Road Rage: Life Lessons for Our Children

Road RageYou’re running late.  It took longer than expected to change and dress your little one because he wouldn’t cooperate.  He’s cranky and can’t be consoled.  You forgot the pacifier.  The air conditioner is blowing hot air and it’s a 95 degree day.  Then it happens… someone rudely cuts you off as they’re mindlessly talking on their cell phone.  You blurt out “Mother Fudgsicles” and show them your defiant fist, minus one non-conforming finger.  The enemy raises their eyebrows in disbelief as you revel in their reaction of shock and disgust.  You savor the mini-victory until you realize that your little one is staring straight at you when you turn around to check on him.

If you are an American and have a car, you’ve had similar delightful experiences of interacting with the highly qualified drivers that our DMV certifies on a daily basis.  These joyous run-ins tend to put you at risk of something as minor as a transient moment of annoyance to potential full blown fits of road rage.  I admit, I have the bad habit of flipping birds, ensuring my horn functions properly with prolonged compressions, and offering free advice to my fellow drivers on the road.   But, don’t I have the right to?  My car is my domain, my ride, my whip.

But, my, my, my… is a mentality that can no longer apply as a husband and father.  Since our marriage and the birth of Tyler, it’s become “us”, “we”, “our family” for every facet of our lives.  My car is now “our” car.

Parents observe and are amazed by how perceptive their infants are.  “He’s so smart!”  “Oh she knows what you’re saying, you can tell!” “He’s copying you! That’s so cute!”  “Monkey see, monkey do!”  We’ve all heard it before.

So why wouldn’t our infants’ perceptiveness, learning, modeling, copying, or mimicking apply to our road rage?

Most of us view driving as a mindless activity.  We hop in the car to take us from point A to point B and we pray that we can entertain ourselves enough along the way with music, talk radio, conversations, or by zoning out.  When something goes wrong, we snap out of our mindlessness irritated, annoyed and sometimes angry.  But, we tend to lose sight of the fact that we have a captive audience (literally) in the car seat. Their young and curious minds truly are sponges that want to take in all the sights, sounds, and behaviors in the stimulating environment around them.  So why not use the driving experience as an opportunity to teach some small life lessons?  It’s never too early to start.

You can’t control everything, yelling won’t make the accident clear up faster.  Maybe the other driver made a mistake and they cut you off by accident, not everyone’s a “jerk”.  Maybe the other driver is having a bad day and their meanness wasn’t really about you, it’s not worth fighting over.  Maybe the accident was your fault and you need to take ownership of your mistake.  If you’re late, it’s not the end of the world, so don’t take unnecessary risks. The list goes on and on.

Obviously, this isn’t just about setting an example of how to be a good driver.  It’s about teaching patience and modeling healthy behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs for our little ones.  It’s about helping them grow up to be kind sons and daughters, helping protect their innocence vs. turning them into cynics at an early age, teaching them to be compassionate citizens that impact their communities, and hoping they become future fathers & mothers who will hopefully pass on the principles of trying to leave the world a better place than how they first discovered it.

Am I being dramatic?  Maybe a touch.  Maybe a bit much.  Maybe not.  I truly believe, that at such a young age, when our infants are totally dependent on us, see us as their whole world, and have their personalities shaped by how we interact with them, even the little moments matter.

So keep your eyes on the road and your heart with your loved ones.

Happy Driving!


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