, ,

5 Gifts to Give Your Teen for Their 16th Birthday


How does this…


Turn into this… in a few blinks of an eye.

I’m not sure how we’re already at this stage in our family, but I have to say these guys are way more fun now than they ever were 16 years ago!

The big question I’m asked is did we buy them three cars for their milestone birthday?

Not a chance.

If there was no car with a bow, no epic party or promised iPhone X, then what did we give our 16-year-olds besides a little cash?

Sometimes we can get so caught up in what material item to buy or what Pinterest worthy event to throw, that we forget what’s really important to give our kids- the gift of lifelong values.


1. The Gift of Desire

All my sons desired for their birthday was to get their drivers’ licenses and hit the open road. They wanted the gift of freedom as they turned 16, and that’s what we gave them- a ride to the DMV.

There was no party, no promise of the latest electronic or a new car. We had simply instilled in our boys the desire to set up their own appointments online to take the driving test the minute they could on their birthday. I wasn’t even aware that you could do that. Good for them.

2. The Gift of Confidence

Six months ago our sons were hesitant to want to drive. They didn’t feel confident or see the need for a driver’s license as they had Mom or Dad to shuttle them around. Their hesitation made us realize that it was time to push them a bit.

CLICK HERE: to see if you are Properly Pushing Your Child?

We told our boys they would be taking the driver’s permit test on the day they turned 15 1/2, so they may want to study. Each of them passed the test on that day, and their confidence soared as they got more comfortable behind the wheel with each and every drive.


Kids grow up. We must embrace that reality and have the confidence in them to hand over the car keys one day whether we’re ready or not.

We must help our teens build confidence in themselves to want to drive, and we must have the confidence as parents to let them do it. The day has come to hand over the car keys to my firstborns, and I’m panicked, scared, and hesitant.

Thank goodness my 16-year-olds don’t feel any of that as we want teenagers who believe in themselves and are confident enough to want the privileges meant for them.

3. The Gift of Trust

I panicked as two of my threesome drove off in the dark headed to meet friends for a pickup basketball game. They had to get on a busy (a.k.a. dangerous) freeway to get there and my heart, mind, and mouth were racing as they headed out.

I trailed after them as they walked toward the car to leave. Text me when you get there, so I know you are okay. Text me before you leave so I know when to expect you home. Don’t look at your phone when you’re driving. Don’t let anyone else get in the car with you. Wear your seatbelts.

We know Mom. You’ve told us this all before.

And they do. And I have.

We must prove to our teens that we trust them by letting them go and not tracking their every move. Lord help all of us that have teenagers out on the roads because this independence stuff is for the birds, which leads me to the next gift.


6 Ways Parents Can Help Keep Their Teens Safer

4. The Gift of Independence

My husband didn’t seem to have any of the same anxieties that I had with letting our firstborns head out in a moving vehicle without an adult present for the first time. But, he’s also the one who taught them at age three how to ride a bicycle while wearing rollerblades. This was going to happen soon enough. Good thing we trust them.

Thank goodness for dads who don’t see a problem with raising boys into men and for moms who encourage their precious offspring to head off when nothing about it feels natural. Strapping my sons into three-point harnesses with me in control of their destiny was absolutely much easier.

We need to allow and support our teen’s independence by moving them forward in areas that we aren’t necessarily comfortable with.

5. The Gift of Responsibility

When we lead our kids to get their driver’s licenses, we must also lead them to the reality that comes with such responsibility. Driving a car is expensive, so better they understand that now. If our sons want the privilege of driving a vehicle, they also get to help pay for some of the expenses.

The allowance wasn’t going to cover filling up the tank, so they now have weekend jobs working at a local breakfast restaurant to contribute to gas and high insurance costs.

Invest in instilling the values of desire, trust, confidence, independence, and responsibility in your child now so that when they turn 16, you will have given them exactly what they need.

HERE are 7 other Gifts to Give Your Teen Before They Graduate High School
16 replies
  1. Patricia Whittaker
    Patricia Whittaker says:

    You raise your kids like my mother raised me and as I try to raise my daughter – with fingers in my ears trying hard to resist all the pressure to buy her things and make her life easy. She’s 5 1/2 only but gets an allowance and cried yesterday because she spent her $6.00 on glitter paint and didn’t have anything left to put in her pony savings piggy bank. People think Im cruel. I did let her help wash the dogs to earn back $3.00 – Im not all bad. I love your bright and breezy newsletter. I love its often enough but also infrequent enough to look forward to seeing it by the time it comes. I guard my inbox like a ninja so its a well considered compliment. Thank you….and looking forward to your book.

    • Maria B.
      Maria B. says:

      We were very much the same. At
      3 our daughter stole a 2$ item we found in her pocket. We made her take the money from her bank which left her with about .10 cents. We went back to store spoke to the security who said just let it but we ask what lesson was to, to come back at 13 and fill up her pockets. So even though he didn’t want the job we watched as this sweet 6 foot tall man explain what happens usually when people steel but he wouldn’t call the police this time because she came back and paid. Trust me this was a lesson never forgotten by our daughter. Growing up she would sometimes say remember that security guard that yelled at me…. this is the memory of a three year old but it’s that memory that guaranteed she would never again steel. Your friends may say you’re being mean but the lessons you teach them while there young will stay with them forever and trying to teach this same lesson to a teen doesn’t have the same effect. What others don’t realize is how hard it is to not buckle when looking in your little ones eyes. Many times I would have to hide my tears because it is so much easier to go easy on them. Just remind yourself that you take the harder path now because of the deep love you have for them and your wish that as adults they won’t suffer from lessons untaught.😊👍

      • Amy Carney
        Amy Carney says:

        Yes! It is so important that we are brave enough to teach our children the lessons that the world needs them to know. It is our responsibility to let them experience natural consequences to their actions throughout their lives. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment Maria!

  2. Paul Royal
    Paul Royal says:

    Yes, yes, yes, except for leaving out #6. Locally sponsored driving skills schools especially designed for kids. Why? Because “regular” driver ed being offered in almost every state in the Union is woefully inadequate. Here’s a good place to start: http://streetsurvival.org/

    • Amy Carney
      Amy Carney says:

      Oh, I like this idea! Wish you had it closer to us in Phoenix. Thanks for adding your resource to the conversation!

  3. janine
    janine says:

    You are incredible and this is timely advice…I adore your “strong mom” tactics that will raise strong and independent boys growing into capable men.

    My son asked me recently if he could add a birthday and Christmas present so he could get a pair of shoes. I felt a twinge and twang in my tummy and kept asking questions about it – this society and the culture that screams “buy buy buy” and fit in by fitting into these shoes…it is so horrible to see.

    Anyways, he is telling me about how they were 200 a pair but they all got sold out instantly online when they became available – they are then put up for auction etc. Well guess what: a whopping 800 dollars for shoes is what he said! Whawwwt!

    I told him I’d think about it.

    I wasn’t intending to EVER get the shoes. Even if I were wealthier than a millionaire, I would not buy 800 dollar shoes.

    Your article on the “driving lessons” is exquisite – and I was thinking what else I could do – like tell him that mom values time spent 2gether with money spent…the challenge is we have had a challenging family separation and in that time he has become super-spoiled by his dad’s “purchase love with product” extended family. So.- thank you…your article gave me the courage to creatively and strategically proceed by figuring out some other positive and proactive ways to lead him.

    By the way, since he goes to a private school in Toronto Canada and there are bike lanes, I downloaded an already purchased e-bike to him…and he grinned like a Cheshire Cat when I said I wanted to give him that (I had 2 I purchased to enJOY together) because that e-bike will give him the ability to independently get around, it is eco friendly and also, he can learn the rules of the road and getting used to driving before he drives. In Canada, there is a gradual licence program so they can’t drive right away when they are 16.

    Thank you for letting me share.

    I want my son to have values that I believe in – and to be having a grateFULL heart and not an “expectant one”. I also feel that purchasing expensive product-based items or clothing for our kids just encourages the unhealthy world consumeristic desires and tendencies – they are unhealthy and unreasonable.

    I had to work for everything I got. My wardrobe for a year was what it costs for a pair of running shoes now. This consumer society really challenges value-based parenting. It is a different world now.

    He plays a high level of baseball and works hard at that so between School and the required hours for his sport team, there is not an ability to work a part time job as your sons are doing.

    I am thinking I may tell him that we should do something special for a homeless youth – like buy shoes for them instead.

    It is difficult because the private academy he goes to has children from the affluent and wealthy kids, so that entice him to want to fit in.

    Anyways, I will tell him that expensive items are for good purposes – like the e-bike with helmet I told him he could have. That will last a couple years and he can learn driving techniques and get familiar with road safety.

    A pair of shoes will get worn out or just shoved in a closet – and what happens when the trend ends. NO.

    No shoes. I shall tell him I would rather pay for a flight to India so he can see the barefoot children barely having a meal a day – but with smiles beaming on their faces.

    Thanks for your parenting tips. Blessings from Toronto Canada ????????

  4. janine
    janine says:

    Also forgot to say how beautiful it is hat you adopted a foster child – what a blessing for a child whose circumstances left them in that situation.

    Many blessings with that. Do you know the “adoption creed”? My friend was adopted and it hung over her bed when we were kids…I read it so many times and I wanted to cry each time.

    It is so beautiful.

    • Amy Carney
      Amy Carney says:

      Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment and encourage me! I don’t know the adoption creed but I guess I need to look it up 🙂 Many blessings to you as you purposely parent your son!

      • janine
        janine says:

        Adoption Creed

        Not breast of my breast
        Nor bone of my bone
        But still – miraculously – my own
        Never forget for a single minute
        You grew not under my heart
        But …in it

        Are you weeping…or do you have chills?

        It is so exquisite. Many blessings as you parent with love a child that grew in your heart ❤️

  5. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    I loved your article. We have 6 kids and love in Florida. The insurance is 350 a pop for each one. I have struggled with giving each child access to drive before senior year due to the fact of ridiculous rates. How can your kids afford this on a part time job??

    • Amy Carney
      Amy Carney says:

      Six kids!! You are SO right that insurance rates are ridiculous and ours cannot afford to pay it all on their own, so we’re trying to figure out what portion they can afford and that is fair. They pay for gas, car washes, oil changes, etc. right now. Thank you for reading and commenting Melissa.

  6. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I just found your blog. I have fraternal triplet girls and they are turning 16 today. Where we live, If you’ve taken a drivers ed course, then you can take the test for your liscence at 16 and 3 months so there is still a bit of time before we hand over the keys. They also have to document 50 hours of supervised driving, which they have been working on since last summer when they got their permits. Picking up and dropping kids off from activeties takes a lot of time, and I look forward to them being able to drive themselves. I think I will also miss picking them up from practice and listening to them talk on the way home, excited about something new they have learned.

    • Amy Carney
      Amy Carney says:

      Happy Sweet 16 to your trio! It is so crazy when they are driving and arguing over who gets to drive the car 😉 It is a big shift in the family, but a positive one to see their confidence grow and our relationship strengthens with their newfound freedom! Thanks for saying hi Jennifer!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *