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How I Survived as ‘Driving Instructor Dad’ A TIP FOR HELICOPTER PARENTS
My younger son, Matthew, just got his driver’s license — and he passed the test on his first shot. To say I’m a proud dad would be an understatement. Not only am I proud, but I’m also taking credit! Matthew only had a little bit of driver’s ed. The instructor taught him how to parallel park, and I taught him the rest. I won’t lie, though: I was nervous! I didn’t have an extra steering wheel or an emergency brake on my side of our Toyota Highlander, so I had to trust Matthew not to kill us both or let another car smash into us. Biting my tongue felt like the hardest part of each lesson because it went against all of my Italian instincts — but I did it. I knew if I jumped in and corrected Matthew too soon when he rolled through a stop sign, he would never learn from his mistakes. I’m a big believer in allowing my kids to mess up so they can learn firsthand how to do something right. I tell them the same thing I tell the therapists I mentor at the clinic: “I want to teach you how to fish — I don’t want to give you the fish.” Michael and Matthew have heard this so many times that it practically makes their ears bleed. As parents, we all want to protect our kids, right? When they’re little, we stop them from sticking paper clips into outlets and eating things they could choke on. But the older they get, the more we have to give up that helicopter parenting. Teenagers should have more freedom to try things out and learn from their screw-ups. And oh boy, if you don’t give them enough freedom, they will let you know it! One of the hardest things about parenting for me is deciding whether I should hold back my comments and opinions about the potential outcome of something. Should I tell my kid he might not like the way his room looks with black walls or should I let him paint it and find out? Now that Michael and Matthew are teenagers, I try to sound the alarm less frequently. I save my warnings for rare, critical moments — like when the car is about to crash. Then, I have
to pull the plug and let the Italian dad come out. The rest of the time, I save my ideas for the
rare moments when the kids come to me for advice.
I think I’m doing something right because both of my boys are great kids
and careful drivers. I didn’t freak out on them too much, and now they get to enjoy the independence of driving on their own. Plus, I think I made our lessons memorable. More often than not, Matthew and I didn’t just drive around Queens. We set our sights on the Cold Stone Creamery on Union Turnpike and jumped in the car on a mission for ice cream. Knowing there would be something delicious at the end of the drive calmed us both down and lightened the mood. I guess that’s another piece of advice: Ice cream rewards aren’t just for little kids — they’re for the little kid in all of us. If you’re a parent or grandparent, I hope you found some nuggets of wisdom in this driving story. Next time you want someone to teach you to fish instead of giving you fish, you know where to find me.
–Dr. Robert Morea
P.S. Hopefully, you are as careful on the road as my kids are, but if you’re ever in a car crash, don’t forget that physical therapy can help you recover. We have tools to ease your pain and get you back on your feet, whether you’re dealing with a broken leg or whiplash from the impact. Just call our office to schedule an appointment.
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