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I am 17. I have been learning to drive for about a year and a half now. I must have a permit if I want to drive, unless it has been a year or unless I'm 18. After that time I can get a license, but we are waiting on that because it is cheaper after I'm 18. This means I can only drive if I have someone 21 or older in the passenger seat, and no one unrelated in the back seats.

I'm adequate, except for parking and backing up. When I drive with my dad he gives me pointers and advice, which I appreciate. When I am driving with my mom and dad, my dad sits in the front seat and gives me pointers as usual. My mom is nearly silent in the backseat. When I drive with my mom she yells at me when I do not follow her instruction or know things already.

Every chance there is for my mom and I to go somewhere together (open a bank account for me, go to school) she insists I drive, which is fine. The problem is she will yell when I go too slow, or turn too sharply, or accidentally drive through an empty turn lane (if it wasn't empty I would have crashed the car). If we are in a parking lot she will give me directions on how to turn around, and if I decide to turn around a different way she yells.

My mom will give me a direction, like "turn right here" and I will decide I can't slow down fast enough, so I turn right at the next intersection, and she gets very angry. We live at the end of a dead-end road, and people constantly park their cars right behind our drive way, making it difficult to get out. When I try to get out, slowly, my mom will yell at me every time I start moving.

I have tried telling her multiple times that yelling doesn't help, and that telling me over and over how to do something will not make me better at it. I have told her many times I will not tolerate her yelling. Whenever we are driving in a parking lot or a neighborhood and she starts yelling at me I stop the car and get out. This is never effective because she is stubborn and I get impatient. At home I refuse to drive but to no avail.

How do I explain that I can't focus on learning when she's yelling? How do I explain knowing how to drive and actually having the experience driving are different?

  • 3
    I am unsure about your local laws... do you have a learning permit that requires you to have someone beside you? But in general: If she refuses to listen, don't drive with her. She may actually make your driving worse! – Layna Mar 19 '15 at 7:03
  • Sit together with both your parents and explain the situation where you ask them to let you finish your explanation. That will probably be sufficient to have them understand how important this is for you and what a bad influence she is for you (when driving). – Luceos Mar 19 '15 at 8:12
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    After the edit the most logical answer seems to be to stop letting her be the one in the passenger seat. If you've tried everything suggested, she's probably beyond being convinced otherwise. – Pharap Mar 19 '15 at 15:32
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    It's interesting to me that she doesn't yell when your father is there as well. Perhaps that could be a key in communicating with her. "Dad doesn't yell like that, and I learn better. When dad is with us, you don't yell at me." My mother also had issues teaching me to drive. The solution for us was that she took some of her Xanax before our trips (seriously). – user11394 Mar 19 '15 at 16:20
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    @CreationEdge I would say that one factor might be where in the car she's sitting. I'm a much more compliant passenger in the back seat than the front passenger seat. Being in the front passenger seat feels almost like being in the drivers seat, so it can be harder not to be a 'backseat' driver. – Joe Mar 19 '15 at 17:19
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It sounds like your mom and you need to work on your communication skills, together. This isn't uncommon in the teenage years; you're basically an adult now after all, and it's hard for both of you to work out exactly what that means for your relationship.

One of the common issues you have in a relationship like this is escalation. When you were five or six, escalation didn't do much, because you're half your parents size; but now, you're probably nearly as big or bigger than your parents, particularly your mom, and it's much easier to get into escalating fights where both of you escalate issues.

Your mom is probably stressed out about driving with you, because you're probably not a very good driver (and I don't say that to be mean: you're 17 and have been driving for a year and a half, it's nearly impossible for you to be an actually good driver with that little experience.) You make little mistakes, and it worries her, even if they don't have significant consequences, or even are the right thing to do given the circumstances. This is like me driving with my wife: it took me ten years to be able to do so without either criticizing her driving or sitting in the passenger seat with a frightened look on my face most of the time. She's a fairly good driver, but she didn't make the choices I would make in many instances, and that lack of control stressed me out for a long time. Being out of control, but responsible, is frightening and extremely stressful.

You're also very stressed, and for good reason; you're being micromanaged, and clearly not trusted. You're doing something that is stressful - driving - and being interrupted and second guessed the whole time. What your mom is doing could cause you to have an accident or make an accident more serious. You also respect your mom's opinions (to some extent at least), and having her tell you you're doing it wrong constantly is frustrating. And on top of all of this, you don't seem to have the ability to extract yourself from the situation if you wanted to, because she requires that you drive - taking away the only element of control that you do have.

The key to dealing with escalation is stopping for a time-out, so both of you can cool off. Get out of the stressful situation. Then, try to de-escalate and defuse the situation. Don't accuse or yell; just tell your mom that you need to pull over so you can calm down and get to a place where you can be safe.

Then tell her how you feel, right then. Don't use things like "You ALWAYS" or "You make me so mad"; be very specific, about exactly what behaviors of hers were frustrating.

Mom, when you yelled at me that I could have gotten us killed, it hurt my feelings. I know I'm not a perfect driver, and sometimes I don't do exactly the right thing, but I'm doing my best, and I need constructive feedback to get better. Yelling at me makes an already stressful situation worse, and could cause us to get into an accident.

I want to get better as a driver, and appreciate that you're trying to help me get better. If you don't feel like I'm good enough of a driver to be in situations like this without micromanaging, can we consider only having me drive in less dangerous situations until you feel more comfortable with my driving?

This particular situation was complicated, since it involved a highway and merging across three lanes of traffic. Maybe next time we should try driving a different route that would help avoid this?

In this particular situation, it was stressful because I didn't have enough time to plan my turn when you told me I needed to turn. Can we perhaps discuss the route in detail next time - possibly with a smartphone or map that can help me understand the turns I need to make? That way I'm not surprised by a sudden route change.

You also should try and work on your communication at the time with her. This is something my wife and I worked on effectively. She is not very good at navigating new routes, and so I'm often the navigator. Sometimes I'm not a very good navigator, so I'll tell her to turn at a point where it's not safe in her mind (just like your mom, it sounds). For a while this would stress both of us out, but now, if I tell her too late to turn somewhere, she tells me "Okay, I can't make that turn, but I'll turn at the next street and backtrack. Will that work?". Then I'll verify (if needed) that it is possible (no one way or dead end streets blocking us), and reroute if needed further.

It's not always going to be possible for you to improve your communication - either because you're communicating as effectively as possible in the situation, or it's too stressful to think about it at the time. That's fine; just keep it in mind, and do what you can.

Finally, you definitely need to have a talk about this away from the car, when you're not in a stressful situation. I would have all three of you in the room (dad, mom, you), and come up with a list of behaviors that cause you difficulty, and a list of constructive suggestions to solve them. Just like above, keep it non-accusatory and non-combatitive; you want your mom to be on board here, not to get defensive. Starting with "Mom, I hate driving with you", or "Mom, you're a terrible passenger", probably won't be helpful; instead, start with:

Mom, I think we need to work out how to improve our relationship when it comes to my driving. It's often very stressful to me, and I'm sure it is also stressful to you, when I drive with you. I'd like to give you some examples of what you do that frustrates me, and also talk about what I do that frustrates you, and then come up with some solutions that will work for both of us.

You may or may not want to talk to your dad ahead of time; the problem with automatically doing so is that it may feel to your mom that you're ganging up on her if you do. This will depend on your relationship. Tell her in this meeting, among other things, that you may need to stop driving sometimes and pull over and talk about things if the stress becomes dangerous or unmanageable for you - that way she's not surprised when you do it; and point out that it's not one sided. You're not stopping because you're mad at her, you're stopping because the stress on both of you is dangerous for both of you, and regardless of fault you need to stop, calm down, and help address it.

Try to be open about what she tells you, as well; and if she needs some time to think about it, give it to her - I'm sure you'd spend some time preparing for talking to her, make sure she can have some time also if she needs it.


At the end of the day, realize that it will probably never be perfect. Driving as a passenger in a car when you're also a capable driver is very stressful for some people (like me), no matter what. What you'll want to do is find solutions that help you and your mom deal with the problems when they occur, not try to prevent every possible problem every time. Create a framework that you agree on of how you handle situations. At what point are you going to pull over. At what point should you switch drivers. What code phrase can you use to let your mom know that she's stressing you out, so that she remembers this conversation and doesn't think you're just rebelling. Giving yourselves the tools to handle the stress is critical - now and later in life - for handling conflict.

  • 4
    My wife and I have the opposite situation: I'm usually the driver of new territory, I make her be the navigator, and I get frustrated when she doesn't tell me what to do! For us the solution is also communication: I am explicit on the information I need, and I don't expect her to read my mind. "How many miles/feet until the next turn. Which direction am I turning? Does it say which lane I need to be in?" I would give a +1 for the "Create a framework" alone. – user11394 Mar 19 '15 at 17:47
  • @CreationEdge: Ditto for my situation - with a slight twist. My wife doesn't seem to know how to read a map. She depends on the voice part to tell her when to turn whereas I don't want that thing talking. :) – NotMe May 21 '15 at 21:10
  • @CreationEdge Sounds like what you need is a good GPS navigator which can tell you all this, and your wife can be let of the hook. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Sep 21 '16 at 9:59
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When she starts yelling at you, stop/pull over at the earliest point possible and tell her to get out of the car. Most people are taken aback by this because it's something they almost never hear. She will probably then ask why, which is your cue to explain to her that her yelling is distracting you and you do not feel safe with her in the car and are worried about having an accident.

By doing this, you are showing to her that as you are the driver, you are the one in control and the one with the authority - if she won't listen to your rules you are free to refuse to accept her as a passenger. Equally, if she doesn't like your driving, she is free to choose not to be a passenger (a fact you may wish to remind her of).

Otherwise, you could try asking your dad to have a word with her perhaps? If you have all three of you in the car at the same time and your dad is agreeing with you about her being distracting then she's more likely to back down.

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    I do consider this a quiet aggressive way to put the point across but.. my mom did that to HER father. and it DID work. – Layna Mar 19 '15 at 9:48
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    I don't know if I'd tell her to get out, but I absolutely do suggest pulling over at the earliest opportunity and keeping the car stopped until she acknowledges that her yelling is causing a dangerous driving situation. This turns it from confrontational ("get out of the car") into proof of responsible driving ("I need to concentrate on being a safe driver and yelling causes a dangerous distraction"). – Acire Mar 19 '15 at 11:40
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    True -- there could be a lot of different reasons why she is yelling (nervous about riding as a passenger with a still-learning driver, had a bad day and feeling stressed, authentically angry...) and the appropriate response would depend on that root cause. Definitely not an easy thing to judge from a few paragraphs on the internet, but the OP should be better able to evaluate the situation :) – Acire Mar 19 '15 at 11:48
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    I think that telling your mother to get out of the car is probably inappropriate, because it's your mother: she does have a position of responsibility here. I very much agree with pulling over, though, and getting out yourself. – Joe Mar 19 '15 at 15:03
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    I don't think it's okay to insist that someone gets out of your vehicle unless they are being a physical danger to the driver. To me, it's reactive and immature. I won't give this a -1, but I would suggest saying something more along the lines of "Either you can drive, or you can stop yelling at me and I can drive." rather than "Get of the the car". This way you're suggesting a solution rather than a new problem. – user11394 Mar 19 '15 at 16:25
5

For some reason driving seems to bring out the worst in a lot of people. It can be frustrating from the driver's seat and frustrating as a passenger hence road rage and "back seat drivers". I don't suppose that your mom is yelling on purpose so I don't think that trying to explain to her or asking her nicely to change her behaviour will work. Some people are particularly not suited to supervising learners and it sounds like this is the case for your mom.

I think the best thing to do in this situation is to refuse to drive with her for now. Once you have your full licence you can do what you like. It may seem a long time off but it will pass before you know it. Maybe once you have your licence your mom will subconsciously feel less inclined to criticise your driving. Or even before then she may regret not being able to help you with your driving in which case you could give her another chance but if she yells then refuse the next time.

Remember you are the one in control of this situation although it may not feel like it. You can't stop her yelling but she cannot make you drive. I understand that it may be tricky if she's insisting you drive at a time when you really want to go somewhere so I'd suggest telling her ahead of time that you don't want to drive that day. If she asks why then tell her calmly that you find it difficult driving with her because she yells and it distracts you and affects your confidence. If she insists then tell her that you'd really prefer if she drives because her yelling makes you feel unsafe and stresses you out. This is all very reasonable and I would hope she wouldn't argue with it although she may feel a little upset. I'm assuming that your mom is not angry and confrontational all the time and it's mainly the driving which is the problem here, otherwise you have bigger issues which I think are beyond the scope of this question.

0

Your mother wants to know that whatever she teaches you, you are learning it.
I know how frustrating it must be for you when she yells at you while you are driving.

  • What you have to do is apart from when you and your mum is in the car, try to take notes from her about driving skills.(even if you know enough to drive properly), just show interest in her that you respect her knowledge and tell her that you will implement them all with your own speed.

  • Try this : (This might not work and she might smell what you are trying to do)

While she is cooking food (especially something main-course), stand beside her in the kitchen and shout suddenly with a jump -
"Mum, you are gonna burn that" then just apologize and say "Sorry, I thought you were gonna drop the whole thing but ofcourse you won't, you are an expert".

(Or have your dad help you out in this and have him do what you did in the scene above.Makes much big difference)

Try one of the following(or try both) when you are in the car with her:

CASE 1 : When you are driving:

Right after you start the car, SPEAK A LOT!
That's what she does right? She keeps talking and breaks your concentration, so you have to do the same and much more than her.

Goes like this: (please, make it natural)
"Mom, this car sounds great, dont you think, my god the engine roars!!!Lioness!!!"
"Ok, tell me what turn to take now, Tell me, faaaastttt!!! Ok speak mom" (she will realize that how much it must fluster you when she yells like that"

"Can we go for lunch somewhere nice? Ok, you want me to take left or right?"

CASE 2 : When she is driving:

Do exactly what she does to you but you dont have to yell.Just ask her lots of questions and questions which demand more-than-one-word replies.

She'll possibly say "Shush, dont speak too much and concentrate!" She might just realize what she just said and will consider staying quite more.
or you could reply-
"Ok, but when you prompt me so much, it's worse mommy" (innocent voice!)

  • Whatever new you try, don't make it all seem so sudden, she will know that you are trying an intervention or something.

  • You have two options:
    Either forget doing all the things i just mentioned above and just talk to her about all the stuff, it might help, it might not.
    Eventually, she will start prompting in the car just like before. The prompting thing is a habit, even my uncle has it when his son drives.

  • Or you can simply, just make her realize by doing the same thing she does(speaking a lot).(but, naturally and slowly and without yelling).

  • Overall, she is your mom and she is just worried about you that there are times when you drive on your own and she want you to be ok.

  • You could do this:
    While you are driving and she is prompting and yelling, reply with-
    "And then?",
    "And then what?"
    "Should I rather try doing (so and so)" "Ok, now what?"

She might say - "If you are going to ask so many questions, you won't be able to do it on your own.You might as well quit driving"
Your respectful reply - "Exactly, I'm trying to learn 'from you' but it ain't going to happen when you screaming at me all the time."

  • Or she might just get tired of you asking a lot and evetually letting you do it on your own and just observe untill you actually do something wrong.

And by the way
"Turn right!!! RIGHT I SAID! Are you even listening to me?... Great! we missed the turn!!!"

  • When she yells, just laugh and stuff.Let her know that you are genuinely not nervous and that how comfortable and relaxed you are when you are driving.
    I Prefer this last technique much more than anything else :)

All the best!

  • 4
    I don't think being more confrontational and aggressive is necessarily the answer here. – Joe Mar 19 '15 at 15:04
  • lol Did you even read the answer? or just the last part? – Freedom_side Mar 25 '15 at 4:39

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