Before handing the keys of the family car to your son or daughter you may be wondering about how to prepare for this new, exciting, yet terrifying stage of parenting. That fear may lead you to consider getting them a personalised keyring that has a hidden GPS tracker in it, or pre-recording a 90 minute cassette tape of your voice whispering caution-inspiring quotes. You may even consider installing hidden cameras inside a cardboard palm tree air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror. But a more affordable option to ensure the safety of your child when the begin to drive is to negotiate a contract with them.
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To you, the family car is just a vehicle that you drive to get places, or maybe it’s the only place where you can think in peace, or maybe its a place where you can listen to gangsta rap and rap along without being judged by the ‘cool police’ aka your teenagers. However, to young people, the car represents freedom and independence. And just like any people group in history who are desperate for freedom and independence, they need something official to sign such as a declaration, a treaty or in this case, a family car contract.
Download your family car contract – click here
So if you want to avoid the effort that it takes to quell a rebellion in any war for independence, as we have learned from The Hunger Games starring Jennifer Lawrence (buckle up – pun intended, there will be more film references), then discussing the terms of a contract is a great idea.
For most teenagers getting their licence and driving is a rite of passage. Teenagers are desperate to experience the freedom that comes with driving by themselves, and they will be willing to compromise a lot for it and that puts you, the parent, in the driver’s seat (pun intended).
When should you create this contract?
Some times are better than others when it comes to negotiating this contract. If your young person has been driving for a while, it’s not too late to negotiate a contract. If they are still in a booster seat, then they are too young. We recommend that the ideal time to negotiate this contract is before your teen gets their learners licence, and renegotiated when they graduate to their restricted licence.
What’s the goal of the contract?
The goal is for your child to understand three things –
- There are rules
- You’re concerned for their safety (and the paint job of the car) because you love them (and the car)
- The rules, as defined by the contract, come with rights, responsibilities and accountability
Your child needs you to help them get their licence and if they are using your car then this process is a brilliant opportunity to spend quality time together and have good conversations. The real goal of this contract isn’t just to set clear expectations but also to start an ongoing conversation about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – much like we see Will Smith and his son do in the film The Pursuit of Happiness. I mean really, what’s the point in driving if you don’t know where you’re going?
The process of coming to an agreement may actually be more important than the contract itself. Our children need rules and consequences, but what they need much more is to know the reason behind the rules – that you love them.
Download your family car contract – click below
Attend a Toolbox parenting course
Toolbox courses inspire and equip whānau. They are bursting with great advice, humour and encouragement, offering practical strategies and insights into developmental stages. Parents leave reassured that challenges are common to all families and that they’re not alone on their parenting journey. The courses are run over a number of weeks in a relaxed and conversational small group setting with a trained facilitator. The five courses – Building Awesome Whānau, Baby and Toddler Years, Primary Years, Intermediate Years, and Teenage Years. Find out more and register here.