How to teach your teenager to drive

Recently, I took my fifteen year old out and gave her her first real, bona fide, driving lesson.

The fact that I am able to sit here in my office and type those words out loud without going into anaphylactic shock, throwing up in my mouth only a little, shows you just how far I’ve come, don’t you think?

Nevermind that I’m presently curled up in a fetal position, typing this with one hand because I’m busy sucking my thumb on the other.

As I prepared for our adventure, mummifying myself in bubble wrap and hot gluing mattresses, old tires and neon strobe lights to the outside of our car, I wished that someone had shared with me some advice about teaching a teenage heathen to drive. I mean, all I had to go on was an old, searing, blistering, traumatic flashback to a scared sixteen year old gripping the steering wheel of a baby blue pinto as it careened into a busy intersection, screeching to a dead stop directly under a yellow light, with her mother sitting next to her screaming GOOOOO! WAIT! NO! STOP! OH MY GOD. JE-SUS CHRRRRRRRRRR-IIIIII-SSSSSSSST, WE’RE GOING TO DIE. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?

This post exists solely because I think parents are ethically, morally and legally entitled to this information and I’m too impatient to wait for a constitutional amendment.

Well, that, and the fact that nobody in my family has done anything remotely interesting since July so I have nothing else to blog about. Don’t blame me. Blame those around me who refuse to provide me with blog fodder, despite the fact that I provide them with such essentials as dinner and clean underwear at least twice a month. In fact, if you email your complaints to, I’ll make sure they get to the appropriate parties. Maybe they’ll listen to your gripes since they completely ignore mine.



  • Pay someone else to do it. If you’re low on cash, as most of us are in this economy, get inventive. I took out a billboard ad that said I WILL NOT SLEEP WITH YOU IF YOU TEACH MY KID TO DRIVE. CALL 1-800-BIG-MAMA. I got a huge response but alas, Zoe didn’t want to be confined with some stranger screaming at her in such close proximity. I swear, she can be such a ninny.
  • Bring a book or something to do. That way, when your life flashes before your eyes, you won’t be bored to death.
  • Along the same lines, bring your iPod downloaded with Enya or your husband’s explanation of digital TV or anything else guaranteed to put you to sleep within two minutes. You’re going to need something to help you relax, especially if you recently guzzled down all your Xanax during that long-ass period of time known as Hey, I feel stupid! Therefore, I will redesign my blog, during which time no one cared enough to bash in your skull with a bowling pin and put you out of your misery. Or, if you’re really high strung, download some Wolf Blitzer commentary to ensure you’re comatose instantly. Otherwise, listening to petrified screaming becomes irritating after awhile, especially when it’s your own. And reaching for the radio to change the station is pretty hard to do when you’re paralyzed with fear.
  • On the other hand, do not let your teenager bring her iPod because then she won’t be able to hear you shriek LOOK OUT FOR THE HOUSE! NO, NOT THAT ONE! THAT ONE! OK! THAT ONE TOO!
  • Remember, the steering wheel is a clock and clocks have two hands. They don’t have fingertips or knees or elbows or a forehead. Not even in a pinch.
  • Try to remember how you’re supposed to drive and teach your teenager accordingly. This means that you’re going to have to get creative so that she learns how to flip the driver behind her the bird while keeping both of her hands on the wheel at the 10:00 and 2:00 positions.
  • Make sure the inside of your car is littered with trash and smells like feet. Cleaning your car beforehand will only give your teenager a false sense of security. Defensive driving is more than just allowing three car lengths between you and the car in front of you, you know. If you don’t teach your child how to maneuver through rush hour traffic at 55 mph on a six lane highway while avoiding projectile missiles made out of plastic cups and containers emblazoned with the name McDonalds, you’re doing her a disservice.
  • Likewise, don’t run your car through a car wash before the lesson. Seriously, what’s the point? You really think your teenager’s windshield will never be dive bombed by seagulls with irritable bowel syndrome? Please. Leave your rose colored glasses in your imagination where they belong, right next to the unicorns, perky boobs and size two jeans. A dirty windshield is life. Shit happens and she needs to learn to look past it.
  • Rig the gas pedal so that it can only be pressed down .00000156 of an inch.
  • Rig the brake so that it can be pressed down to the pavement. Then move it over to the passenger side.
  • Attach your youngest child to the back bumper and teach your teenager to use her rear view mirror to slowly and carefully back into a parking space. Loud crunching noise accompanied by a faint whimper = FAIL.
  • Lastly, ten minutes before you start the lesson, siphon all the gas from your tank and/or slice a tire or two. If you do this correctly and discreetly, you won’t need any of this advice.



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27 thoughts on “How to teach your teenager to drive”

  1. Avatar

    I guess I’m going to have to remember this for when I teach my girls how to drive… My husband taught ME how to drive and he thinks it’s my turn to teach the girls… I beg to differ. 😉

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    If they don’t take drivers at school,have them take a few lessons with a professional driving school before they take there test! My oldest son had to take test 3 times before he passed! Did finally send him for 2 paid lessons! You have to remember,we don’t drive the proper way! Once you pass your test alot of the rules fly out the window!!!! Would you believe that son went one to Tractor trailor school and was in the top of his class! He can drive anything now! His wife complains he drives to slow! He doesn’t want to lose his special licence!

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    I’ve been teaching my son, who has mastered “go in a straight line” and “don’t hit that” pretty well. We now have to move on to “PLEASE stop without giving me whiplash” and “turn”. We’ve practiced turning, and he understands the idea, but actual mastery and accomplishment are still beyond him. I know at times he is much more terrified than I am. But not many.

  4. Avatar

    This post has given me all sorts of traumatic flashbacks.

    Traumatic Flashback the First:

    I’m 16. (In NJ in the 80s we couldn’t get a DL until our 17th birthday.) I’m in the ginormous boat of an Oldsmobile Delta 88 that passed for a “car” with my father riding shotgun. Theoretically, it was supposed to be cake for me to learn how to drive, as I”d been driving various engine-containing devices as a farm girl for years. Including a stick-shift, mid-1970s vintage, humongous pickup truck. Turned out that driving on actual roads (as opposed to “Dukes of Hazzard”-esque dirt roads and fields) in an actual car was a leetle more tricky to do. Dad decided the Best Method of teaching me to drive was “reality mode” so he did things like making me parallel park on the street in between real cars. Repeatedly. Also, when he was giving me directions (because I couldn’t pay attention to where the hell we were as I was too busy trying not to wreck our car, other people’s cars and you know, kill us or something), he’d say “TURN. NOW.” and I’d say “WHICH WAY?!?!?!?!?!?!?!” and he’d indicate with his thumb. In his lap. A subtle, little thumb pointing left or right.

    Clearly, despite being adopted and therefore not inheriting any of Dad’s genes, I did manage to inherit his insanity.

    Traumatic Flashback the Second:

    When I was a Younger and Slightly Thinnger, non-SAHM kind of girl with a Job Outside the Home, I shared a teeny-tiny wing of a building with my staff. I had a teenier-tinier office down at the one end of this teeny-tiny wing, and the rest of the department had cubicles right outside my office door.


    This one guy, that happened to be the first person I actually hired to work in my dept (the rest of the staff was inherited when I got the big promotion to director), had to sit in the Unlucky Newbie Cubicle, which was so deemed because it was the one directly outside my office door. (Who wants to sit right outside their boss’s door? No one!) One thing I missed in How to Hire Employees was the apparently crucial bit in which you determine (a) does that person have Killer Foot Odor and (b) does that person like to wear sandals in the summer? As far as this particular employee I hired was concerned, sadly both answers were YES.

    He’d wear these Teva sandals in the summer (we were a groovy, nonprofit type of agency, so “business casual” had a groovy, nonprofit type of meaning) and the odor? Horrific. Like demonic Fritos. My staff quickly dubbed the odor “Feetos” and even that tiny bit of humor wasn’t enough to preserve our sanity in the face of that smell.

    The worst part of the Feetos smell? It wafted. It had serious wafting power. Into my office, down the row of cubicles, out into the hallway. Other coworkers (not from our dept) would occasionally wander in to ask if someone had nuked something raunchy in the microwave, because there was this SMELL.

    (Did I mention he had a few Rainbow Colored Toenails? Yellow and green and omg I have to stop now, I’m about to puke from the memory…..)

    I tried forbidding him from wearing sandals. He argued that if the women in the office could wear sandals in the summer, the men should be able to as well.

    I then forbade ALL my staff from wearing sandals, so it was fair and equitable. This rule became amended on the down-low to “no one wear sandals when Joe is in the office” because he was out a good bit, so we’d wear sandals (sans Feeto odor, of course) whenever he wasn’t working.

    Now *I* need to go curl up in a fetal position.

  5. Avatar

    I am currently living through this as you type. I gave birth to her, the man has to teach her how to drive. I think that is a fair trade off. If not I really do not care! It works for me and I can handle that!

  6. Avatar

    It took me four years to teach my kid how to ride a bike. I also got to teach her about sex and the lovely changes that are going on with her body. Never mind giving birth to her. Her FATHER gets this one and it sure as hell won’t happen in my car!

  7. Avatar

    This is your best post ever. I am teaching my daughter to drive, and I could SO relate to everything here! She likes to get out of our driveway, then stop in the middle of the road to adjust the rearview mirror and adjust her makeup. Thank God we live on a quiet road.

    She also likes to scream at me while I drive: “MOM! WHY DON’T YOU BLOW YOUR HORN AT THAT GUY!!” When my hearing returns I like to explain that blowing the horn every time I encounter an Asshole or an Idiot [most other drivers I see fall under one of those two categories, as my 75 year old mother likes to remind me] would mean never NOT blowing the horn. The truth is I am always too flustered to think what to do, except mutter under my breath.

    When my daughter narrowly avoids rear-ending someone – which happens every time we drive – she likes to say “Relax, Mom, I didn’t wreck the car!” while I hyperventilate, huddled in the corner of the seat…

    Ah yes, the joys of teaching a kid to drive. I told my 13 year old son he WILL go to driving school, even if I have to take a second job to pay for it…

  8. Avatar

    So far, I’ve only had to do this once. I’m hoping my thirteen year old won’t want to learn how to drive until he’s seventeen-fat chance though.

  9. Avatar

    I have decided the only solution it to pack my kids on a big ship to America, where they can start a new life and have driving lessons WITH YOU in the Land of Opportunity! The cute accents will more than compensate for any additional gray hairs you may acquire.

    Hopefully they won’t suffer the same fate as their great-granny who (and this is TRUE) was DEPORTED from Ellis Island in 1921! Cos then I might have to teach them myself after all!

  10. Avatar

    ACK! how on earth can it be that time already? 15?? **faint** as far as i know ours still have to wait till they’re 16! WHEW! 5 more years till the oldest is able to give me heart failure!! UGH…….

    as for MY experience? well luckily i still had my mom then and she was GREAT! she actually thought i was a good driver! lol! though she did keep saying that i had a “heavy foot”. it bugged me to no end though that she let me drive on our old, curvy, narrow country road but was afraid to let me on the highway! lol! we’d get to town and i’d have to pull over at the corner store and switch places with her!

  11. Avatar

    Wow, yeah we had driver’s ed when I was a teen and our parents paid the teacher to teach us to drive. I imagine that poor dude is babbling in a crazy home right about now. I agree about Enya, can’t be upset with that playing.

  12. Avatar

    I remember my parents teaching me to drive. I think I had two lessons before they had my grandmom do it. They figured she would be better. I mean she had already had a good life if something happened…

  13. Avatar

    My top suggestion (and I’ve made it through teaching three teen daughters) is to teach them to drive at the cemetery! Make them stop at the “intersections” and use their blinker. They have to go slow, it’s usually a peaceful place AND — best of all — they can’t kill anyone there!

    Good luck!

  14. Avatar

    Welcome to my hell! 🙂 I have two driving and both terrify me. Thankfully they no longer need me with them in order to scare the crap out of the other drivers on the road. I already told DH that he is teaching the boy since I was {cough} lucky enough to get the girls. Of course, I will probably teach him, too.

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    Oh, Bless YOu and all those who commented!! And I thought I was ALONE!!! I am driving with two boys and have been in the fetal position, sucking my thumb and sure I felt what a massive MI felt like on numerous trips in the truck, and seriously, I am not so sure I am going to survive this!! I hope you don’t mind that I share your link on my blog post later tonight, I am so sharing this!! Hugs, and thank you for the laugh!! I’ll be back!!

    Jenny in Maine

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  17. Avatar
    Georgia Robinson

    OMG, thank you for this! I laughed out loud reading it! I’m teaching my 16 year old son how to drive who’s had his learner’s permit for two weeks. I’ve been down this road 4 years ago with my daughter, who tried to tell me that you don’t necessarily have to stop before a yield sign…you can stop after it if you feel like it. After coming within inches of being hit by the car who stupidly expected her to yield, I told her to pull over and get out of the car…I then drove away. Unfortunately, she called her boyfriend who came and picked her up. There were a few other instances with her such as backing out of a parking space, looking in the rear view mirror but only to see how good she looked, backing into someone who was parked behind her…”they shouldn’t have parked there”…etc. She will be 20 in July and is a good driver now…I’m no longer terrified to drive with her. As far as my son goes, all the years of team sports and video games have given him excellent coordination as he is way ahead of where his sister was at this point…but I’m still going to see about moving the brake to the passenger’s side like you suggested and maybe stocking up on some really good pharmaceuticals. Thanks again!

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