Help! Parenting and Learner Driver ‘Children’

its ok to ask for help

Sometimes you have to send out a global call for help because no amount of books, Google Searches, chats with friends, acquaintances have been of much help.

Nub of matter: Son (19) is all set to take to the road in a car. We’ve moved on from bikes with stabilisers, racing bikes, scooters … to the real McCoy ~ C A R.  In addition to lessons from a qualified instructor, the law in Ireland states that all Learner Drivers must have a person with a full driving licence for at least two years sitting with them in the car up and until they pass their driving test.


It transpires that I’m the person who is the obvious candidate for this role. BUT, even thinking about it gives me the complete and utter heebee-jeebies.

I remember all too well what I was like as a learner driver ~ and I was fortunate enough to have the love of my life sitting beside me ~ apparently nerveless as I rolled halfway down Constitution Hill (the steepest hill in Ireland); bombed along the road from Clogherhead to Drogheda at about 150 mph, sailing into orbit as we hit the humpback bridge at Termonfeckin,  after he’d commented that it wasn’t very sensible to indicate to the right when I intended to turn left and there was a tractor in the mix.

My limited experience with my father sitting beside me was a nightmare. On our first day out, the accelerator cable snapped and he was screaming at me to get a move on while I was trying to tell him that the accelerator was lying in a heap on the floor. He couldn’t hear me because of all the hooting horns from the two-mile tailback behind us.

So, how does one cope with this ordeal as the ‘passenger?’ Are we talking fistfuls of Valium, self-hypnosis, Reiki, having blaring music on to drown the shouting; finding religion …..

Please tell me the secrets to success ~ if you’ve discovered any!


Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and sense of place.

33 thoughts on “Help! Parenting and Learner Driver ‘Children’”

  1. Good luck with that, Jean 🙂

    I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of teaching my eldest to drive. He had lessons for the absolute basics ( though no doubt he already knew them, but I wasn’t supposed to know he knew…). After that we took the Sunday morning roads through the countryside where we found somewhere to have a smoked salmon breakfast. On the whole it was fun, quality time together.

  2. I have no tips, but it did help to grip the sides of the seat I was sitting on in order to try to calm myself. Deep breathing helps, as well as closing your eyes. 🙂 After teaching our first two children how to drive, I started training our youngest long before he could drive. I always told him what I was doing and why. Training him was much easier on the nerves, and he is a wonderful driver.

    1. Hi April, thanks for writing. I’m glad to report that I’ve taken the step of the ‘early training’ that you mention in all sorts of odd little ways so I hope that helps as much as it did with your youngest.

  3. Jean, whatever minimum standard is required is probably not enough.

    “We set some of our standards on the minimum we will accept. And what we will accept becomes what we can expect. When the minimum becomes the mark people shoot for, the minimum, and not the best, is what is produced over, and over, and over. And that is not just about our driving skills, but about other areas of our lives where substandard practices become the norm. Until we raise the standard of what is acceptable, what is expected will never have any reason to improve.”

    1. Hi Van, yes, I totally agree with you about minimum standards certainly not being enough in all sorts of areas of life, especially driving which is such a life and death issue.

  4. Hmmm, a couple of points i guess. My dad used to do some driver training as a part of his job as a fleet supervisor and he taught me to drive. Where we lived there was a big industrial park and we used to go there on weekends when it was deserted and practice for hours. It helped a lot before having to worry about other cars and trucks. The second tip is let an impartial teachers teach your son the basics – I took a driver training course at school before my dad took me out. The relationship between a parent and a child is complex enough already before the driver training. Teaching comes harder. Besides, here a lot of insurance companies give discounts for any formal driver training taken – a bonus that is often enough to pay for the course.

    I used to do some teaching of tractor-trailer driving (gas tankers) and i found that it was easier to avoid bad weather to start. There is enough to learn and watch when you are new that weather conditioins shouldn’t be an added issue at first. Obviously as he gets more experienced, bad weather driving is important but not up front.

    Other than that, watch your own reactions and emotions – if you get too tense or find yourself crochety, either take a break or call it a day. May the force be with you.

    1. Thanks very much for those practical tips, Paul.
      I’m glad to report that learners are legally obliged to have 15 lessons from a registered instructor as part of the conditions to getting a licence here. However, practicing between lessons is recommended. I think your point about the deserted places and weather are very well made.

    2. Very good, Paul. As an equipment operator, you understand the need to be beyond apprentice to be a truck driver. When I spoke with a friend about what they should teach, she said all that was good for truck drivers, but just not necessary for private automobiles. So I asked her if firearm safety was a good idea for rifle owners, but pistol owners would get no benefit from it?

      1. Ha! That’s very true Van. I often find myself forced to lookout for the behaviours of car drivers who take their own safety for granted. You are right and only minimum standards are taught. If the other drivers around them are not constantly driving defensively to avoid these ill trained people then an accident inevitably occurs. The vast majority repeat the same errors over and over endangering the lives of others regularly. Some common errors are:1) not adjusting speed to conditions – they are used to driving a certain speed and figure it is their right without realizing their traction, visibility and handling characteristics are all degraded – situational awareness is a must 2) tailgating and dangerous passing 3) very poor merging especially from ramps onto major highways 4) speeding and/or driving too slow – driving is a collaborative sport and awareness of those around you is critical 5) driving with malfunctionng or broken safety equipment – i.e brake lights, signals, windshield wipers, brakes, lights, etc 6) in our climate: failing to properly remove frost, snow and ice from vehicle so visibility is severely limited 7) stopping suddenly in the traffic lane unexpectedly – again awareness of those around is lacking 8) failure to use signals 9) turning without properly asessing oncoming vehicles.

        And so on. Sorry Van, i get on my soap box about this stuff. Too many years behind the wheel. And seeing too many accidnets that were preventable. .

  5. Love the Chuck Berry addition! Wow, two years? Maybe I just don’t remember details since it has been so long, but I think ours was after the driver training class and passing the test, you had to have an adult licensed driver until you turned 16–so the time depended on how old you were when you started. Rand taught our son’s driver education, and while we both traded off as long as was necessary (around 6 months if I recall), it must have all worked out. He has never had a ticket, never had a wreck (other than when a huge truck backed over his Nissan 300ZX just as he was headed out of town on his very first road trip) and that has been 16 years. I am going to go with Van, though, and agree that the expectations that are set are important. Most of all, I think it is critical to instill the idea that voluntary compliance with traffic laws is essential–something that just floors me day after day here when I watch students run stop signs, ignore speed limits, pass in no passing zones on hills and curves, and tailgate to the point I cannot even see the hood of their car in my rearview mirror.

    1. Suz, must say I couldn’t resist Chuck Berry. I’ve always loved that song!

      Perhaps I misled you in the structure of the sentence re the timeline. It’s the accompanying passenger who has to have the full licence for at least 2 years ~ in an attempt to ensure that they have experience as a driver as opposed to having a complete newbie sitting beside the learner.

      Yes, Van’s points are very well made and important to bear in mind throughout.

  6. You tell a great story, Jean! I’m still chuckling inside. 😊My daughter is also talking about lessons and the thought of being in the car with her fills me with dread too. I didn’t learn how to drive until I was 24 and it was in Birmingham. I can still remember the quiet terror of taking on those fly-overs and underpasses! I’ll be interested to hear how you cope with your son behind the wheel! Wishing him many years of safe, happy driving ahead. Px

    1. Hi Patsy, I can’t imagine learning with flyovers and underpasses on the agenda and worse still sitting beside someone trying to negotiate them. The Red Cow Roundabout sends me into a cold sweat even now after 40 years driving!

      Some back roads around West Cork or Co. Waterford sound like the best place to start or even on a tractor on Sherkin!

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