When my kids were 10 and 12-years old, we acquired a golf cart from a pig farmer in exchange for some work we completed for which he could not pay. I was actually very happy about this fun new toy and the kids were beyond excited about their new wheels.
After careful instruction, a safety lesson and a thorough demonstration, my son was allowed to drive around our 2 acres in the country. It was quite impressive to see how he was able to skillfully maneuver the vehicle as he drifted around the peonies, went out to the lake and back and came to a complete stop with both hands still at 10 and 2. Proud and confident, he stepped down off the golf cart platform to give his sister a turn.
Now, first, I need to tell you that not all children are created equally. You know what I mean, same parents, different outcomes. And to top it off, my daughter had all the spice you might expect from a redhead with Italian descent.
As I watched her climb into the driver’s seat, I ignored my own gut rumbling that provided a very obvious red flag. So, with a brief refresher and a whole lot of faith, I sent her on her way for a short ride around the flat yard that extended to the back of the house. As her red mane, blowing like a flag, disappeared around the corner, I could hear my heart pounding louder than the revving of the engine.
Minutes later she appeared on foot from the back yard with her swagger resembling that of an Indy car driver. I had a wave of parental neglect that, “Perhaps a helmet might have been a good idea?”
As she approached, she seemed to answer a question that had not yet been asked, “The golf cart is not working.”
As I followed her around to the back of the house, I should not have been too surprised to see that she had (in her words) “parked” the golf cart on top of a bush the size of a Buick! The wheels were actually off the ground preventing it from “working” properly, I mean, at all.
The second time she drove it, she ran into a trampoline. Silly me. I thought she could handle this. Apparently not. Maybe she can try again when she is 37.
Here is my point; both driving and dating take a lot of maturity, knowledge and quick thinking to stay safe. I should have ridden in the golf cart with her, not just handed the keys to her and hope she knew what she was doing. Fortunately, she didn’t do any permanent damage. I’m smarter now and know the risks for teens in both driving and dating. I have learned that there is a big difference between 13-years old and 19 and that all kids learn by watching. Teens think they know how to drive a car just because they’ve spent years “observing” other drivers. And, they think they know all about relationships by having watched their parents, their friends, movies and spending hours on social media.
Driver’s Ed works because there is a structure, a curriculum and adult guidance to minimize the risks associated with reckless, inexperienced or uneducated driving. Dating most often fails because teens think they hold the key to love with no logic or ability necessary to navigate the challenges that will most likely occur.
The learning curve can be sharp in both driving and dating and the dangers can change the course of a life forever. If we can teach them to be safe, responsible drivers, then we can teach them to be safe, responsible daters.
Lisa Jander, the “Teen Dating Mechanic,” believes that by teaching teens about the risks in dating we can shift their thinking about relationships in this culture. As a Certified Relationship Coach, Public Speaker and Author of a book titled, “Dater’s Ed: Driver’s Ed Model for Dating,” Lisa is passionate about promoting family education to STOP reckless dating before it begins. You can find Lisa on her site, Twitter, and on Facebook.
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