Learning to drive at age 16 just isn’t enough for some kids. They want to get in the driving seat as soon as they can – normally with the aim of impressing their friends, or in some cases in search of a thrill. It’s tough to know what to do in this kind of situation, especially when your child has stolen your car keys more than once. Here’s how to sit down and talk to them about what has been going on.
Don’t patronize them
The worst thing you can possibly do is patronize the child at this point. They are aware of the fact that they have broken the law, and they know that they are underage. But don’t stress this too much – it will make them feel even more as though they are being treated like a child, which they don’t want.
If you want to stress the severity of the situation without being patronizing, talk about statistics. What kind of punishment could they receive next time they are caught by police? What’s the maximum sentence in juvenile detention that they might be slapped with? Make it clear to them that you, as a parent or guardian, would not try to prevent any sentencing or lie to help them. You would allow them to be punished in accordance with the law.
Shock and awe
The best tactic to get through to a child who is doing something wrong is to show them the consequences of their actions. The closer to home you can make it, the better – kids often have an attitude that bad things happen to other people, not to them.
Find a child of their own age who stole a car to joyride it and ended up in an accident. Don’t wait for some social campaigns for road safety to do it – get down to work yourself and make sure you go for the most shocking case you can find – such as when the young driver was killed or paralyzed for life. Narrowing it down to your nearest city will also reinforce your children’s feeling that it could be them next. Finding gory pictures of the crashed car and the driver after the accident will drive the point home.
Yes, to some parents it might seem far too controversial. However, at this stage, you really do want to shock your children. The time for being gentle is over – once they have taken those keys twice, you need to clamp down. If they are a little traumatized by the photographs, good. It will make them think again before taking the keys next time.
Talking is a two-way street, and you need to be prepared to listen as well. Try to find out why the child feels the need to take the car keys. Are they doing it for attention? If so, from who? It could be that they feel you need to spend more time with them, and behaving badly is the only way to make this happen. Make it clear that you would like to spend more time with them in a positive light, and that you don’t want to have to fight with them all the time.
If they are just shy of starting driving lessons and they want to drive at all costs, offer them an experience which allows younger drivers to get behind the wheel in controlled circumstances. These can be found online in certain areas.
Some parents feel that the minimum driving age should be raised, and they may have a point. The key thing to remember is that children have different levels of maturity depending on their age and their personality. You will have to appeal to them on an individual level to get through to them and stop this from happening again.
Grace Harrison is a working mom who shares her time between her two daughters and her unquenchable passion for writing. Currently, Grace writes for Divvy – a parking and safety app for drivers.