Toddlers Vs. Teenagers…Are they so different?
How are teens different than toddlers?
My life today consists of teenagers. But, I love to read about all kinds of topics including parents in earlier stages of this game called life. I just read a blog post yesterday written by a mama of 2 preschool girls. She has a darling family, and she is a great writer by the way, Jordan Hall and her blog is called A Sprinkle of Jo. Her post was about the annoying habit of toddlers using the word “mom” one million times a day and how it was really getting to her. It was a great article because it was spot on. I remember those days. Those days when it’s a good thing your kids are cute (at least to you…most of the time…) or you might pitch them out the window! They need you so much and want you even more.
Those days are gone now, sort of.
When I was thinking about writing this post, I started to think how fleeting those toddler days are.
For me, they lasted a little longer. We have 3 boys, but they are spread out age-wise 7 years. So, I was the mother of a toddler/preschooler for nine years if I start counting when my oldest was two until my youngest went to kindergarten. Not so fleeting! And, to add insult to injury, when my youngest entered kindergarten, my oldest had just turned 13. So, I went from toddlers to teenagers in the space of one summer. I had not realized this, and it explains a lot!
No wonder my husband and I are tired. We have not caught a break from toddlers or teenagers for 18 years. My oldest just turned 20, one less teenager, but, one week later, my youngest turned 13. This means that we have 7 more years to go with teenagers. I think I want to go back to bed…
Seriously, though, I think that parenting teens is just as exhausting as parenting toddlers, but it’s more of a mental exhaustion.
–Toddlers have physical needs to be met.
They are learning to do things for themselves. Feeding them 3 meals a day, getting them to bed on time, and making sure that they stay active are the ways this happens. Obviously, there are more things than this, but those are the basics.
–Teenagers also have the same physical needs.
They have hopefully learned how to take care of themselves in general by now. But, they are so busy, you still have to at least provide the food—just wait for those grocery bills!, get them to head in the direction of bed at an appropriate time, and encourage them to be active. Again, this is a list of basics.
The difference is that teenagers know things by now, and are much smarter, which makes the entire process more challenging because they’d like to be the ones in charge of themselves. Toddlers like to be in charge too, but hopefully, with good parenting you have nipped that in the bud, and you might have some fairly peaceful years during elementary school. Teens still need to be told, but this is a process which needs to be carefully navigated.
Make an observation like, “Your morning went really well yesterday. Why do you think that was?” Get your teen to think about things, to realize on their own, what works and what doesn’t work. These “almost adults” will be leaving you soon, like it or not. Telling them to go to bed isn’t helping them to learn anything at all. This is a great way to start conversation with a teenager. They can be a bit touchy, so try different approaches, even with each of your teenagers. What works for one may not work with the next. Keep trying though, that’s the key.
Some of your parenting becomes suggestions and leading questions.
“I’m heading to bed soon, what are you thinking?” This, hopefully, leads to a decent conversation about what their next day holds. This can be tricky, so be careful that it doesn’t turn into an argument.
Tone is everything with a teenager.
I am really bad about forgetting this. This is a bad mistake. It starts everything off on the wrong foot. Take a deep breath and start again. There are lots of apologies on both sides, but we are learning. I must be a slow learner since I already have a 20 year old, and I’m still saying, “I’m sorry,” a lot.
–Toddlers need structure in their days.
This helps them to learn and feel safe. A couple of good rules and consistency on your part with a pair of vigilant eyes at times, and you are good to go.
–Teenagers also need structure in their days.
This helps them to learn and feel safe. It just looks a lot different. This is the time of driving, dating, nights out with friends, and all sorts of other adventures. The thing is that they aren’t with us for all of these activities. So, what are the rules? How can you keep them safe? I talk about the book, Teen-Proofing Fostering Responsible Decision Making in Your Teenager by John Rosemond, in another post. He has great ideas for setting up this structure.
Here’s the thing. You have to have rules, and they have to be firm, but flexible. And, you CANNOT keep them safe. This is the mentally stressful and scary part. We, as parents, know all the things that could happen, but teenagers think that they are invincible, and just don’t think things through. They CANNOT in fact think things through. Brains are not fully developed until mid-20’s, and never is this more evident than when you are in the middle of a discussion with your teenager about why he needs to be home by 11:00 on a Friday night when he is 16.
Finally, both toddlers and teens have milestones in their lives.
–Toddlers have some big milestones in their little lives.
Learning to talk and walk, potty training, dressing themselves, feeding themselves, writing their names…These are just a few. This is such a fun era as you watch your kiddos start to develop all of these skills. These things hopefully all happen before kindergarten.
–Teenagers also have some major milestones happening in their lives.
Going through puberty alone is a huge event. So, keep the lines of communication open while this is happening because this is a very confusing and overwhelming time in life! You know the other big events: getting a driver’s permit, getting the actual license, heading from middle school to high school and then to college or perhaps right into the working world. All of this happens over a longer period of time than toddlerhood, but there is so much to figure out as they move through all of these events they need more time!
I guess my major thought on all of this, now that I have written this post, is that raising kids, to quote a cliché, “is quite a journey.” I cannot tell you what your rules should be for your family.
I will say that our rules evolved over time with our boys. The main thing is trust. We set rules and expect them to be obeyed. Once they proved to us that they could be trusted, then we were open for discussion.
We always told them to be aware that no matter where they were or what they were doing that they would be caught. Maybe not at the time, but we would find out from someone. This has been the case every time one of them would try to get away with something.
The beginning of raising a child is busy and exciting and exhausting. Rest while they are in elementary school, because the end is just as busy and exciting and exhausting but, in a totally different, but equal way.
Support your fellow parents!
No matter where they are in this journey. We all need help and understanding all the time!
Do you see any similarities in these two age groups? Have any stories to share? We’d love to hear them:)