My daughter recently got her driver’s license. For me, this milestone in parenting has been about as much fun as potty training. It’s been nerve racking, stressful, and sometimes has caused contention between my daughter and I.
My husband once told me about a boss he had who gave his kids a brand new car at sixteen and said “here, go do your stuff.” In other words he was tired of driving them everywhere.
I’m sure he wasn’t quite so callous when he said it. And, I get it—driving our kids around is exhausting. I have two teenagers who always want to go somewhere. The requests are endless. And it feels like you live in your car.
So it is tempting to let your kids get their driver’s license without giving it much thought. That is what we did with our oldest daughter.
However, I realized something. As parents, we do not owe our kids a driver’s license simply because they turn sixteen. As far as teenagers go, driving is a privilege, not a right. And many factors play into the decision of whether kids should get a driver’s license or not.
As long as teenagers live in their parents’ home, driving is a privilege, not a right.
Looking back, I wish I would have slowed things down a bit and thought things through. I wish I would have thought about what I could leverage for the privilege of driving our car. Car keys are a great leveraging tool. And, oh, the lessons that come with car keys!
Here are three things we told our daughter when she got her driver’s license.
1. If you want the privilege of driving our car, you are expected to go to church and youth group.
When our kids are practically adults (16 or 17), it is often no longer productive to force them to go to church. Teenagers often become resentful if they are forced to go. And, at this age, they must start taking ownership of their faith.
Telling them that driving the car and going to church go hand in hand might alleviate stress on Sunday mornings. If they choose not to go to church, than they choose not to drive the car that week. But the main point is, it’s their choice.
Teenagers feel more empowered if they are given choices. If they can choose whether they go to church or not, it is more likely to be a positive, not a negative.
2. If you drive to school with a car we have provided, you will drive your siblings as well.
It seems like my oldest daughter wants everything to be perfectly “fair” between her and her sister. And it isn’t “fair” that her younger sister doesn’t have to ride the bus as a freshmen like she did. Therefore, she didn’t want to give her a ride.
What a perfect time to dispel the “everything has to be fair” myth. Life isn’t fair. The earlier our kids learn that, the better off they will be. Maturity is accepting life as it is, which is less than ideal.
As long as we have provided a car to drive to school, she is not going to leave the house without her sister. Especially since they go to the same school.
3. You will obey ALL of the laws regardless of how stupid you think they are.
When my daughter got her driver’s license, we learned that there are a lot of probationary restrictions right off the bat. In Indiana, teenagers can’t drive with anyone other than their family members for the first six months. They also have curfew. And they aren’t allowed to use a device, such as a phone, in the car.
My daughter complained about these rules saying, “that’s dumb,” or “nobody else cares about that rule.” With this attitude came a lot of teaching moments.
In this country, we don’t get to pick and choose which laws we follow. We are expected to follow all of them or face the the consequences. If my daughter is pulled over, a cop will never say, “Oh, you think that law is dumb, OK, then you can go.” Or, “Oh, you’re right, no one else pays attention to that law, never mind then.” Cops don’t care if you like or agree with any law, they only care if you break it.
Parents often make the mistake of assuming that once their kids are sixteen, they have the right to drive a car. Driving, for teenagers, is a privilege. Parents can leverage it, and use it in positive ways to reinforce mature behavior.