A lot of parents breathe a big sigh of relief when their kids are finally out of that stage! However, a similar stage is just around the corner. The toddler years are hard, yes, but have you ever parented a teenager?! Sometimes it feels like they’re just big, overgrown toddlers. And according to experts, that similarity isn’t too far off base.
A common phrase many parents of toddlers hear is, “wait until they’re teenagers!” This phrase is often meant to strike fear in the heart of new parents, but toddlers are enough of a handful that many parents don’t believe teenagers could be any worse. They would be wrong. It’s important to remember that teenagers have a brain that is similar to the brain of a toddler.
Developmentally, teens and toddlers are about at the same level, with each age group struggling to grow into the next stage of life, but not yet equipped with all the tools. Both are easily frustrated. Both are pretty good at getting offended, and both aren’t remotely afraid to state their opinions, or act like they are the expert in the room, when, in fact, they aren’t.
Toddlers are not yet equipped with a range of expressive and verbal skills, so when they need to express their emotions, they often resort to tantrums or physical outbursts. Teens, on the other hand, have a more developed control over their emotions. However, during the teenage years, the part of the brain that controls emotion is sort of hijacked by other cognitive developments, which can affect their behavior across a wide spectrum.
And the differences do not stop there.
1. Development speed:
There is a huge spurt of cognitive, physical, emotional and neurological development in both the stages. For both toddlers and teenagers this is a necessary development however much inconvenience this can cause to people around. You wonder ALL THE TIME just what is going on inside their heads.
2. Temper tantrums:
Thanks to increased speed of development, parents have to put up with the resultant temper tantrums. Both toddlers and teenagers become highly sensitive and emotional and have wild mood swings. This is because of the significant neurological development (plus hormonal changes for teens) which in turn affects the way they view and react to their surroundings and the people around them. As parents, in both the cases, the only solution in a situation like this is to be patient and wait for this phase to pass
3. Inflated Ego:
You’ll be surprised to find that both toddlers and teenagers have inflated egos and for both, the world should revolve around them. They want all your attention and half the time; you’ll be left wondering what’s going on inside their head…tough to figure that out though.
4. Social behavior:
Kids want and happily make new friends just like teenagers, but their problem is sharing, cooperation and being for longer than 10 minutes in other children’s space. Teenagers also make friends, but in contrast are more influenced by their friends. They are more concerned about how others perceive them. Toddlers and teens both have important social evolution at these significant phases of their development.
5. Fiercely Independent:
Whether it is as simple as buttoning up the shirt or anything big, both toddlers and teenagers constantly feel the need to prove that they are independent and that they can handle any situation. While toddlers don’t want to hold hands while crossing the road, teenagers don’t want to be seen with parents for fear of being ridiculed by friends.
There are adventures galore in both the phases, albeit in different ways. Toddlers climb on chairs and tables, run around everywhere (in the shops, park etc.) because they are not aware of the dangers that these can bring about. Adventure for teenagers includes indulging in forbidden practices (smoking, drinking, taking drugs and speed driving) away from the prying eyes of the parents. Sometimes these reach dangerous limits. The similarity between the two in this case is, both don’t like or listen when their parents caution them repeatedly. Most of what you do seems to center around protecting them from themselves.
7. Sleep patterns:
Both toddlers and teenagers need long hours of sleep and get cranky if they are sleep deprived. Sleep is essential for the development of their physical and neurological development. Unlike toddlers, teenagers are hugely distracted and don’t get their fair share of sleep hours.
8. Giving parents a tough time:
Parents of toddlers and teenagers have an equally tough time. It may sound weird, but it’s actually true. Both don’t eat well, don’t seem to hear/understand what you say, test your limits, are fussy, rebellious, and impulsive. Most of the time, you as parents will be left wondering how to handle and keep wishing for this to pass off as quickly as possible.
9. Need for parents and their attention:
There is no doubt that toddlers’ need their parents, and they make it known in more ways than one. Teenagers seem to constantly repel parents and strive to prove their need for independence all the time. Do they also feel the need for parents? Yes, they do. They want you to listen to their problems, not to offer advice, but to empathize. They want to do everything themselves, except for when they want you to do it. They need physical touch (a pat on the back at times, appreciation, hugs) and a place where they can be completely themselves. And where else can they get it but, in their homes, where they get unconditional love and acceptance.
10. Feel that the world revolves around them:
Toddlers can always think only about themselves, about what they want. That’s because their brain is still in the development stage. Teenagers also think about themselves, though for different reasons. They become aware of their surroundings and think that everyone is watching them and talking about them. Hence their behavior and dressing up is keeping this in mind.
11. Problems with the smallest things:
Both toddlers and teenagers can have problems with the smallest things, and this can drive parents completely crazy. They feel the need to keep changing their clothes many times in a day for the silliest of reasons. They scatter stuff everywhere; they don’t seem to hear you even if you shout at the highest decibel and they always seem to lose things and not be able to find it back.
12. Weird sense of dressing:
This is really funny. When toddlers like a certain dress, they want to wear it every day, literally. It may be shirt and a pant that don’t go together at all or may be completely worn out, but not to their little eyes. They are very fussy and choosy about the clothes they wear. Most often their choice never matches that of the parent. Teenagers on the other hand also have a weird sense of dressing. Sometimes, the clothes they wear look completely out of place and not fit for the occasion. But one thing common to both is, no matter how much you try to convince them about changing from their favorite outfit, they will just not budge.
When parenting toddlers or teenagers, you will spend nights lying awake, worrying about each age group. (The only difference is that when they are toddlers you probably know exactly where they are at that moment you are worrying.)
In a nutshell, both stages are weird and dramatic and quite difficult to put up with. But the good news is, both stages are developmental phases and will pass. Parents need to be patient and understanding and offer support and acceptance so that both can glide through these difficult phases smoothly.