General Question

cak's avatar

For parents with teenagers that drive, can you share some tips with me to help me relax while my daughter drives?

Asked by cak (15863points) May 15th, 2009

My daughter is 15 and now has her learner’s permit. I am very happy for her, but at the same time, she scares me. I know it’s not very helpful if I am a nervous wreck, while sitting next to her and I am really trying to let go of the anxiety; however, I’m not always successful. How did you make it through this time and help your teen learn to drive?

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39 Answers

Darwin's avatar

We went to an empty park with lots of internal roads and I simply pretended all was well while she jerked the car around like an amusement park ride. If she wrecked it we were close enough to be able to walk home, and there wasn’t much to run into out there. Besides it was a cheapo used car, not the big, expensive family truck.

Otherwise, there is always Xanax.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

CAK…take a Valium, LOL!

Seriously, if you’re riding with her, let her make little mistakes, & then after you get back home, tell her about it. If you raise your voice to her while driving, that’ll just make HER more nervous. Of course, you can’t let her do something really stupid & serious, but it takes a while for these kids to get the feel of a car. Steering, braking, accellerating, it’s all new to them & their co-ordination isn’t developed.

My blessings to you, LOL.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@Darwin We DO believe in drugs, don’t we? Hahahaaaa

seekingwolf's avatar

My mom was a nervous wreck when I was learning how to drive. She would constantly screech and that would make ME nervous and then I wouldn’t want to drive at all. It was stressful for both of us.

So in her place, I was taught to drive by my nanny (trusted adult, she’s really calm and never wigged out) and then later in private lessons.

It may be better for her to drive with another trusted adult (another parent, relative, instructor) who is more calm and won’t get overly nervous or scared. Then when she’s a better driver and more confident, you can drive together and it will be a better experience.

cak's avatar

@seekingwolf – What’s funny is she prefers to drive with me. (The kid is crazy!) I don’t yell, but I’m going to permanently damage the nerves in my hands, if I continue grabbing on as tight as I am!

That’s a great idea, though. Thanks! I do have a trusted adult that would do this for both of us.

@darwin and @JB – drugs! ;) @darwin – the park is a great idea. We do have a good one around here, I’ll do that this weekend.

asmonet's avatar

Whatever you do, don’t pull what my mom did.

If she thought you needed to break, she’d swing her arm out in front of you as you were driving, she does this when we’re in the passenger seat sometimes as well. The end result is not the protective motion she seems to think it is, more of a bitch slap across the chest.

She also yells and screeches – she really needs to calm the hell down, I completely agree with @seekingwolf, if you are not sure that you can handle it, get someone else. You may be missing a ‘milestone’ but in the end her safety and yours will benefit. She’ll be learning a lot more with someone she can relax with and you can trust to teach her well.

I ended up with my brother for most of mine. :)

Strauss's avatar

The suggestion make by @Darwin is a good one. In Illinois, we used to go to empty parking lots after it snowed to learn to control a skid on ice.
I learned to drive on the job. I worked on a farm for several summers in my youth.

asmonet's avatar

And don’t go on the highway until you are ready to, regardless of where she is. :P

seekingwolf's avatar


whew good to know that you don’t yell (I hated it when my mom did that). Still, it may be better to have a trusted adult do it with her instead. You’ll feel a lot better because you won’t be as stressed. :)

Best of luck!

Darwin's avatar

I know I left a dent in the floorboards on the passenger side because I always “put the brakes on” well before she did. But I didn’t say a word.

When my mother tried to teach me to drive she would scream and I would end up steering the car into the ditch (in Houston, ditches are about 10 feet wide and up to 6 feet deep). Thus, I swore I would not scream when I was teaching my kids how to drive.

Tobotron's avatar

its legal to learn to drive at 15?! Where do you live? To be honest I’ld be pretty worried too, personally my parents didn’t teach me because I couldn’t handle being told what to do and it turned out they were teaching me their bad habits too, I’ld leave most of the work to a qualified instructor personally…let them take the Valium ;)

Darwin's avatar

In Texas you can get your learner’s permit still at 15, but you can’t get your license until you are at least 15 1/2, and it won’t look like a “normal” license until you are 18.

With a hardship situation you can get a license at age 14.

cak's avatar

@asmonet – My mother did the same move. Yes, I’ve been bitch-slapped by my mom. Scary woman! I love her very much! She’s been on the highway (driver’s ed and with my husband) and is fine, on the highway. It’s the surface streets where she really needs to get more experience. Yes, a bit backwards, but her driver’s ed teacher was big on teaching them how to merge and exit on a highway.

@Yetanotheruser – We’ll be doing the parking lot thing, too – for snow. That’s is if we get the rare snow/ice event, where we live. That’s not my strong point, definitely a job for the husband!

@Tobotron – Yes, she was in driver’s ed right before she turned 15 and once you are 15, you can get your restricted license. You cannot drive on your own, and must have it for one year before you can test for your regular license. When you get that one, it’s graduated, there are still lots of restrictions on it, until you are 17.

cak's avatar

@Darwin – wow! At 14? (I understand it’s for hardship cases.) That is so young. They’ve placed a lot of restrictions on the “regular” permit for kids that get them at 16. No more than one passenger, no driving after 9p, no phones, grades must be a certain gpa and higher – the list goes on and on.

Tobotron's avatar

ahh in the UK its 17 but most people don’t pass till 18 because the learning – testing process is pretty lengthy…I don’t think anything can stop you from being concerned about a 15yr old at the helm of a few tons of steel lol but I would recommend after passing that your daughter take an advanced driving test, I took one with a local police driving instructor and the extra things you learn teach you so much more about how to judge everyone on the road around you, my instructor was actually the driver of the car in the James Bond film where they racing an Aston and a Jaguar on a frozen lake which was quite a thing :)

Les's avatar

I second the park idea. My dad was the one who took me driving (for the most part). He would drive me to a forest preserve, and I’d drive up and down this long driveway/parking lot. Randomly, he’d tell me to stop, or to try a 3 point turn, or something like that. And because we live in Chicago, he set up two garbage cans and had me practice parallel parking in between them (parallel parking is part of the driving test in Chicago, or at least it was. I know not everyone tests for that, but it is a good skill.)
Once I got more comfortable behind the wheel, he took me to a suburb with really wide, and low traffic side streets, and I practiced there for the rest of the time.
By the time it came for my “traffic” portion of Driver’s Ed, I was pretty comfortable and ready for the expressways.

wundayatta's avatar

You could have someone else, a professional, do it. In my state you get lower insurance rates if the new driver has been in driver ed.

I’ve had to teach other people how to drive in one job, and I hated it. In New York City, a lot of people never learn, but to do the job, you had to drive the crew out to the burbs. So I had to teach them.

My daughter will be fifteen in two years. I’m thinking of having her talk about what she sees as she sees it, so I know what she’s thinking. But that would probably be too much. Maybe I’d have her do that sitting in the front seat as I drive. It’s all about what you see and what you pay attention to.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@daloon That’s a good idea. Learn by example.

Jeruba's avatar

I’d differentiate clearly between little mistakes and actual misdeeds. My son (and this might be a macho thing) was really aggressive at first, even accelerating right before braking behind someone at a light. I knew that practice, gentle coaching, and experience would take care of the mistakes, and so I would wait until the moment was past (not wanting to distract him whle he was correcting and saving our necks) and later just ask things like “Should you have done anything differently back there?” or “Can you talk to me about what just happened?” It was the attitude that concerned me more.

I reminded him frequently that the road is full of nervous drivers like me and that not everyone has his reaction times. I said, “Imagine your mother in that car over there. What you just did probably scared her. And when we’re scared we make more mistakes.” I always said (when they were younger) “Do not startle the driver.” When they were little and fighting in the back, I would pull over and stop and not budge untl they quit. Sometimes I would turn around and go home. I refused to drive with squabbling going on. Same reason: do not startle the driver.

So I wouldn’t startle him while he was driving, but I also wanted him not to startle other drivers.

I often repeated this: “When you’re out there driving, you’re on the road with old people, angry people, sick people, stupid people, crazy people, scared people, and people who don’t have any licenses.”

And this: “Every day there’s people on the road who are behind the wheel for the first time.”

He is now a good, safe, and lucky driver who just does little things now and then to tease me.

Oddly, it was my wild child, the younger, who was a conscientious, conservative driver from practice day 1. He goes a bit too fast now, but he knows what he’s doing.

Good luck, cak. It’s a scary time, all right. But it gets scarier when they go out alone and you are not in the passenger seat watching and coaching. That is when the training really counts.

Strauss's avatar

@Jeruba ” not startle the driver.” My then 6 yr old learned that lesson in my last accident! fortunately no injuries, but she got shook up and I totaled the car!

Jeruba's avatar

Oh, yeah, and I sent them both for professional driver training. It was absolutely worth it. With me it was just all those required practice hours (we logged the full requisite 50) for early license.

I didn’t learn to drive myself until my kids were 5 and 3, so “Do not startle the driver” was a mantra they heard constantly through my first couple of years, along with my talking to myself out loud through difficult maneuvers. They were silent as stones every time I merged onto the freeway.

lollipop's avatar

@cak When my son got his permit I had a stick shift car at the time so I took him to a parking lot across from the fairgrounds in the town where we lived, it had a slight hill so it helped him learn to maneuver the clutch an gas at the same time. He also took ‘paid’ drivers school lessons I believe, I can’t remember if they quit the ‘free thing’ in schools by the time he was at that age, but it was only a few lessons anyway.

What I did when I rode with him is ‘remembered what I went through’ when I learned to drive myself and that help me keep my mouth shut. And not show any fear or get too upset with him! Actually he was a quick learner other than the clutch thing an that just takes practice.

When I learned to drive, they still offered it in school and since I am very short, I had to carry a pillow to school and shove it in my locker on that day! Very embarrassing! I learned to drive in an automatic and had an automatic for my first car my parents help me get, but then when I bought my own first car, I wanted a stick shift Honda as the gas had gone up and the mileage was better in Honda’s with stick than the others. So I went to the dealer and picked out the car I wanted ordered the color of it etc. Then when it came to the day to go get the car, My aunt had to go with me to the dealer to drive my brand new car home, but she drove to the RoseBowl parking lot instead and gave me an hour lesson on how to do the clutch, that was it! We lived in LA and it was hilly in the area I lived in so it was very frustrating for me, I got to the point I quit driving period for about 2 weeks, then decided well….I am either going to learn to drive this car or I am going to have a brand new car in my driveway an have to walk everywhere….needless to say, I gradually learned but it took ‘tears’, screaming, patience, frustration, embarrassment for quite some time before I finally accomplished the ‘trick’ of the clutch an gas. I also never had an automatic car after that in all the cars I owned since then!

So when my son learned I just remembered all I went thorough myself and that help me be more patient with him!

Hope this helps some!

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

Oh, dear! You just reminded me I have a mere 11 years and 2 months to think about that.

I would make some serious rules. She should keep her phone in her purse. No more than one other kid in the car at any time, and preferably just herself. Set a curfew.

Keep the car in tip-top condition – tires at proper pressure, windows clean, full mechanical checkup. Take odometer readings from time to time so you know how much driving she is doing. Start the car up from time to time and see where the radio volume is set, and what she’s listening to.

Bear in mind that girls are more responsible behind the wheel than boys. Take whatever comfort you can in that.

And check back with me in 12 years to see if I’m still coherent. At least I will be retired then, so I won’t have anything better to do than hound her every moment.

Darwin's avatar

Actually, my daughter, being the planner that she is, got the Texas Driver’s Handbook when she was 13, and began watching me drive and discussing road signs then. So intellectually she was well-prepared for driving. However, actually driving a car was not as easy as she thought it would be.

However, my son has been a backseat driver since he was three and is extremely irritating.

YARNLADY's avatar

I made a rule that none of my sons or grandsons could drive until they could pay for their own insurance, so as a result, they were all 17 or 18 before they learned, and much more mature.

Each one took a pre-drivers training course, and then got their learning permit for nearly a year, which requires a licensed driver in the car, before they took on solo.

Darwin's avatar

Our rule is that you have to be able to pay for your gas before you can drive. I was the only driver in our household until my daughter got her license. With a disabled person at home it often became very, very difficult without an extra driver.

However, if she ever takes her phone out of the center console while her car is running she knows both phone and keys will be forfeit.

cak's avatar

@everyone – Thank you. Lots of great suggestions and reminders. @Jeruba – remembering that all those different types of drivers are on the road, at the same time is very important – that was an “Ah ha!” moment for me. I don’t think anyone can reinforce enough, not to startle the driver. I had a yeller for a mom, in the car next to me. I got so upset, I pulled over, got out and handed her the keys. I refused to drive with her for a very long time. Dad took over and I relaxed.

@lollipop – I had the same experience – not being able to drive my new stick shift car home, as well. I almost wish we had one to teach my daughter how to drive one now. I think everyone should know how to drive both. :)

@Ich – hi!! I know, it’s never too early to start thinking of our children driving! ;) Buy her a cozy coupe (little tykes) and let her beep the horn. Just watch the walls…if you use it inside, they really can ding up the place! (good o see you!)

lollipop's avatar

@cak, Also, My son started working at the age of 15 I think at Burger King as he was taking ‘work experience’ classes in school so when he did get his license he had to make enough money to pay for his own insurance and gas in the car. I also told him, if he ever got a speeding ticket, the car was mine! And he would walk to work, and same thing about the drinking but I didn’t have that problem with him. He drinks now but didn’t while still in h.s. Now it is on him if he gets in trouble….

tiffyandthewall's avatar

i’m 16 and my mother started teaching me how to drive almost as soon as i turned 15. i think it was almost as traumatizing for me as it was for her. my mom yelled at me about every move i made, and still does. she constantly harasses me as i’m driving, and when directing me somewhere, often gives me poor directions (even sitting next to me!) and then gets angry when i make a wrong turn i guess she tells me things forgetting that i don’t already have background knowledge that she does. after we get out of the car (this is after she’s been yelling at me and telling me i’m going to kill us the entire ride), she usually tells me how i did a great job and i’m always just like o____O “okay”. haha.

just relax as much as possible, remember that you know a lot more than her about driving so she’s bound to make quite a few mistakes, and make sure you step in when you need to. try not to yell or overreact unless it’s necessary. if she’s turning at the wrong street or some other minor driving misdemeanor, don’t freak out on her, or she’s bound to be shaken and make more mistakes. good luck. (:

strangely enough, as soon as i wrote this, i went on msn and my friend was telling me about how she was driving with her parents today and her father was laughing at her and her mom was yelling at her the whole time

Kenyan's avatar

Ok, so im a teenager that just started driving and take it from me, theres is nothing worse than a nervous screaming parent. Make sure you are not tense because if you are then the person driving will be tense. Start off small, maybe drive in the parking lot to build up trust and then you can take it to the street. Turn on the radio, not too loud mind you or strike up a conversation to make the driver relax. Remeber its all about concentrating yet having a good time

cak's avatar

@tiffyandthewall and @Kenyan

Thank you both, very much for responding! I promise, I didn’t yell or scream. She did pretty well, a few things that needed work, one biggie that really needs fixing, or she may be driving a go-cart! ;)

Kenyan's avatar

Your welcome, and heres another tip once she really gets the hang of driving you can make her drive you around, after all you did spend the last 15 years driving her places haha :)

cak's avatar

@Kenyan – ha! Very true. :)

Kenyan's avatar

I remember i time when i was doing my in car driving hours for drivers ed and really bad storm started, im talkin lightning, hail, and flooding. And to top it off i had to deive on the freeway to get back to school, i was a nervous wreck to say the least. When i finally made it back the drivers teacher said that i handled that situation extremley well and that gave me alot of confidence. So you should compliment your daughter(which you propably already do)

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@cak , she just rode her little training wheel bike up to the end of the block and back for the first time Saturday. Daddy beams with pride. Daddy himself has gotten his own bad driving habits more or less under control, hoping she will learn by example, at least when she’s in the back seat.

wundayatta's avatar

So, when do you tell your insurance company there’s another driver in the family? Do you have to tell them before your child sits behind the steering wheel? Or after they get their license?

Darwin's avatar

In Texas, you have to tell the insurance company just before they get their license so they can prove they have insurance when they go to get it. While still on a learner’s permit they are covered by the parent’s insurance.

However, many insurance companies (State Farm is ours) have training packets that will allow you get a lower rate if filled out or followed during the learning period.

cak's avatar

@daloon – it depends on the state, you should make sure you are clear with the regulations before your daughter gets her learner’s permit. In my state, nothing changes (insurance wise), until she has her license. Learner’s permits do not require changes in the policy. Like @Darwin‘s insurance company, our insurance company has many programs to participate in, training programs, which we are doing. If she qualifies for all of them, we will have a decent discount. We know of 3, now, and they will help, a lot!

@Kenyan – Very good! :) I did compliment her on her parking skills this afternoon. She cracks me up, she’s more cautious than a 90yr old lady, but very good at parking within the space and not having to correct how she parked. She just laughed, but I saw a bit of a smile, after I said it to her. I think it helped!

@Ich – Congrats!! That’s a milestone to be remembered. :)

Kenyan's avatar

Thats awsome^^^^^. You made driving fun for her

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