I am currently 16 years old. Around 4 months ago, following my birthday, my parents repeatedly pressured me into taking driving lessons. I never wanted driving lessons, before my provisional driving licence even arrived and before we booked lessons, I regularly objected to having them. My parents were the only reason I ever had a licence and driving lessons at all, I showed no enthusiasm for them and at most, would agree to having them having spent the last 20 minutes being patronised into the "good" driving lessons would do me.

Finally, I have had enough. Following a 1 month break from lessons to complete my exams, my parents are insisting I resume my lessons, however I have since decided that I no longer wish to do them, at all, no matter what they say. Before you suggest "just do what they say" I am no longer comfortable BEING in cars. When my dad drives along any motorway at least once every 10 minutes I genuinely minor have an anxiety attack as I fear that I may die, and every lesson I have had to date has included one moment where I have become flustered and have become unable to concentrate because I have done something wrong. I am genuinely scared of driving, and no longer want to do it.

This sort of scenario is not uncommon with my family. They claim that if I calmly explain to them why I do not wish to do something, they will not make me do it, however this is not true. Regularly while out if my sister is having dessert I will be pushed into having it myself, despite saying no several times. The same applies for driving lessons above. I do not want to do them, and I'm looking for a way to, professionally, address my parents that I do not want (and will not) be continuing driving lessons. Any help would be appreciated.

It's also worth noting that learning to drive will not get me a car. My parents are not willing to buy me a car after my lessons, and I doubt I will be able to afford one for a few years.

UPDATE 1 Having "attempted" again to have what resembles a serious conversation with my father he simple kept replying with "it's not up for discussion" and "we're going to fall out", so it seems the nuclear option (just dealing with the consequences) is the only option. Apparently the only current reason he has for wanting me to drive it "because you need to".

  • Have you tried explaining to them what you've explained to us, most importantly the second paragraph?
    – Becuzz
    Jun 20, 2017 at 17:53
  • Yes, everything there is things I've tried to explain to my family, twice now. Jun 20, 2017 at 18:19
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    Ok, how did they respond? I'm asking because I'm trying to gauge what they are trying to do and what might work.
    – Becuzz
    Jun 20, 2017 at 18:21
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    Is the anxiety of being in a car such that you simply never want to get in a car again, with anyone, for the rest of your life? Is your lifestyle such that this would be practical? Does riding on a bus give you the same kind of anxiety attack? Riding a bike? Are there other options such as a subway? Do you have an alternate plan for how you would get where you need to go, e.g., for a music lesson or if you head off to college in a couple of years?
    – user9075
    Jun 20, 2017 at 21:26
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    Similar to @BenCrowell - I wanted my kids to learn to drive because I didn't want to ferry them around well past the age when they could responsibly do that themselves, but I did let them feel ready first (one took their test at 17; the others 16.) My only question is, do you rely on your parents to get around? If you do, consider explaining how you're going to get around without their help in your discussions. Jun 20, 2017 at 23:50

7 Answers 7


From what you write, it sounds like your parents still see you as a child that doesn't know what it wants, instead of a 16-year-old who's almost reached the age of majority (or has reached it, depending on where in the UK you live...).

If this is true, then I doubt that there is much you can do in the short term to get them to listen to you. A few things might help in the long run, such as

  • finding a good moment for conversations (e.g. when neither you nor your parents are tired, angry or otherwise preoccupied or stressed)
  • not getting too emotional when arguing with your parents
  • giving them well-thought-out explanations for your views
  • asking them to explain why they're holding their views, without letting yourself be talked into backing down on your own points. There might actually be good reasons why they think it's important for you to learn how to drive, and you should at least consider them, even if you won't let them change your mind.
  • countering their arguments ("it will do you so much good to be able to drive") with alternatives ("I can take the bus to XY; there is a train running from A to B that only takes X minutes", "if I ever owned a car, the money I would have to pay for gas and insurance would amount to X pounds; with that money, I can instead .....")
  • trying to find out why they think it's important to drive and adressing the fears that give rise to their views.

The last one seems important to me. I doubt that your parents treat you like a child on purpose. I think it's more likely that they're not used to you being able to look out for yourself. They might fear that they're not doing their job right if they don't prepare you for "real life", and that if you don't learn to drive now, you'll miss out and it will be their fault. Pressuring you into eating desert when you clearly didn't want any points into the same direction - "he'll miss out and be sorry afterwards". [I'm just assuming you're male - if you happen to be female, please excuse me]

I don't think this is something your parents consciously notice. So if you find out what their fears concerning you are (Do they think you won't find a good job if you can't drive? Are they scared you'll move away and not visit them? Are they afraid that if you can't drive, you'll walk home alone through a scary neighborhood? Do they think that the bigger your car, the more of a man you are?) and manage to allay them with well-reasoned arguments, that might go a long way towards making them listen to what you say.

In the short run, though, this is probably not going to help you. So:

  • Do you have another adult who does listen to you, and who your parents trust? Grandma, uncle, a teacher who likes you, anyone? Can you get him/her to moderate a discussion between you and your parents? Don't let this person fight your fight for you - he/she's mostly there to make sure that your parents don't pressure you, and to support you when they're not listening to what you say.

  • If they pressure you into another driving lesson, talk to the driving instructor. Tell him you're scared of driving. Tell him you don't want the lessons. You might get lucky and get someone who understands that teaching someone who doesn't want to be taught and is actually afraid while being taught doesn't make sense, and he might suggest as much to your parents if you ask him to stop the lessons.

  • If that doesn't work, refuse to comply. In the worst case (e.g. if you actually find yourself sitting in the instructor's car), refuse to move the car. Nobody can make you do it; the driving instructor won't hit you, he won't scream at you, at most - if he's a bad teacher - he might try to make you ashamed, maybe by pointing out how that's never happened to him, or that you're wasting your parent's money or something like that. In fact, at your age, your parents probably can't actually force you to do anything you don't want to do, except by taking away privileges. If you refuse to comply, this will most likely escalate into an open conflict with your parents, so you should be ready for that. If they punish you for not complying, stay calm. Tell them you you're sorry for acting out, and you'll accept the punishment, and you know they only want what's best for you, but what's best for you is something you need to have a say in, and you won't change your mind on not wanting to drive. They can't ignore that forever.

Just like Becuzz, I don't like the "don't comply" suggestion, because it immediately paints you as immature when you do it (which is why you need to calmly accept any punishment and stay polite - to show your parents that you're not throwing a tantrum - you're defending your decision and accepting the consequences), because it escalates into a conflict and conflicts often yield unpredictable results, and because I'm a parent myself. However, at 16 you really should be given a say about decisions that concern you, and if they don't grant you that, refusal to cooperate is justified IMO.

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    Thanks for the advice, the ironic thing is that the only reason my parents want me to drive is to "give me independence" and also so I have a form of ID (my licence), and haven't mentioned, or really appear, to have any other reasons for it, despite having a very long time to thing about it. Jun 21, 2017 at 11:38

My suggestion would be to think like a politician. You need to have a clear, consistent message that you present to your parents and a clearly articulated description of what you want the future to be like and why your parents should support that.

So far, you do not seem to be running a very good campaign. You haven't articulated a clear plan for how you will get to the places where you need to go.

On the topic of anxiety, your messaging is not very clear. Part of what you've expressed is just the normal anxiety that most student drivers experience. The more general anxiety you express about being in a car at freeway speeds is something that your parents may not be taking seriously if you never expressed it before the issue with driving lessons came up (you say you are "no longer" comfortable in cars). They could equally well interpret it as a plea for help such as seeing a therapist.

If you want your parents to get on board with your political platform, you need to paint your vision of the future and convince them that it's one they want to live in. In answer to a question I posed in a comment, you said:

I don't use public transport, and I am capable of riding a bike just fine, it's only upon being in a car travelling at high speeds (i.e. when on a motorway) when I become anxious as a passenger, and constantly at junctions and in narrow roads with oncoming cars (basically most of my lesson then) when I am anxious driving.

If your parents were to read this, I don't think they would be able to make out a clearly articulated vision of what you want. Is this going to be a future in which you ride a bike everywhere you need to go, including school, sports, the dentist, and so on? Is it going to be a future in which they are still driving you to these places because you don't drive? If the latter, then why should this be a future they should vote for?

  • Any future (relative to the next 6 ish years) will involve that, they have no intention of buying me a car when I pass my test. Jun 21, 2017 at 15:22
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    @Crafter0800 Your parents are thinking beyond the next six years. If public trans and ride-sharing are not viable options, what do you plan to do? If they are viable options, you need to say so. Jun 21, 2017 at 16:21
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    @Crafter0800: they have no intention of buying me a car This could be one brush-stroke in the picture, but I'm still not seeing you painting a whole picture that I can make sense of. You want your parents to treat you as an adult. An adult needs to be able to formulate and articulate a coherent plan for how to deal with their own problems.
    – user9075
    Jun 21, 2017 at 16:41
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    Also, not owning a car doesn't mean you have to be driven around by someone else - you might also borrow your parent's car... Jun 22, 2017 at 11:19

Have you asked your parents for assistance on managing your anxiety? This doesn't seem to be a driving issue at all, on any level. Being unable to ride in a vehicle without panic attacks is an anxiety issue. If you do not address that aspect, none of the rest matters because it will likely continue to creep up in other ways & can in fact grow to include other activities that currently aren't an issue for you, even bike riding, where you may start to fear being hit by a car.

I also will say that that depending on where life takes you & the places you end up living, the lack of an ability to drive can be completely no issue or hugely problematic. Where I live, not driving is an incredibly large stumbling block. We don't even have much uber option here, no buses, no trains, no cabs. I have seen people trying to get to the grocery stores & since everything has gone to larger chains, every single one is off a 4 lane highway, not safe for bike travel. I know not all places are like this, but I would want my children to know how to drive because they will grow up & they will go places & do things & having the ability to drive, to me, seems like a life skill that isn't optional. I'd no more have them telling me they do not need to learn to read because they hate reading than I would have them telling me they need not learn to drive.

  • I wish I could upvote this answer more. No amount of "man up" type reasoning is going to address the underlying anxiety which very well could require professional help to deal with before it leaks into other aspects of life. Regarding the license, itself, getting a license doesn't mean one has to drive a car. Having it and knowing how to drive allows one the option should it be needed and the option to forego it if not necessary. Not having a license means you're depriving your future self of that option.
    – Shauna
    Jun 29, 2017 at 17:48
  • Managing the anxiety is important completely on its own, but also for making driving lessons manageable -- a terrified driver is not safe for himself or others, it makes it more difficult to learn how to operate the machine, it's harder to pass the necessary exams... Do you have any thoughts on how the importance of this could be expressed by the OP to his parents?
    – Acire
    Jun 30, 2017 at 12:45
  • I really didn't think it sounded as the parents had been made aware of the overall anxiety, such as the passenger anxiety & my suggestion would be to talk to them about that. I wouldn't even address that you don't want to take lessons, but instead that you have issues with anxiety surrounding being inside of a car (and mention all other times you feel anxious) and that you think you may want to do lessons, if in fact the anxiety was actually addressed & under control. At this point it doesn't sound like they've discussed the overall anxiety triggers, but focused on "I don't want to".
    – threetimes
    Jun 30, 2017 at 12:50

My dad gave me a junker car when I turned 16 and started really pushing me to drive, but I was not comfortable. He made me practice in all kinds of ridiculous situations until one day he made me drive up a mud-slick mountain in a downpour with my two baby brothers in the back seat, and afterwards we wound up with a wonderful shouting match, in which I stood outside the car and told him if he ever wanted it to move again, then he would have to get behind the wheel. I then waited until I was 19 to get my license, and that worked out pretty well - though I was still in two accidents within my first year on the road. Luckily no one was injured. I knew, at 16, that I wasn't ready to handle driving.

Try reminding your parents that just because it is LEGAL to drive at 16 doesn't mean every 16 year old is ready to drive. Maybe you don't need to say you're NEVER going to drive, but that you're not ready YET, and you think it would be safer and make you feel more secure to wait a year and try again.


Your parents are providing you many different life lessons all packaged up into one plastic card. Consider the following to be gained:

  • Confidence in stressful situations
  • Mobility and independence
  • Saving money (combining one benefit with another at an overall lower cost - picture id)
  • Enhanced motor skills.
  • Trust (reaping benefits after completion, even when you didn't see them during the training)
  • Provide utility for a possible future family
  • Opportunity (that job 15 miles away sure would be nice, but I can't get there or move there)
  • Freedom (from someone else's schedule. Ex: public transit's)
  • Completing your first big purchase (a car to call your own)
  • Utility for your friendships (hey, want to go bowling in the next town over?)

I can keep going, but I think this starts to paint the picture. You're missing out on a lot by being defiant. You wouldn't know that you were missing these life lessons until you go through them because you just see it as driving right now. Your parents are not making you do this because they hate you or because of a narrow scope (driving is good). It's because they love you and are providing you with essential lessons and skills that prepare you for full adulthood. I would suggest that the manner in which you deal with your parents is to suck it up, get your license, and then determine if it's worth it after the fact. Your parents have a bit more experience than you at this point - there's probably good reasons why they make you do things (maybe not always, but mostly).

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    This barely answers the question -- I agree that there are absolutely good reasons why parents make kids do things, and they see value in driving that the OP does not. However, "suck it up" isn't going to help the OP communicate his fears and concerns -- and that fear has the potential to very negatively impact his ability to be a safe driver (or even pass the necessary exams) if his parents can't help him navigate that anxiety.
    – Acire
    Jun 30, 2017 at 12:44
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    This would be a perfect answer if OP wouuld just "don't want to have a licence." There is much more serious problem here: OP is having anxiety attacks when in a car.
    – Crowley
    Jun 30, 2017 at 13:35
  • @Erica many times the best and fastest way to address a fear is to experience the situation that you're afraid of. Not always, but in this case, that is my answer.
    – user24631
    Jul 30, 2017 at 16:01

There are no "alternate views" here. Being in car is uncomfortable for you. This is not usual - it is serious problem. More likely it is just a peak of an iceberg hidden somewhere deep inside. Your struggle to drive a car and your parents pushing you is not The problem. Why do you struggle - this is The question to be answered first.

Your parents want the best for you and trust me, I am looking for a job now and almost every position has "Driving licence advantageous". Not having driving licence and driving skill closes many doors that could be open for you. Your parents are looking tens of years ahead. Do they know you have serious problem in a car?

My suggestion is: Talk to your parents and discuss every single point you have written there. Do not hesitate to see a specialist. You are not wrong, you just have a problem. Noone has the right to judge you, noone.

In shorter words: Cancel the lessons, go see a doctor (psychologist), try to solve this phobia and try to get the licence. It is worth it, definitely.


It sounds like your parents don't negotiate with you or acknowledge your individuality. Welcome to what seems like modern human development.

Unfortunately, changing your parents isn't possible, and "dealing with it" is ignoring yourself. I've tried both and neither led to a healthy long-term solution.

I will suggest a book that has given me a road map to healthy relationships and identify unhealthy ones. It challenged my way of thinking, while at the same time not making excuses for parents that do what they are doing to you.

This book is not fluffy, easy, fun, or enjoyable to read (although at times humorous). It is honest, example-dense, practical, and painful. But, the future looks good.

You can definitely apply the examples in this book with your parents. I cannot credibly outline them in my answer.

Real Time Relationships Audobook (free)
Real Time Relationships PDF (free)
Real Time Relationships Amazon

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