September 18, 2018

“You’ve Earned…”

My “Irish Twin” daughters are each working through a driver education preparation program. Each of them began the process nine months ago by working through a 30-hour online course that required a specific level of mastery. Upon satisfactorily completing the course, they had to enroll in a verified driving school that offers state-certified behind-the wheel training and take an affidavit from the school to the DMV, where they had to pass a two-part written test in order to obtain an instruction permit. The permit allowed them to get behind the wheel of a car to practice, and they had to spend at least six months doing so, during which time they’ve had to accrue at least 30 hours of drive-time with a parent – 10 of which had to be at night – as well as six hours driving and six hours of observation with an instructor from the driving school. They currently have one more session with the instructor, after which we’ll schedule appointments for each of them to take a road test at the DMV. When they pass – whether on the first try or after multiple attempts – they’ll be granted probationary licenses, which carry restrictions on when and with whom they may drive for nine months. And, finally, at the end of the probationary period – and if they’ve maintained clean driving records – they’ll each have earned a regular license.

This is a rather long and cumbersome process, but it’s provided them with a very clear and concrete object lesson for the reality that one must earn certain privileges. They obviously knew they couldn’t waltz into the DMV on a whim and demand licenses without evidence of their competence to operate a motor vehicle. But the lengthy graduated licensing procedure in our state has served to show them that important activities require time and concerted effort. Thus, when they’re granted their licenses, my husband and I will be able to say with integrity, “Congratulations! You’ve earned this.”

Obviously, our kids shouldn’t feel as if they need to earn everything; for example, we must communicate in word and deed that we love them without any pre-conditions and that God’s gift of salvation through Jesus is offered to them freely. It’s also true that some situations where they’re required to “earn” something – i.e., being graded by a capricious teacher – aren’t always fair. We must acknowledge that reality to them and help them work through such unavoidable disappointments with grace. But there are many situations where it’s good and healthy for our kids to know that poor choices earn them negative consequences, and that working to earn something good is commendable. And by using the power word – “You’ve earned…” – on a regular basis as relevant, we’ll ingrain that truth in their minds and hearts.

Photo Credit: State Farm

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