This past weekend I was able to (legally) take my oldest daughter, Lydia, driving. She finished the classroom portion of Driver’s Ed a couple of weeks ago, and last Monday Julie took her to take the exam to get her Learner’s Permit. She passed and received the license.
I decided the safest place for Lydia to begin learning to drive was one of the newer sub-divisions in town. There are not many houses in the area, so the traffic, both auto and foot, is quite light. She practiced left and right turns. She practiced using her signals. We even found time to practice going backwards. After an hour or so we decided to get a little more adventurous and head to Grain Valley. It is a short drive using back roads. She did quite well, and after a couple of hours we called it an evening.
On Saturday Julie decided to come along for the ride. I noticed that anytime we came to a stop my seat belt would tighten. After about a dozen times I finally realized it was Julie in the back seat. She kept trying to use her brakes and was inadvertently pressing against where my seat belt comes up out of the floor. At that point I noticed I was pushing against the floor as well.
Finally, Julie and I both started to harp on Lydia a little when she was coming to a stop sign. She wasn’t hitting her brakes far enough ahead of the stop, so Julie and I felt that she wasn’t going to stop at all. Neither of us could handle the uncertainty any longer, and Lydia was becoming noticeably frustrated.
Finally, I realized something. I had never given Lydia the slightest idea when to start using the brake. Here we were yelling at her, and she can’t figure out what she is doing wrong. Finally, I wised up and told her, “I will start letting you know when I would start using the brake if I was driving.” That plan made perfect sense to her, and in less than an hour she was making smoother stops.
I do this in my parenting as well. I just assume my kids know the rules of the road. When they don’t perform the way I expect, I bark at them. To them I am coming out of left field, and they have no clue what they are doing wrong. I focus on what is happening in the moment. I am completely oblivious to the fact that they are just performing based on what they have been told. I’m operating on years of experience, and my kids are operating on minutes.
There is nothing worse than trying to perform under unknown expectations.
Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.