Toddlers or Teenagers?
Which childhood phase do parents find the easiest -
Toddlers or Teenagers?
As a mum to two children, both of whom have somehow survived Toddlerdom, I’m here to argue the case for the Toddler Years.
Why? Because my eldest will turn 13 in a couple of months and I’m already having a taste of stereotypical ‘Kevin and Perry’ teenage behaviour, which I naively believed was part of comedian Harry’s Enfield’s imagination.
Turns out, stereotypes are stereotypes because they are true.
And I fear it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
So, let’s examine the challenges parents generally face with both teeny tots and the teens they become.
Toddlers can be picky eaters. Not only that, they are messy little blighters. Turning a bowl of spaghetti Bolognaise out onto their highchair table and then running sauce-covered hands through their hair is a common mealtime scenario.
Teenagers may have mastered how to get the spaghetti in their mouths but that doesn’t mean they make any less mess. Oh, no, because if you were pro-active while they were still receptive to learning how to cook, between the age of six to 10, they may not end up covered in pasta at the dinner table but they leave a trail of destruction cooking it.
So on that basis, it’s 1-0 to the Toddlers.e
Toddlers babble and point and hope you understand what they want. When you can’t decipher what “bab-bab-bab-doo” means, they’ll let you know how utterly disappointed they are by wailing and screaming.
Teenagers have a language of their own, too. They communicate via a series of grunts and chuntering in your general direction.
They let you know they are either unhappy/disgusted/embarrassed by using a non-verbal form of communication commonly known as the ‘eye roll’.
Just like toddlers, they can be tricky to understand but at least they have a functioning vocabulary, which may include words you’d rather they didn’t know. But still, actual words.
I’m giving this one to the Teenagers.
When it comes to sleep deprivation, you’ve got to hand it to the Newborns. They have the whole ‘no-sleep torture’ thing licked. You think you’ll never sleep again but mercifully, they eventually settle into a bearable pattern. Then, a year later, your Toddler learns to climb out of their cot and into bed with you.
And, bless them, some toddlers are natural ‘larks’. No matter what time you put them to bed, their body clocks are set to wake at 5am.
Teenagers can’t be any worse, can they?
It depends on your perspective.
Teens become nocturnal, like vampires (they suck your finances dry, too).
They sleep during the day and stay up all night, tapping away on their (banned) phones, or watching YouTube on their (banned) laptops.
Then they are grumpy all day because this age group actually needs as much sleep as toddlers but rarely get it because going to bed early isn’t ‘cool’.
And don’t even think about getting jiggy with your partner once you finally climb into your own bed (usually before your teen has even got their pyjamas on). The thought of your teenager listening through the wall, or worse, walking in on you, is enough to put the most hot-blooded of couples off.
For that reason alone, Toddlers win this one.
We all know Toddlers and tantrums go hand in hand. Toddlers want what they want and they want it now!
They have to learn to wait, to share with others and to play nicely.
By the time they go to school, most children have grown out of throwing the kind of leg-kicking, purple-faced tantrums so common in the early years.
Sadly, by the time they hit their teenage years, they regress. Except now, instead of dealing with a raging tot who stands just two feet tall, you may well be trying to calm down a ‘child’ who is several inches taller than you.
I’m giving this one to the Toddlers, not least because if they are having a meltdown in Primark you can pick them up and carry them out under your arm.
Toddlers (in my experience) are into anything they can grab with their chubby little mitts. Permanent markers, lipstick, chocolate bars, cat food...
But if they do steal your makeup and try on your clothes it’s purely for fun. They don’t put on your new jeans and go down the shops to meet their friends, unlike the Teenagers.
Toddlers and tech only mix if you’re using your phone as a distraction technique while you unload the washing machine, cook tea and wash up pots.
But teenagers and technology are a match made in heaven, especially if they have their own phone and know their way around an iPad.
When you can’t work out how to use the fingerprint reader on your new Samsung, or the printer is jammed, or your Amazon Dot is speaking in Spanish, ask a teenager. They will fix it in seconds.
Toddlers are useless at tech.
Here, Toddlers are at a disadvantage. Potty training is always an interesting time for most parents, I don’t think I need to elaborate. Toddlers also like to join you for whatever you’re doing in the bathroom. Teenagers, on the other hand, lock themselves away for an hour-long shower, often at the most inconvenient of times, like first thing in the morning.
But they certainly don’t need any help with their ablutions, apart from constant reminders to use deodorant.
Toddlers, I’m sorry - this one’s going to the Teens
Saying ‘no’ to a Toddler goes one of two ways in my experience. They either accept it, or they scream blue murder. Sometimes, they completely ignore you and do the very thing you have said ‘no’ to.
Teenagers are exactly the same. It’s all about pushing those boundaries. The main difference here is that a Toddler won’t compare your parenting decisions to those made by their best friend’s mum but a Teenager will, uttering the classic line: “But So-and-So’s mum lets her [insert action in here]. You are so protective/boring/strict. It’s NOT FAIR!”
So, just because they generally don’t insult you when you say ‘no’, it’s another point for the Toddlers.
The Toddlers come out on top, just, but I can’t help wondering if Tots and Teenagers are that different?
Ultimately, both age groups are going through the tricky process of growing away from the arms of their parents and becoming individuals with their own feelings, thoughts and beliefs.
It’s all about becoming aware that not only can they do things for themselves but that they WANT to do it by themselves.
It’s part of growing up.
Yes, Toddlers and Teenagers are very similar.
They are both striving for independence.
The only difference is, you get to hang onto your toddler for a bit longer once that phase ends, to guide them through their childhood years.
Guiding a Teenager towards adulthood is a completely different ballgame, not least because they think they’ve got it licked, with or without your help.
So, Toddlers or Teenagers?
Well, on the plus side, by the time they are 13, Teenagers have usually mastered the art of making a decent cuppa and they don’t ask you to wipe their bottom. If only they could lose the snarky attitude, they’d win this thing hands-down.