5 Reasons to Teach Your Teen How to Drive a Stick Shift

Learning how to drive is a rite of passage for a teenager. It seems that each one counts down to that 16th birthday – the time when kids become mobile and parents begin losing even more sleep at night.

I suppose it’s hard enough to teach your teen good driving skills, but I’m going to throw one more little quirk into the mix. You should teach them how to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission. If you yourself don’t know how to drive one, I would highly recommend you find someone who does know and have that person teach you and your teen together. Certainly have him teach your teen.

Why do this? Don’t most vehicles on the road now have automatic transmissions? Yes, they do. So what’s the point? When would my child ever have the need to drive a vehicle with a stick?

The answer – you never know.

When I was in college, I had to learn how to drive one in a hurry. A friend and I had gone to a water hole to swim and have fun for the afternoon. He drove us there in a dune buggy he had built himself. Of course it had a stick.

Unfortunately, my friend jumped into the murky water and cut his foot on a rock at the bottom. We used his shirt to tie up his wound, but he could not push the clutch down with his injured foot. Guess who had to drive us back to campus.

I had tried to learn before in my cousin’s old Ford Maverick, but alas, it was not to be. I just could not get the hang of the whole clutch out/accelerator down transition, and I got really discouraged. It was easy to blame the Maverick. The darn thing was super hard to get into gear! But now, I had no choice but to learn. No excuses. I either did it, or we would be stuck.

So, I did it. My friend very patiently talked me through each try until I finally got the hang of it. I was thrilled! I finally tackled something that had given me problems before and caused me to feel less than good about myself. It was a defining moment for me.

So why is this important for your teen?

I can think of 5 good reasons for a teen, or anyone else for that matter, to learn to drive a stick shift:

  1. It teaches them to develop a “Can Do” attitude. Nothing feels as great as being the only person present who knows how to do something that is needed at that moment. It’s pretty gratifying, especially for teens, when they know how to do something other teens don’t know how to do. It can help your teen to have a mindset of capability, a feeling of “I can drive anything,” which will be an asset to him later on.
  2. It is an extremely handy skill to have, especially in a pinch. Knowledge is power. How you use that knowledge is even more significant. The more your teen knows and the more skills she has, the better equipped she is to handle the little surprises life will throw at her sometimes.
  3. It is just downright fun to drive a stick shift. As anyone who has driven one regularly knows, driving a stick shift car can be a whole lot of fun. The driver has a lot more control over how the vehicle performs and accelerates, thus making the driving experience more enjoyable. What’s more, some day he can drive something like this:Picture5
  4. It can make your teen pay more attention to driving, i.e. less texting and phone use, less eating, less fiddling with distractions in the vehicle. It is harder to text or talk on the phone or eat and drink when you have a steering wheel in one hand and a gear shift in the other. Also, since more coordination of motions is required, the driver is more engaged, and must be more attentive to the road and other driving conditions.
  5. It helps them to avoid asking embarrassing questions, like “Why are there three pedals on the floor?”

My husband is a huge fan of manual transmission vehicles. It’s all he will ever drive himself.  He taught our kids to drive a stick shift when they were pretty young by taking them to his mother’s farm and letting them drive his truck. We have always wanted our son and our daughters to have that ability. Mastering an array of skills is the first step toward not only safety, but also self-confidence and self-sufficiency.

Have you passed on any important skills to your son or daughter? What have you taught them to do that will help them later on? I would love to hear about it. Scroll down and leave a comment in the section below.

Related: Why You Should Teach Your Teen How To Use a Chainsaw

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4 thoughts on “5 Reasons to Teach Your Teen How to Drive a Stick Shift

  1. Anna, I love this post. I so remember our kids learning this skill. Since Dan is such a car guy, it was not unusual for us to have one with a manual transmission and his Corvette is a 6-speed….which he loves driving. The other day we bought another car and Dan mentioned later how proud he is that I can jump into any vehicle and drive it without hesitation. When you are married to a car guy you learn NOT to get married to any vehicle….because they change often! Along this line, I also remember when our youngest, our only daughter, turned 16 she told her Daddy she wanted to learn how to change a tire, oil, etc on her own car because she didn’t want her brothers to know these things and she didn’t. So Dan had her help put in new wiring, windshield wipers (the whole thing), brake pads, and many other car things! She was so proud of herself. This is a great article. Loved it!

    • Thank you, Joanne. I am so glad you enjoyed the article. My husband is such a manual transmission enthusiast, so I had lots of opportunity to practice my driving skills on our vehicles. We were married for nine years and had two kids before we ever owned an automatic. Now our son drives a manual car and loves it, and our youngest child will learn when her time comes. Shift forward!

  2. Again, you have come up with a very appropriate topic for the growth and maturity of teenagers. Much love. Dad

  3. Especially when you are stopped on a steep hill and you have to pop the clutch! That is something I practiced in our driveway when I learned and it came in very handy many times.