Driver Zone vs. Passenger Zone
Most of us would agree that children are interested in gaining more control of their lives in each successive school year. Some like to think of this as the progression from dependence to independence. Although I certainly encourage kids to seek this greater control, I’m often wary of their understanding of just what control is as it relates to their lives.
If you drew two circles (one inside the other) and labeled the inner circle driver zone (the things in life that we can control) and the outer circle passenger zone (the things in life that we can’t control), you’d be hard pressed to find too many things that would occupy the inner circle. In fact, I would argue that there are only three things that we can completely control, which I will reveal later.
Allow me to illustrate this principle by sharing a fictitious story about a girl named Alicia.
It was Monday morning and Alicia anxiously walked into her 8th grade classroom, eager to share the details of her weekend during the customary Monday morning share. As she walked toward her desk, she immediately noticed Mr. Griffin writing something on the board…No sharing today. Please take out a pencil and paper. Pop quiz.
“What is he doing?” Alicia thought to herself. “I can’t believe he is going to skip morning share, especially considering the fact that my story was certainly going to wow the class.”
Alicia reluctantly removed a piece of notebook paper from her desk and angrily clutched the pencil in her hand. The loud sigh that accompanied her action could be heard several desks away. Fortunately for Alicia, Mr. Griffin was standing on the opposite side of the room and did not bear witness to her obvious frustration.
Later that day at lunch, Alicia sat alone in the far corner of the cafeteria, still visibly upset by Mr. Griffin’s choice to forego Monday morning share.
“What’s wrong Alicia?” asked her friend Carol as she placed her lunch bag on the table. “Why are you so upset?”
Alicia quickly responded, “He ruined my day. I was so excited to share about my weekend and he decides to cancel it altogether. Why does this have to happen to me?”
This story could surely go on, but it begs the question…Was Alicia able to distinguish her driver zone and passenger zone? Put another way, was she trying to control something that was out of her control? Absolutely!
I mentioned before that there are only three things we can control. They are our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions. How would the outcome of this situation differ if Alicia had simply acknowledged that she could only control these three things?
Although this seems like such a simple concept, why do so many kids (or adults) spend countless hours trying to control things that are out of their control? The answer is quite simple. Without a clear distinction of the two circles, they begin to collapse into one and thus everything becomes potentially controllable.
Imagine a classroom full of kids that had mastered this principle. You would arguably feel a positive energy radiating throughout the room. Moreover, the communication between students would be authentic and real. Finally, the teacher would feel a sense of freedom to actually teach, rather than responding to various student complaints and/or frustrations.