Toddlers and Teenagers: The Stunning Similarities

Being a mother of a teen can be grueling. One day your child has glitter, rainbows, and sunshine coursing through her veins, the next it seems she is fresh cut from an Exorcist scene. One day he wants to hug you and play catch in the driveway, the next he pretends he doesn’t know you and hides away in his room clinging to nothing but his iPhone. There are hormones, social pressures, unexplained fears and exciting new adventures. It is easy to get drawn into the drama of your child’s freshly found independence and rebellion, but a slight shift in perspective will prove to save your sanity. Read more to find out how tools from the toddler years equip you with framework for facing these challenges.

Get Real About Similarities … And Differences

These are the confusing times that make us want to pull out our hair, strand by strand. A more clear perspective and mindset about adolescent changes and new independence will help you cope with the transition and assist you in coaching your child during times that are sure to be hard for both of you. You can find great peace during these trying times, if you can remain mindful of the similarities and differences in toddlers and teenagers.

The similarities between teenagers and toddlers:

  • Both are hungry for independence
  • Both need a great deal of supervision
  • It is an exciting time where a natural “breaking away” and ability to do new things independently creates friction
  • Both have enough new knowledge and strength to hurt themselves and others, if not guided and supervised

Keeping these similarities in mind will help you balance your perspective. See your teen as a cute little toddler making an “uh-oh!”

The differences between teenagers and toddlers:

  • Teenagers look like they do not need as much care and supervision
  • Teenager’s egos are so sensitive, they do not bat their precious little eyes and say they are sorry
  • Toddlers are not as physically able or equipped to be as disobedient
  • Toddlers are less able to tell parents to screw off

Keeping these differences in mind will help you create safe boundaries so your teen can have healthy independence while learning new life skills.

The teen years are just as pivotal as the cute toddler times, but not as adorable – at all. This time also creates just as much opportunity to grow and learn, only now your teen can more easily reason and, as such, can call you on your own junk.  One of the big challenges is, the stretch between our children’s toddler years and teen years make it more challenging to see that they are really struggling just as hard to grow, communicate, and adjust to the times themselves.

Master The Balancing Act

To calibrate your own attitude and peace of mind with your child’s ever-tumbling hormones and growth spurts, understanding is just as key as the toddler years. The root of the friction is very simple: Teens are smack dab in the middle of being children and adults – often wanting to be treated like adults while they act like kids. They are practicing to be adults, just like toddlers practice to walk and talk. 

The only way to navigate this quandary while teaching your child the way the world works is to educate them on the balance between being a child and an adult – responsibility. We also must teach them responsibility as children so they can manage adulthood and the decisions and pressures that come with being a grown-up. Adults get the privilege of doing certain things because they have the responsibilities of being adults too. Children get the luxury of being children, hence they do not get the privileges of adulthood.

Bridge The Gap

Build a bridge during these challenging times by being sure there are clear boundaries around each of these areas:

  • Watching adult TV shows
  • Going to adult parties
  • Spoken to/Speaking in adult ways
  • Making adult choices
  • Dressing like adults
  • Given adult responsibilities

These firm boundaries slowly expand as your child shows the ability to safely shoulder adult responsibility and accountability. Being a Teen is hard – because they FEEL, and often LOOK like adults. Be just as careful during this time as you would with a small toddler. It is an equally slippery slope for parents who are fearful of not giving in to their teen. Opening up the floodgates of privilege without the precedent of responsibility, is a sure recipe for failure. Instead, slowly bridge the gap. 

Communicate Openly

Throughout this time of rapid change, once boundaries are built, do not lose sight of the need to know what to expect from parents, peers, and others. Build a firm foundation for your child by openly communicating. Provide a safe place for your child to share feelings and thoughts. Value your child’s input and teach good communication skills and means of healthy interaction. It will be especially crucial to provide your child “rules by which they can win” simply by communicating expectations. This will allow your child to earn trust and illustrate the ability to take on new responsibility and privilege. 

Be clear with your child:

  • Rules
  • Chores
  • School Expectations
  • Timelines

When your child was a toddler, you likely spent a lot of time celebrating their “wins” and bragging to your friends about all they were doing well. Let your son or daughter continually hear about the good they have achieved. Do not forget to celebrate with them. They might act to the contrary but they still want to know that mom and dad are proud of them.

Be there. No. REALLY be there. 

Your kid will mess up, like any of the rest of us. When they do, give it a lot less energy than the effort you put into celebrating. Know that, like the toddler years, they are trying new things, testing their luck, feeling you out for what you will allow, and learning about the world as a whole. Despite being a teen – especially because they are teen – they need you. That never changed.

  • Let them try to walk on their own, but be close. They still need you to be there if they fall, not to beat them up for falling, but to pick them up and dust them off – to encourage them to try again.
  • Be available to talk and listen, but be careful not to condemn or judge. Teens are sensitive to peer criticism.
  • Keep ritual times to spend one-on-one time with your child.
  • Be consistent. Your child needs to count on you being stable while the world is changing at warp speed.
Remember, your teen is still trying to figure it all out – just like a toddler. Still have questions about your teen and need possible solutions for discipline? Try applying solutions from this article about alternatives for toddlers. The requirements are stunningly similar as well.

Photo credit: That Basic Chic 

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Tovah traveled the globe before settling in North Carolina with her hockey-loving teenage son, Kung Fu-practicing 'tween daughter, and Thomas-the-Train-toting toddler. Along with being a loving mother and daughter, Tovah works as an executive assistant. You can find her passionately working with and teaching young women and their mothers on a variety of topics pertaining to character, beauty, and charm. You can also follow Tovah at the Curtsygirls Facebook Page,  Twitter, or Instagram.

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