Check your driving lesson tones


I might not be the right person to teach my 15-year-old how to drive. It turns out, she doesn’t like my tone.

I know what you might be thinking: I shouldn’t yell at my daughter. The issue is I didn’t when she thought I should, and she didn’t like that.

She received her learner’s permit and she was anxious to get on the road. As one of the younger people in her sophomore class, many of her friends already have their driver’s licenses. She’s been counting the days until she could take that magical written test for six months, and now the countdown begins for her August birthday to try to get her driver’s license.

A magnificent book learner, she did quite well on the test. Unfortunately, as the daughter of an uncoordinated father, putting that knowledge into practice will be a bit more difficult.

This isn’t my first rodeo with teaching one of my children how to drive. Five years ago, I taught our oldest how to drive. My wife and I originally thought we’d split the training duties. I tend to be calm in a crisis, and that paid dividends with her lessons. A trip with mom could bring her home crying while her mom cursed. A trip with dad usually ended well, as I used a calm voice to offer corrections.

I use this same voice whenever I coach youth sports. It’s authoritative but not yelling. Its whole purpose is to teach without judgment, and I spend a lot of time using the “compliment sandwich,” where you mention two things they’re doing well and put the correction in the middle.

This is all a good reminder that even if your children share some genetic markers, no two children are exactly the same.

This calm voice seemed to unnerve my normally confident 15-year-old daughter. When she made a right turn onto a road with someone sitting at the stop sign a tad too quickly, I tried to use this same voice, urging her to slow down a bit.

As we moved along that road, I heard her repeat a few times: “I hit the gas instead of the brake.”

Later on, she shared that she thought I should’ve yelled at her for such a mistake.

I told her, in that same calming voice, that life is all about making mistakes. The important thing is no one got hurt on that turn. She didn’t damage any property. I knew for certain she’d never mix up the gas and the brake pedals on a turn ever again.

In her first week behind the wheel, she became a very observant driver. She noticed that too many people weave while messing with their phones. She picked up on how crooked many people park their cars. She developed an appreciation for what it means to be a defensive driver.

Her only request was if she made another dumb mistake while driving, I checked my tone and yelled to get her attention. I’ll have to send her out with her mother for a drive and see if she really wants that.

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