Toddlers and Teens

Looking over a handout for parents of toddlers the other day, we were struck that the same advice could be useful for parents of teens. This led to thinking more about the ways the two phases are the same and different and what we can learn from those connections.

The two most-dreaded phases in parenting are toddlerhood and adolescence. That shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be true. But the two stages have more in common than parental and cultural disapproval.

Toddlers and teens are both going through a rapid process of self-definition. Toddlers are realizing consciously that they are a particular individual, owning their bodies and feelings with the help of grownups who respect and enjoy their separateness. Underneath each day’s new learning is an intense push to be their own person, to take ownership of a subjective self as they become aware of “I” and “me” and “you.”

Adolescents are designing their adult personalities, getting to know their emerging adult bodies, testing their values, expanding their social horizons. When parents respect children as separate individuals, kids respond with efforts to live up to that respect. Then they can build the emotional muscle of responsibility for themselves, whether it’s picking up their blocks or driving carefully.

Toddlers are learning to regulate their feelings and understand the difference between feelings and actions. Teens have new strong feelings to manage too, and they have to practice keeping impulses in thought as they assess what would be good or bad to put into action. Toddlers learn the principle of cause and effect; adolescents learn to take responsibility for actions that can have real consequences.

Parents need patience to read the same story over and over or play the same game with their toddler, who repeats to gain mastery. Teens are practicing too, experimenting with different solutions to social and emotional challenges – it takes patience to live through their trial and error learning. When grownups think through their priorities for kids, it’s easier to let the small stuff go and avoid stubborn faceoffs, whether the kid is two feet or six feet tall.

Adult time together to refuel gives parents energy to be patient and enjoy time with kids. It also sets an example of pleasurable activities that are worth growing up for. Pleasure, enjoyment, fun times together all build closeness and lay down precious shared memories. These years won’t come back – enjoy your child!

This entry was posted in character, emotional muscle, fun ideas, habits, influences, mental health, parent-child relationship, teenagers, toddlers and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Toddlers and Teens

  1. And where is the facebook like button ?

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