The Similarity Between Teenagers and Toddlers
By Randi Morse
A common phrase many parents of toddlers hear is, "wait until they're teenagers!" This phrase is often meant to strike fear in the heart of new parents, but toddlers are enough of a handful that many parents don't believe teenagers could be any worse. They would be wrong. Having raised toddlers who have turned into teenagers I can tell you from experience that while raising toddlers takes a lot of energy, raising teenagers takes a lot of patience. It's important to remember that teenagers have a brain that is similar to the brain of a toddler.
The reason toddlers need so much sleep is because their bodies, and their brains, are growing rapidly. Their brains are creating all sorts of new connections with the neurons and this takes a lot of energy. Teenagers are dealing with the exact same thing. A teenage body is changing, hormones are affecting their entire body, and their brain is also making new connections.
The prefrontal cortex is the part of your brain directly behind your forehead. This part of the brain really is the control center, and I call it the "if/then" part of the brain. For example, "if I get in a barrel and go over Niagara Falls, then I might get injured." This part of the brain does not fully develop until you are in your mid 20s, which means that teenagers are often making decisions without passing them through the "if/then" filter.
Hormones can also help explain many teenage issues. The large amounts of hormones flooding in a teenager's system can easily make them moody and emotional. When you pair being overly emotional with no filter, you can start to understand why teenagers make decisions that adults often think are irresponsible.
How do you deal with a teenager making bad choices? The same way you dealt with your toddler: patience. Because teenagers usually have a better vocabulary than toddlers do, it can make it extremely difficult to be patient with them. It's important that you remember that their brains don't function exactly as an adult's brain. This doesn't mean that you should allow them to get away with bad behavior, but it does mean that you should be patient and take a breath before you get into any serious discussions.
We raised toddlers knowing that emotionally, they're fragile. Teenagers are the exact same way. It's easy to get frustrated with a teenager because they look much more like an adult than a toddler does, but in reality, they're both going through very similar situations.
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