Quote of the Week

"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Who is the Big Dog in your car? Featured Technique: use the brake pedal. Big Dog Part II
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, August 20, 2016

(This article was originally posted 3/29/2010.  It's just as appropriate today!)

I don't know why what happens inside cars are so important. I just know that what happens inside PSST cars is very important.

The car is an intimate place. We are all crowded together. And we don't usually just get mad and walk away, although that can happen. Usually we are committed to remain together until we reach our destination.

Unless we own guns, the car is the most powerful thing we own or operate. It is a deadly piece of equipment. The car is the most dangerous place to which any of us go. Therefore, the dog who takes control of the car-situation is, in fact, the dog that is in control.

It doesn't just mean the dog who is driving, but it does mean the dog who is "driving things." That dog is in control of not only the car but also he is the leader of the pack. Otherwise, why would he be the one in control when we are at our most dangerous and in someways intimate place? Instinctively, teenagers know this.

Think of a pack of dogs. Suddenly they are in danger. They are attacked by enemies. Who takes charge of things when the pack is in danger? Exactly.

Now think of your family. Who gets mad and starts arguments in the car? Who controls the car radio? Who controls where he sits or where other people sit? Be honest. Far too many times we adults abrogate that "dog-in-charge" role to our teenagers. They call "shotgun." They choose that to which everyone will listen. They choose the car-time to pick arguments, almost as if they know how vulnerable the adults are since they will sometimes do anything to NOT argue in the car.

For example, how dare you try to control your own radio? Who do you think you are? Don't you know that music is important to your teenager? Don't you know that only he, not any other other family members, understand music? Don't you know that your teen just HAS to hear that song again. I mean they really care about it don't they? You on the other hand can hear your NPR or old-people music anytime you are in your car! You don't have to listen to it now, not when they need to hear that one song!

Part of what is going on is that we are all crowded into a small place. If you crowd dogs into a small place there is a good chance that the pack hierarchy will be evident real fast.

Here's the thing to consider. Whoever is the Top Dog when they get out of that car - that dog is going to act like they are the Top Dog everywhere else too. This is a good and a bad thing. It is a bad thing because our teenagers are more aggressive when it comes to calling Shot Gun, controlling the radio, and starting arguments.

However, it is a good thing because once we understand how important it is, we can control our own car! Especially, we can control our own car if we are driving. How? Easy! We have a secret weapon in the car, one that we probably very rarely use. It's call the Brake Pedal and it's on the floor right next to the accelerator!

We can use our secret weapon anytime to demonstrate that we are indeed in charge of our own car. We can stop arguments just by stopping the car (pull over first of course) and calmly stating that "we won't be going anywhere until things are quiet in here." Just let them know that it needs to be quieter in order for you to operate the car safely.

The first or second time you do this it might take five or ten minutes for things to settle down and for the other family members to "get it" that you are in charge of your own car. Once they "get it" they will settle down real fast. If there is one thing teens hate, it's just sitting still in a parked car along the road. They hate it ten times more than you hate it.

Of course, there is going to be some sulking once things quiet down. Sulking is important. It's actually a submissive posture and so TRANSLATED the sulking means: "Oh, so you're in charge now? Great. That sucks." It means you've won for the moment. You've established that you are in charge; all too soon the sulking will pass. Allow yourself to enjoy the small victory, don't allow yourself to be consumed by guilt that you had to exert a little leadership and pressure on the teens. It will pass soon and you will remain the Top Dog of your car if you consistently apply your secret weapon.

By the way, it really is not safe to argue in the car anyway.

As to the radio, you may not need your secret weapon for this. Just turn it off. Say something like:

Mom: No, not right now. [Turning off the radio.]

Daughter: I HAVE to hear that one song! [Turning radio back on.]

Mom: No, not right now. [Turning off the radio.]

Daughter: MOM! I have to hear that!

TRANSLATED: "I am in charge here, not you!"

Mom: No, not right now. [Turning off the radio.]

TRANSLATED: "You just think you are in charge- but you are mistaken- I am in charge."

Once you start this battle you must win. You must win it everytime. Otherwise don't even start the argument because if you start to do battle and then you give in- you have just agreed that they are the Top Dog. Better to act like you don't care about it if you are not prepared to win.

If necessary, and usually for the radio it will not be necessary, you have your secret weapon that we already discussed. Just pull over and state that the car won't go until the radio is off and it better stay off!

Be the Top Dog in your car and you will find that your pack still thinks of you as the Top Dog when you are not in your car. Afterall, if you can control the MOST DANGEROUS situation, you can control the other situations. If you can't then you'll be treated as though you are not the Top Dog. You might even be seen as the puppy-dog driver.

Continuing: Next Part III on how to be the Top Dog.


Lloyd Woodward said...

One thing I forgot to mention. Does your teen smoke in your car? Do you smoke in your car? If the answer to both these questions is yes, yes then that's fine.

If the answer is yes, no then that's a problem. If you don't smoke or don't smoke in your car and you let your teen smoke- then he is the big dog in the car.

It's sort of like the music. Instead of "I HAVE to hear this song," it's I HAVE to smoke this now" as if he is so anxious or so in withdrawal from nicotene that he has no choice. TRANSLATED: "I'll mark this car as mine because I'm in charge here." It's very terrotorial.

Tell your teen: "Put that out." "Don't light that in here." "Never smoke in my car; NEVER" Use the secret weapon if necessary. Stop the car. Get out of the car. Refuse to drive. If you think he will light up while you are driving do not drive the car until he has surrendered his matches and his cigarettes.

Note: It may not be necessary to take the matches and cigarettes, but if you do not trust that he will not light up while you are driving then by all means take them and do not drive until he gives them up. Once he surrenders his tobacco to you, you will be the big dog; clearly you are in control of your vehicle.

Sally said...

This is so true. I had this problem with Cisco and Lloyd suggested stopping the car. We were on our way to Gateway outpatient treatment and Cisco did not want to be late because tardiness causes the whole group to lose their break time. Well, I found a safe place to pull over and I did not have to say much. The action told him that I was in charge and meant it when I said I do not like smoke filling up my car and lungs. He took one drag off of his cig and said "okay, mom lets go" :-)

Brigitte said...

I used to be the runt of the car when my oldest son was heavy into drug use. I was so used to either, walking on eggshells around him or getting arguments with him, that I would think, do I really need to control this too, and I would just let him take over.

This topic was brought up at the PSST meeting and a lightbulb went off. "Hey, darn it, this is MY car." One time I pulled over so many times, it took 15 minutes to get to a 5-minute destination. Anyone behind us would have thought I was a drunk driver. Other times, if I could, I would just turn around and go home. It was secretly fun, though, because you really do have all the control when you are driving.


This layout (edited by Ken) made by and copyright cmbs.