Updated: May 24, 2021
This week, one of my students asked me an interesting question. At the end of her lesson, she said, “What should I tell my mom to do to better help me learn how to drive?”
Now, it’s not that there isn’t anything her mom can do to help, it’s just that usually it’s the parent who asks that question.
Regardless of who is asking the question, my answer is going to be the same. If a parent wants to better help their teenager learn how to drive, they should do this one thing.
If you had to guess, what do you think that one thing would be?
It’s right there.
They should ask questions.
In particular, there is one question that parents can use that will really benefit their teen by teaching them to pay attention to their surroundings, and I will share that with you.
But first, why is asking questions effective for teens to be safe drivers?
According to a resource from Cornell University’s Center for Teaching Innovation, questions will help students:
stay engaged by keeping their attention and reinforcing their participation
retain information by putting their unarticulated thoughts into their own words*
Isn’t that exactly what you want your teenager to do while you’re teaching them to drive?
Have you had the experience of getting in the car for another lesson with your teen, they pull out of the driveway, and within minutes they are making the same mistake as the last time? It’s maddening for a parent!
You told them last time not to do this or that, yet here they are doing it again. The problem is that they either just straight up weren’t listening because they had mentally checked out, or they heard you, but by the time they were done driving and on to the next activity, they forgot.
When your son or daughter is behind the wheel, you want their full focus and participation, as well as for them to actually retain what you’re teaching them! Asking questions, instead of just telling information, will help that.
Okay, so what is the magic question to get your teen driver to focus in?
“What’s the color of the car behind you?”
If they have to glance up at the rearview mirror before they answer, you know they are not completely aware of their surroundings.
Driving is more than just knowing how to steer and apply the gas or brake. Safe drivers are aware drivers. It won’t matter if a teenager knows how to use the brake, if they never even see the stopped car in front of them!
It seems obvious for experienced drivers. Of course, you need to be watching what’s happening around you. But you’ve had years of experience. Teenagers do not. They need to learn and practice scanning the road, processing their surroundings, and knowing how to respond appropriately.
So, next time you’re in the passenger seat with your teenager driving, simply ask them, “What’s the color of the car behind you?”
If you’re a parent teaching your teen how to drive and you’d like more help like this, you’ll want to check out my video course, Parent’s Survival Guide for New Teen Drivers.
In this course, I’ll give you even more questions like this to use with your teen, along with the best strategies for coaching them to be a safe and responsible driver.
*Using Effective Questions: Center for Teaching Innovation