Are teenagers more challenging than toddlers? This is a debate a friend and I were having the other day and it was an interesting one too. She has children aged between two and five and of course, mine are all older now and I am the proud owner of two rather lovely teenagers. But we both felt quite strongly that our stage of parenting was more of a challenge.
She is exhausted. The ‘twonager’ as she fondly describes her son is at that rampaging stage where he wants everything his way and no other way will do. His response to the word ‘no’ is a full-on, throw himself on the floor stamping and screaming. HIs three-year-old sister is much older and wiser and although she isn’t as demanding as her brother, she does have her moments. She has already learnt to manipulate her parents through the not so subtle art of turning on the waterworks at the drop of a hat. It is an impressive sight to behold and one that she has off to a fine art.
I get it. I’ve been through the toddler stage four times no less and interestingly each of my children was completely different. At the time, it did seem exhausting and at times terrifying. The tantrums, the tears, the frustration, the lounge redecorated with Sudocrem (that one was a real highlight).
Looking back at the toddler years now, I would say that they are early preparation for what is to come as for me the teenage years are far more of a challenge. I can see where the terms ‘twonager’, ‘threenager’ etc have come from. The comparisons are obvious.
Let me just make it clear that the teenage years are not all bad. They really are not. I love my boys with all my heart and at times they are a delight to be around. We have some great conversations when they are in the right mood and can be really fun to spend time with. But. Teenagers are challenging. They themselves, are finding these years challenging with all of the emotional, physical and hormonal changes they are going through. These changes are reflected in their behaviour. Aggression, mood swings, complete and sudden changes in personality, these are all normal, expected behaviours in a teenager.
In fact, I would go as far to say that teenagers and toddlers are very similar. Aggression. Defiance. Tantrums. Mood swings. Refusing to accept decisions. Hitting out when things don’t go their way. Manipulating those around them to get what they want. That all sounds very familiar, doesn’t it? The only real difference is that as a parent of a teenager, you could now be dealing with a young adult who is up to six feet tall and with the worries about drinking, drugs, sex and mental health issues added in, it can all feel a little bit overwhelming at times.
My husband and I have reflected on this a lot over the last few months and we wholeheartedly agree that this stage of parenting is so much more challenging. For all of the tantrums, toddlers do (for the most part) wear themselves out and go to sleep at a reasonable hour. Teenagers do not. In fact, most teenagers think that they do not need any sleep and keep on going many hours longer than their frazzled parents. A toddler can be contained within the house or garden. Teenagers cannot. They have a tendency to storm out if things aren’t going their way and as teens generally go out a lot with friends, getting them to come home at a reasonable hour can also be a challenge. You may worry what your toddler is doing when everything suddenly goes quiet but you worry far more about your teenagers and what they are up to, who they are with and what is going on in their heads.
We knew that these few crossover years would be tricky ones with two teens in the house at the same time. Some people laugh and tell me that the real fun will come when the smallest one is a teenager. Apparently, teen girls are even more challenging. Deep joy.
I think I would rather have my whole house redecorated with Sudocrem.
What do you think, which are the most challenging years of parenting, the toddler years or the teens?