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Accidental Discovery: an Easy & Powerful Parenting Tool

Both my kids are now in drivers permit territory. (aaah-I KNOW — how did this happen??)

This makes me think of earlier milestones. How do you know when your kid is ready to first eat solids? Sleep in a big kid bed? Start potty training? You read the guidebooks, you tune in to your child, and you watch for signs. You give the transition a try and adjust to and fro.

Unlike these previous examples, learning to drive is a legal thing that is tied to age first and readiness second. In our state (Colorado) a teenager can take a written test through the DMV at age 15 and begin a year of practice driving.

My husband and I find ourselves doing a curious thing in anticipation/preparation:

narration as a parenting tool

We have become narrators.

Narrate to Navigate

The narrating began to happen as we approached the permit years, and it took place primarily while driving our teens around.

  • Looks like there’s not a big enough break for me to turn left until that batch of cars goes by.
  • We need to get over two lanes to turn. I’ll do this gradually and with a blinker to make sure the drivers around me know what to expect.
  • Even though I’m going the speed limit, I’m going to slow down because I couldn’t react fast enough if one of those kids leapt out of nowhere.
  • Yup, I hear the ding of a text. But I’m not going to look while I’m on the road.

This is our attempt to make our inner processes observable to our teens, to help them understand what we are doing while we are doing it.

And, ultimately, to help them develop and become aware of their own inner processes.

Making the Inner Outer

I got to thinking that such narration could also help them navigate relationships as well as roads.

  • This is the second time s/he has bailed on our plans. I wonder if s/he’s going through something?
  • Ooh, isn’t that kind of her! I will show my gratitude (must send thank you note) and find ways to give the feeling back. 
  • Yeah, it hurts when someone forgets your birthday. I feel angry and want to shut down. I want him/her to know I’m important! How could I do that?
  • I’m not sure s/he is healthy for me right now.  I need to figure out what is in my best interest.

Besides sharing the process itself, I want to share the observation of the process. Through an inner narrator we cultivate awareness, which helps us respond (consciously, with intention) rather than react (unconsciously) when experiencing big emotions.

Do you ever find yourself  narrating in an effort to guide? Do you have any tips about doing so?


This post is part of #MicroblogMondays? Whazzat? A post that’s not too long. Head to Stirrup Queens to join the fun.

Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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17 Responses

  1. I love this! We do find ourselves doing this with things like learning how to climb at the park, brushing our teeth, etc. (ie processes we expect Moonveam to master). What an awesome way to teach her to process social issues/situations… I’m totally going to become more conscious of this in the coming weeks and apply this! Thanks!

  2. When I grew up, 15 was the legal age for driving, but my parents made me wait to get my licence until I was 16. Still, it seems so young now.

    I found myself narrating this morning as a way of explaining/teach – but to my husband! lol

  3. I love this! And yes, I do this often at school, when “thinking out loud” to try to make the process of reading, or working through a mistake, or finding resilience in the face of difficulty, or expressing frustration appropriately… it’s REALLY useful. I love that you’re doing it in the car, but also for relationships. I think there’s a lot of good that can come from making these thoughts more visible/audible, from making things more transparent as the twisty, multi-layered things they are. Such a great parent you are!

  4. I’ve been doing this with my backseat drivers (they aren’t even 5 years old and are questioning why driving CONSTANTLY!!). But I realize now that I’ve also been doing it somewhat for other things. Hence I love this because now I want to make more of a conscious effort (being mindful of the outcome, etc).

    And yes to milestones being associated with age over readiness. This one drives me up the wall as there’s this assumption everyone is universally ready once they hit specific chronological years, even though we know that it’s usually within a range. How I wish we could re-evaluate all of this

    Final thought: Grey and I enable the “do not disturb” function on our phones for driving. Meaning I do not get a single alert about received text messages or phone calls unless someone is willing to hit the “urgent” option (meaning I know to pull over). It has taken away the temptation and I really recommend it for everyone who operates a motor vehicle.

  5. My initial reaction to this is that it sounds like a great tool. I wonder how my kid would react to it and if it might generate some – okay, okay, I get it, eye roll reaction and start to tune me out. It wouldn’t happen with all kids, but I could see it with mine 🙂
    Do you think that happens with your kids and do you think there is a way to avoid that reaction?

  6. Sounds like I’m going to have to change my narration skills. “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? YOU HAVE PLENTY OF TIME TO MAKE THAT TURN – THERE’S NO NEED TO WAIT FOR THE ARROW!!!!” and “It’s not necessary to stop before you turn right, you idiot.” seem like less than appropriate messages. 😀

  7. This is a great idea, and especially when it comes to trying to teach kids about driving. I do tend to do a lot of thinking out loud, especially to dh. Not sure he always appreciates it. 😉

  8. I do. I do this while I drive, even though we’re a few years away. I do this while we listen to NPR. I do this when no one seems to be listening to me and they’re just looking out the window as if the scenery rushing by is more interesting than all the wisdom I have to impart.

  9. I love this! I remember learning to drive and how it felt like there were just SO MANY things to keep in mind at once – things that eventually become intuitive and you don’t even have to think about. This seems like such a helpful way to start laying a foundation.

    Awesome that you’re also using this to share your emotional life! I think most of us didn’t learn enough growing up about how to understand and process our own feelings. Mindfulness makes such a difference!

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