From one side of the world to the next, parents constantly struggle with wrestling their rambunctious, exuberant, and sometimes obstreperous children. Whether they are stopping the fight in the corner, running a child to soccer practice, or deactivating the potentially explosive temper tantrum, parents are always on the move. Parenting can be a rewarding, fulfilling calling; however, as Alice G. Walton says, “Taking care of a child and his or her many, many needs can be physically exhausting. But not to worry, because many studies have shown that raising a toddler is much like raising a teenager.
By the time the parent survives the toddler stage, he or she has already prepared them self for the emotional teenage years. Although toddlers and teenagers seem worlds apart, the resemblance in their behavioral idiosyncrasies, physical and psychological changes, and their overall process of thinking, are what seem to draw the two worlds closer together. Almost every person, whether he or she likes it or not, has little behavior quirks, or idiosyncrasies, that establishes who they are.
It is astonishing to see the ample amount of quirks toddlers and teens share. Looking at the two different age groups, one idiosyncrasy that stands out is the child’s undeniable need to scatter every toy, gadget, or article of clothing, everywhere in the house—almost as if declaring his or her territory. Toddlers might scatter their toys, picture books, or fish snacks all over the house, just as a teenager might leave a trail of homework, shoes, or even dirty dishes.
Another similarity that the two age groups share, along with the rest of the human race, is the need for sleep. Without it, the world might go crazy and it is no secret that both toddlers and teens sleep like hibernating bears. Both can easily obtain at least nine hours of sleep each night, which is crucial in helping both the development of their brain, and keeping the emotional roller coasters under control. The last idiosyncrasy seems to be a reoccurring event for most teenagers. In our prodigious world, there is sure to be danger at every corner.
The moment teenagers catch sight of danger, they unknowingly become captivated by the risk and possibilities it holds. Examples of danger can include, driving too fast, staying past curfew, or skipping school. Teenagers are not the only age group to seemingly court danger. Just as teenagers, toddlers will jump at the opportunity to cause riot when their mom or dad is not looking. Though the consequences may not be as severe for the toddlers as it is for the teenagers, toddlers can crawl up unstable chairs, eat Legos, or run out in the middle of the street.
Everyone is unique in his or her own way and idiosyncrasies, however, it is safe to say toddlers and teenagers are more alike than different. In addition to their similar behavioral quirks, both experience the same physical and psychological changes. Change is a basic part of everyday life. Within the first few seconds a child is born, an innumerable amount of changes take place; including the child’s first momentous breath, and its ceremonial introduction to sight, smell, and sound. Physical and psychological changes occur in all ages.
As each day goes by, toddlers begin to improve their overall awareness of emotion, and language skills; whereas teenagers will begin to return to abstract thinking, and to find their social identities. Although the psychological changes may be different, the brain development in both groups is outstandingly alike. “Both stages are dramatic moments where the wiring in the brain is getting massively reworked, and like all big construction projects, this neurological rehab isn’t easy to live with” (Richards).
Mood swings are a definite psychological change that affects both the parents and children who are present during this dreadful period. While both ages experience mood swings, they each undergo them for different reasons. Charles Nelson, a child psychologist at the University of Minnesota, explains why teens can have uncontrollable mood swings, he says, “[Adolescents] are capable of very strong emotions and very strong passions, but their prefrontal cortex hasn’t caught up with them yet.
It is as though they don’t have the brakes that allow them to slow those emotions down” (HREF). Teenagers also have a variety of new and stressful situations that are unraveling in their day-to-day lives. Backbreaking exams, hours of extensive homework, and struggling friendships are a few factors that can also add to the teen’s mind-aching mood swings. Toddlers on the other hand, have a different story; with their little brains working so hard to process words and actions, they can sometimes lose control of their emotions.
Michelle Kulas, a writer at Livestrong, believes toddlers experience immense mood swings because of their aspiration for independence, language frustration, and physical discomfort. When the toddler is attempting to speak, and nothing but a peep comes out of his or her mouth, or when the physical pains are too much to bare, anger is bound to make an appearance. While toddlers and teens have similar psychological changes occurring in their lives, their physical changes are quite different. Many physical changes in toddlers include the formation of teeth, and growing pains.
Teething is a normal event where toddlers’ gums swell in order to prepare for the arrival of teeth. The combination of teething and growing pains can cause mood swings and an intense emotional strain. Unlike toddlers, teens experience puberty; which can lead to growth spurts and emotional confusion. Puberty is when a teen’s body begins to develop and adjust in preparation for adulthood. Physical and psychological changes are important similarities between a teen and a toddler; however, another important comparison between the two groups is their shockingly similar system of thinking.
Every second, day, month, and year the human brain is hard at work calculating and processing each day’s adventures. When an infant’s and adolescent’s brain begins to grow, a change in the way he or she acts and in the way he or she thinks occurs. It is not hard to see the numerous amount of similar brain processing that toddlers and teens share. Each group has an undeniable hunger for independence, seemingly no fear, and no doubt in their mind that they are the center of the universe.
According to Jeanie Lerche Davis, when children grow and progress, “the area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex is developing. This is the part of your brain that is behind your forehead. It is your thinking cap and judgment center . . . , which means kids, can now develop their own ideals and ideas” (Davis). Independence is a good quality in which all children need to learn in order to become effective, analytical adults. When toddlers or teenagers get any hint of independence, they tend to take advantage of it; resulting in a wide range of emotions, temper tantrums, and consequences.
Along with independence, toddlers and teens seem to experience no fear and will do almost anything when peer acceptance or rewards are involved. Toddlers have no sense of fear. When looking at a flight of stairs, a knife on the table, or the burning fireplace, most infants will not see the great danger and consequences each holds. Although the danger is much greater, teenagers do not feel fear when driving over the speed limit, trying drugs, or attempting to jump over a massive flame.
As each child grows older, the ability to distinguish fear and risk from stupidity will increase. Another thought process the two groups share is the selfish idea that the entire world revolves around them. Nikki Sulaica, an adolescent psychologist, says,” Parents anxious about their teens’ self-centeredness come to her asking how to help them be more concerned for others. The root of teens’ self-centeredness, Sulaica says, may rest in the amount of responsibility they take for their actions” (Morman).
Many teens will believe the world is centered on them, however, it seems a few more responsibilities, are sure to fix the problem. Likewise, toddlers too will decide the world revolves around them, and their time. When a toddler wants something, he or she demands to get it—and fast. Everyone has his or her own distinctive way of thinking and acting. However, toddlers and teens seem to be alike, again, in their brain’s overall process of thinking. Toddlers and teenagers have an incredible amount of similarities and only a few obvious differences.
With our world evolving and changing around us, it is nice to know that toddlers and teenagers are one thing that has remained the same throughout the hustle and bustle of our lives. Finally, with this knowledge, parents can breathe a sigh of relief after they make it through the terrible twos. When parenting a child, it can be very beneficial to know the similarities between a teenager and toddler’s behavioral idiosyncrasies, physical and psychological changes, and their overall process of thinking. Two seemingly different worlds have united into one.