As a former delivery driver (and parent of two teens), I've spent tens of thousands of hours on the road behind the wheel. So I know stuff.
Does Your Teen Want to Get Their License?
When you were a kid, you couldn’t wait to go take that dumb test and get your driver’s license. You dreamed about it for years. Ah…freedom!
So now your son is 16 and you’re ready to go get him behind the wheel and teach him all the incredibly useful and safe driving tips that you’ve accumulated over the last couple decades.
But what’s this?
He still hasn’t received his driver’s permit yet?
He never even took the test?
He refuses to study that booklet you gave him?
“Later,” he always says?
Should I Be Worried If My Son or Daughter Doesn’t Want To Learn To Drive?
Don’t sweat it.
There are certainly some really good reasons for your kids to learn now rather than later, but you just can’t force them into it.
Don’t assume your teen is just being lazy – that’s usually not the case. Teenagers can be pretty hard to figure out (just like their parents). And there could be dozens of reasons why they might not want to go take their driver's test.
So here are seven reasons why teenagers don't want to get their driver's license...
1. They Want to Save the Planet From Pollution and Fossil Fuel Dependency
Some people feel guilty if they’re not getting 40 miles to the gallon. And there are others who simply refuse to drive any vehicle that isn’t powered by the sun, the wind, or their own two feet.
Your daughter may be one of those folks. But don’t pressure her about it. And don’t you dare laugh at her values or roll your eyes.
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If your teen is thinking about future generations and wants to make a difference in the big picture, then you need to understand that and support that decision.
It’s not about whether you agree or disagree with them. It’s just about being a supportive parent.
So try to be a supportive parent.
2. They're Nervous About Driving
Maybe it’s been a long time since you first got behind the wheel. So, in case you forgot, let me remind you of something: learning to drive is scary.
And our kids don’t always get the luxury of learning to drive out on big, open highways with only handfuls of cars around like we did back in the day.
No, today's streets are more congested than ever, and many of those cars are flying down the road at breakneck speeds.
I remember being scared silly my first few times getting on the freeway, and that was back when people actually only drove 60 mph on there. Nowadays, if you drive that slow, you’ll get run right off the side of the road.
And drivers on the surface streets aren’t always much better.
3. They Get Major Test Anxiety
Some kids are super smart and actually feel relaxed behind the wheel, but they can’t pass a written test to save their life.
Your kid might simply be avoiding it because he starts to have a panic attack at the thought of taking that test.
Try googling “test anxiety,” and you’ll see that your child isn’t alone on this. Support him and help him get through it.
4. You Stress Them Out
Yeah, you might be all about DIY and saving money. But when it comes to teaching your teen how to drive, you may need to let the professionals handle it.
Not because you don’t know how to drive. You're probably a great driver.
It’s actually because of you.
Yes, you personally.
But don’t take it personally.
A lot of teenagers just can’t stand being told what to do by their parents. That's actually a normal part of growing up, and making their own decisions is necessary for them to become independent adults. So try not to take it too hard.
So when you throw a stressed-out teen and a stressed-out parent into a moving vehicle that seems to be constantly out of control, that’s just not fun for either of you.
Bottom line: your kid will learn more from a stranger because there’s no emotional baggage.
The driving instructor will tell him all the same things that you would tell him. But the thing is that your kid will actually listen to those words when they’re not coming out of your mouth.
It sounds unfair, but it’s true.
Get over it and just congratulate him on his progress every step of the way through this.
I know I struggled with this basic concept A LOT as a parent. But I eventually reminded myself that parenting isn't about me. It's about my kids.
One of the best lessons I learned about parenting is that you have to pick your battles. And that's tough when your pride has you wanting to be Superdad and teach them all the things. When they're resistant, you end up turning every little issue into a power struggle and demanding respect and obedience to every little detail.
Next thing you know, you're both irritated and frustrated over something that should have been fun and exciting and positive.
5. They're Depressed and Uninterested
Some kids go through major depression in their teen years, and they just don’t have the motivation to be happy about anything.
Also, a lot of teens already have a lot of stress in their lives, and adding one more big thing to the pile just isn’t appealing.
Maybe we were excited at that age to start driving ASAP, but everyone is different.
Your teen might be different.
Sometimes we need to give them the space to be different.
6. They've Experienced A Major Trauma Involving An Automobile
Our teenagers don’t tell us very much about themselves, do they? Sure, some kids are pretty open with their parents, but most teens have a hard time letting Mom and Dad in.
As a result, we often see them as being moody and irrational.
To be fair, both teenagers AND their parents can be moody and irrational, but a lot of times there’s something else going on that we just don’t have a clue about.
Some teens have already been in serious car accidents. And some have even had friends who died in accidents, but they've never told their parents about it.
The point is that your child may have good reasons for not wanting to be behind the wheel of a car by herself. And when you ask her why she doesn't want to drive, she just answers that she's not in the mood.
Her answer might seem petty or ridiculous or irrational to you. But try to understand that there could be a lot going on that you have no clue about.
I Can't Watch! TOO SCARY!!!
7. They Don't Want To and It’s Cool
Hey, guess what.
Sometimes kids just want what they want and don’t want what they don’t want.
Many teenagers have hidden reasons for why they don’t want to go take their driver’s license test. But sometimes it really has nothing to do with depression or low self-esteem or anxiety or trauma or their parents or anything.
Sometimes they just don’t feel like learning to drive yet.
Later on, they probably will, but right now they don’t.
Are you cool with that?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
R. Miller on May 26, 2020:
I have Cerebral Palsy, and I decided not to drive. I am 52 years of age, and to this day I am proud of my decision.
My dad to this day heavily disagrees. However, considering it is a choice of being able to live on my own, or to own a car, I think having a roof over your head is the wiser choice.