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Fourth Gear: practice makes perfect

ingenie's Parent Manifesto

Private practice

Private practice is any driving a learner does outside of their lessons with an instructor. In short: it's Mum or Dad giving up their evenings and weekends to help their child go over what they're learning in lessons.

Parents may not charge £24 an hour like a driving instructor, but the value they can give their learner is priceless. Driving at different times, in different weather conditions and in a different car gives a learner real-life experience of how it will be when they've passed.

Unfortunately, not all parents are on board. In fact - most aren't.

Don't fancy the words? Go straight to our Parent's Guide to Private Practice infographic at the bottom of the page.

We're all busy - but some things are worth the time

Our latest survey looked deeper into the reasons parents avoid doing private practice with their children - and we found it's part of a much wider issue.

Just 13% of parents say they spend time with their children doing something outside of the weekly routine. A whopping 66% consider watching TV together as quality family time. But if this is the number one touchpoint between parent and child, that's not great news for the family - no one's actually talking.

At the age of 17, being able to interact, trust and be listened to is vital to learning the key values and skills that make great adults. When it comes to learning to drive, this is even more important. But 53% of parents aren't taking the opportunity to support their child with private practice. 25% even fear the idea!

Why parents avoid helping with driving practice

A third of parents in Belfast told us the weather gets in the way of them helping with private practice. But that weather is exactly what their child will soon be facing - alone. Parents also blamed traffic and being tired.

As well as weather, parents blamed traffic and being tired.

Top 10 reasons for not doing private practice:

Reason Solution
I didn't want to contradict their driving instructor Talk to your child and their instructor about what they've covered and what needs some practice.
I worry they would pick up my bad habits Don't try to teach and be on your best behaviour when you're in the driving seat.
I didn't want to insure them on my car Why not? If you really don't want to, help them find their own car to practise in.
It would cause too many arguments They'll be focused on driving; all you need to do is stay calm, be kind and not contradict what they've been taught.
I wouldn't feel safe Stay on quiet roads until you're both comfortable.
I didn't feel it was necessary Surprise! It is 🙂
The risk of car damage was too high Don't start until the instructor says it's OK. But the risk of damage to your child if they don't get enough experience is higher.
I didn't have time An hour or 2 a week will help your child be safe when they're driving alone.
I'm not confident enough in my own driving skills Good news - you're not the one driving! You can also swot up with our learner driver advice on the Young Driver's Guide.
I didn't have a car at this time Fair enough - we'll let you off.

Although the top 2 reasons are actually valid concerns (quickly cleared up by a chat with a driving instructor and some good behaviour!), many parents say they avoided doing private practice because they worried it would cause arguments.

The top 10 arguments we heard from parents who did do private practice:

  • Speeding
  • Hazard perception
  • Braking
  • Hesitation
  • House chores
  • How much I was telling them to drive
  • The way I was telling them to drive
  • Their future
  • Social life
  • Time spent on technology

Moving swiftly past the fact that 4 of those arguments aren’t even about driving, most of these squabbles are avoidable if you stay calm, speak kindly and avoid topics that aren't relevant to the job in hand.

Maybe nag your son about leaving wet towels on the floor another time. While he's trying to get his head around one of the most important life skills he'll ever learn? Probably not the moment.

Alongside drinking, drugs and sex (topics best kept for outside of the car), driving should be a HUGE subject of concern for you if you have a teenager - and it is for most. But you need to channel that worry into getting the information you need and putting it into practice. It's your child's safety at stake, after all.

Everything you need to know about private practice

Private practice for parents infographic

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