Toddler vs. Teenager
On the surface, the difference between toddlers and teenagers may seem to be extreme, but they are much more alike than you might imagine. Obviously most teenagers are a lot bigger and stronger than most toddlers, and they are certainly not nearly as cute. But I believe they have more in common than they have significant differences. Here is a comparison of some of the characteristics of both.
Hygiene: Toddlers tend to smell like whatever they just ate (and got on themselves). Teenagers, with their decreased interest in hygiene, tend to smell like body odor. Neither toddler nor teenager seems to have much interest in washing their hands or face.
Both Teenagers and toddlers, when caught doing something they should not, will lie right to your face even though they know you saw them do it.
Neither toddlers nor teenagers understand basic logic as expressed by an adult.
Things that are good for toddlers or teenagers, things that will help them grow or learn or are otherwise beneficial are useless unless they are fun.
Both are happy to spend every dime they possess on a new toy, both are easily distracted, and both enjoy making a mess.
So you see, toddlers and teenagers have a lot in common. However, they do have differences.
Teenagers are usually a lot bigger than toddlers. If a toddler lays on the ground screaming and kicking because they don't want to go where you want them to, you can pick them up and tuck them into the crook of your arm like a football and go on your merry way. If a teenager lays on the ground, you might really hurt yourself trying to get them on their feet.
Teenagers are usually a lot smarter than toddlers. In fact, they are often smarter than their parents - not in the sense that they know anything, but in the sense that they can be mentally quicker. So if a teenager tells you a lie to avoid trouble or work, they might be good enough at it to fool you.
And of course teenagers are much more autonomous than toddlers. Teenagers go where they want to go, under their own power and without supervision, and without calling their parents to let them know where they are and/or what they're doing.
One rule of thumb you can use is this: bigger child, bigger problems. Usually toddler problems do not involve social workers or psychologists whereas teenager problems often do. When a toddler crashes their vehicle it might result in a skinned knee. When a teenager crashes their vehicle the result is often much more serious. Through the scary business of teenager-hood, however, one can remember this: we were teenagers and we survived.
Does a Toddler Prepare a Parent for the Teenage Years?
One thing you learn as a parent is that your child changes hundreds of times as they grow, and little of the past prepares you for the future. One of the best things you can do to keep up is to talk to other parents. Hear their horror stories and share some of your own. Sometimes you'll find that you need that comparison to reassure yourself that your child isn't an aberration, but just a teenager.
Those of us who have had the privilege of living with our teenage progeny can attest to the complete veracity of everything they tell us. Yes, bucko, they always tell us the truth – at least according to them.
Following are some examples of teenager ‘truths’ and their translations:
Teenager: “I’m going to the mall.”
Translation: “I’m going past a mall.”
Teenager: “I need twenty dollars for lunch.”
Translation: “I need three dollars for lunch and seventeen dollars for stuff you don’t want me to have.”
Teenage girl: “No, there won’t be any boys there.”
Translation: “No, there won’t be any boys you know there.”
Teenage boy: “I did not eat that pound of chocolate chip cookies. Maybe I had one or two.”
Translation: “I don’t remember eating the pound of cookies because I ate them while watching TV.”
Teenager: “I never did that.”
Translation: “You never saw me do that.”
Teenager: “I cleaned my room.”
Translation: “I kicked the mess around in my room so that it looks different.”
Teenager: “I always drive within the speed limit.”
Translation: “I always drive as fast as the car can go.”
Teenager: “There was a fire drill in school today.”
Translation: “I am going to use the idea of a fire drill that occurred much earlier in the day as an alibi for cutting class in the afternoon.”
Teenager: “My friend gave it to me.”
Translation: “I bought it with your money.”
Teenager: “My teacher recommended this book.”
Translation: “My teenage friend recommended this really inappropriate book.”
Teenager: “I’m on my way home now.”
Translation: “I’ll be home when I damn well feel like it.”
Teenager: "I respect you."
Translation: "I think you are a compleat idiot."
Teenager: “I’m telling you the truth!”
Translation: “The story I am telling you is actually the truth in some parallel universe.”