5 Passenger Seat Tips (for When Your Teen Starts Driving)

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teenage driver

I’ve written in the past about how I have been working to be a better driver in order to model positive behaviors for my oldest son, Noah, age 16 now. For those of you that have younger kiddos, I know that this stage of parenting feels like it is miles away. I’ve written about how it all goes by so fast, too.

But all of my perceived wisdom goes out the window when I am sitting in the passenger seat of my minivan and my little boy is now nearly a man with his learner’s permit.

For those of you that are reaching this parenting stage within the next few years, here are some tips for being in the passenger seat.

  1. Repeat after me: THERE IS NO BRAKE ON THE PASSENGER SIDE. Stomping my foot on an imaginary brake doesn’t work.
  2. You set the tone, mama. If you’re nervous, they’re nervous. If you’re freaking out, they’re freaking out. If you’re screaming, everybody is screaming. Speak slowly and quietly.
  3. Sometimes you just need to keep your mouth shut. This works best when you’re eating candy. I don’t call this stress-eating, I consider this a manner of preventing me from telling my son things he already knows. Recommendations for passenger side candy include Sour Patch Kids, Mini Starburst, even gum! Don’t share with the driver. This is your treat for teaching them how to drive. They can get a treat when they bring you home safely.
  4. People that are irritated with how your teen is driving slow or inconsistently are not worth getting upset about. They’re assuming that the driver is not paying attention when really the driver is learning. If you get honked at, remember that they are the people with a problem. Reassure your new driver not to let other drivers ruffle their feathers. Note: I’ve seen some stickers or signs that indicate that the driver is learning. I’d say, don’t attach one of these to your vehicle without getting your teen’s permission first. I asked Noah if I could get a vinyl cling to stick to the window that says “Be nice, I’m learning” but he emphatically refused – for him that would be a source of embarrassment. He’s going to have to learn how to deal with aggressive drivers anyway.
  5. Be a source of encouragement, not stress. A source of calm, not panic. If that means you get to pick the music, then do it.

Some of this advice is serious, and some of it is tongue-in-cheek, but you catch my drift – sitting in the passenger seat does not have to be an awful experience. I’ve been sneaking videos of Noah driving (which he reluctantly agreed to let me post on social media) because this is a really important stage of development. He’s on his way to independence. I’m on my way to releasing some of that motherly control to him and trusting that he’s going to be a responsible man. I’m really, really proud of him.

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