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Let’s face it: Putting a teen behind the wheel is more terrifying than a horror movie, true crime novel and haunted mansion combined. But that’s no excuse for turning into a psycho-mommy. So the next time your lead-footed offspring accidentally reverses at a stoplight and side-swipes a mailbox, here’s what you should never say—no matter how white your knuckles are from gripping the edges of your seat.

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“Are you trying to kill us?!”

Yep, it’s a nerve-racking experience for you, but it’s important to develop your teen’s confidence behind the wheel—without making her feel embarrassed or flustered. Focus on being calm and supportive, and if she does something dangerous, follow up with something like, “Tell me about how you handled the situation back there.”

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“You’re going to get a speeding ticket if you don’t slow down”

Obviously you’re right (Mom’s always right), but try correcting your teen with a question instead of a know-it-all statement. Saying something like, “What’s the speed limit here?” will teach him to be more aware of his surroundings and embolden him to make the choice to slow down.

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“Turn left now”

Directions are useful…but not at the last minute when she’s still honing her reflexes. Instead, give your teen plenty of notice when you want her to do something. “We will be turning left on the next block,” is a good place to start.

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Unless you mean “turn right,” you’ll probably just confuse her…and send you both the wrong way down a one-way street. Instead, use words like “correct,” “yup” and “you betcha.” (Hey, we said be clear, not cool.)

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