As my oldest son approaches his fifteenth birthday, our conversations often gravitate towards allowing him to drive the car in the parking lot at school, of course, when no one is around. And what it’s going to be like for him to get his Learners Permit when he hits fifteen-and-half. He’s even excited planning our family summer vacation and what leg of the long haul to the beach will be his turn to drive. He argues that it will be a great relief for his mother and father to sleep while he drives. Fat chance that there will be much relaxation going on while he is at the wheel!

Given the daily newspaper reports about all of the traffic deaths due to distracted driving, and other irresponsible behavior, I have to say that I’m a bit trepidatious about this upcoming, defining moment for my young son.

How do we as parents gain the confidence that allows us to feel at ease with this decision?

In many ways, I see my development as a safe and effective driver, and that of many others, as having been greatly impacted by my athletic development. While athletics often has us pushing the envelop, going fast, taking risks, etc., these are probably not the best attributes of a safe driver.

However, on the other hand, what about the other skills that we have honed throughout the course of our athletic endeavors? How about our vision, spacial awareness, decision-making, and reactions? These are all skills that positively influence our ability to handle a motor vehicle with a greater level of success.

Let me ask you this: Are you doing everything within your power to allow the development of these skills to take hold? For instance, do you find yourself often yelling instructions to your child while he or she plays? Telling your child to shoot during his soccer game accomplishes what end? Is your child not capable of deciding when to shoot on his own? Maybe as your daughter gets a little bit older, do you find yourself making excuses or blaming teammates (or coaches) for poor results or losses?

The things that we parents say to our children with regards to their youth sports experiences greatly determine the amount of personal growth that we can expect to take place. If we can somehow allow them to make their own decisions, suffer their own consequences, fall on their bottoms every once in awhile. These lessons and adversities will go a very long way in shaping resilient, responsible young adults.

Think about it!

-Steve Locker