum of six hours of in-car driving lessons (usually split into three lessons of two hours) with a professional driving instructor. My plea: "Please do not even set foot inside a vehicle with your child until they have done at least six hours of professional instruction, ideally more."
Why is it so important that parents wait to begin supervised practice?
Part of a professional driving instructor's job is to make it less scary for a parent when it's their turn to start supervised practice. But, if you only give the instructor two hours with your child before you start practicing with them, it doesn't give the instructor a fair chance at laying the minimum foundation to grow upon.
If you give a professional instructor six hours, or more, to work with your child before you start practicing with them, the instructor has a much better shot at getting your child more comfortable.
You've mentioned children taking more than the minimum amount of in-car driving lessons required by law. Why would someone consider this?
The more time you give the instructor, the more they can shape the important driving techniques and begin to cover and create more complex situations.
As I've discussed, in California, the legal minimum requirement for professional in-car driving lessons is six hours. In those first six hours, our instructors follow a set lesson plan and progress based upon the student's abilities or lack thereof. Students are obviously shielded from dealing with more complex skills right away, for example, there is no way that we would take a student onto the freeway on the first lesson, and in fact, even a second lesson.
By the end of lesson three, there may be some students who have had just a quick "taste" of the freeway. However, if they continue and accept our instructor's recommendation for more driving lessons, we can take them to more congested and busy intersections as well as complex areas on lesson four. Then, they can really start to put into practice one of the most important skills they are working on, proper use of their eyes!
What CAN parents do to help while their child is taking professional in-car driving lessons?
Anything relating to the theory of driving is great. Look online, read, watch videos about driving. Any research that involves driving is great. Try to be available to talk with your child's driving instructor before and after each lesson. Ask questions, and be as involved in the process as possible. Always be encouraging and ask your child questions ... What did you learn today? What are your thoughts about your lessons? It's been such a long time since I took my driving lessons, I bet I can learn some new ideas/concepts from you, let's discuss, etc...
I would also recommend developing a safe driving contract to be signed by the teen and the parent(s).