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When Someone Flips You the Bird

The Appropriate Response

Someone flipped me the bird today. I was mildly surprised because she had inappropriately veered into my lane in order to go around a parked car on her side of the road. Legally, she should have waited for me to pass, thus opening up my lane to her.

Apparently me and my car were not moving fast enough for her.

Of course her unexpectedly flipping me the bird took me aback a bit, but what was really disquieting was the fact she had a middle-school-age girl in the front seat with her. We all know our kids model our behavior. What was that mom thinking?

Number one, she’s not following the rules of the road. Instead of teaching her teen the proper traffic flow pattern (you’re supposed to wait for your turn until the lane is clear), she’s inappropriately modeling how to race around parked vehicles regardless of oncoming traffic.

Where do you think the undeveloped adolescent brain files away that exciting tidbit? Right under “Things To Do When I Get My Hands On the Steering Wheel.”

Secondly, she is teaching her child to react in anger to a situation. Fuming over the last incident is distracted driving. Anger signifies a loss of control, the last thing you want for an adolescent driver. She needs all of her wits about her at all times. On the other hand, teaching her to brush off inappropriate behavior from other drivers will keep her present in her driving tasks, keep her safer, and make her a happier person.

Thirdly, that mom is teaching her darling diva to be disrespectful to other people in public. I hope she’s not too surprised the day her angel flips her the bird, especially since she herself is modeling the go-to response for getting upset.

Now, I realize this might sound a little judgmental. After all, perhaps this mom doesn’t understand the rules of the road, i.e. that she must wait until the oncoming lane is clear before she veers into it. That could make her think that my car should not have been in my lane. If that’s true, perhaps her response represented standing up for yourself and not letting people get away with inappropriate behavior… which is a good thing to teach your teenage daughter. That’s not highly likely, but still, it’s a possibility.

Be that as it may, there are so many better lessons to teach early drivers. Here are a few you can model right now.

  • Be prepared to be calm when someone does something inappropriate. If we create a generation of drivers who are easily riled up, that won’t be good for anybody.
  • Drive defensively. Be prepared for the person who comes into your lane and doesn’t see that you are there.
  • Give wide berth to people driving awkwardly. Most of them are either elderly or inexperienced teenagers. Getting upset with those people does nothing except makes them anxious, and when they’re anxious, they are more likely to make bad decisions.

So, what’s the moral of this story? It depends on what you want for your kids.

Do you want your teen to simply know the rules of the road, or do you want her/him to also safely follow them? Do you want your teenager to be cool and collected when she’s driving, or do you prefer she be lost in a tidal wave of emotions while behind the wheel of a 2-ton vehicle?

Whatever you choose, model the behavior you expect your teen to emulate.

Remember, Do-As-I-Say-Not-As-I-Do is not a real thing. The real thing has always been, and always will be, “Do As I Do.”

Do you have an early driver in your family? What did you do in preparation? What hints can you give other moms whose kids are coming of driving age?

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