Prev Next
parenting teens is like parenting toddlers

Toddlers and Teens, More Alike Than Different

By Chris Jordan

As parents we often talk about the difficult stages of child rearing as if we are headed into battle. We strap on our metaphorical armor, brace ourselves with all the knowledge and (questionable) wisdom from other parents, and then most often we discover that the battles we are prepared to fight are not the ones in which we end up fighting, after all.

Personally, I didn’t think the Terrible Twos lived up to the hype. But three? Whoa, that one blindsided me. More than once. Because the battles leave you with amnesia.  You can’t remember what your your previous child did two years ago.

But I am not sure that there is any stage that parents fear more than the teen years. I think that it is in part because we can all still clearly remember our own poor choices and cringe at some of the things that we did. Since I am in the thick of the teen years right now I can tell you, yes, it lives up to its hype. Yes, it does. Luckily the bad things are punctuated by good things, which serve as a reminder of why you didn’t sell them to the circus when you had the chance. Because I am here to tell you, even the circus doesn’t want to buy mouthy teens.

I will admit that this fact ran through my head this morning when I was driving in the car with my 17 year old son.  I said, “For crying out loud! I have kept you alive for 17 years. Don’t blow it now and make me regret it!”

But don’t fear, it turns out parenting teens is a lot like parenting toddlers, and you’ve already done that. (Successfully, probably.)  But, let me show you the similarities:

1: Most of what you do seems to center around protecting them from themselves.

2: Half of what they say is completely incoherent.

3: You wonder ALL THE DAMN TIME just what is going on inside their heads.

4: They won’t be able to tell you.

5: You will have their hearing tested, completely certain in your belief that they are deaf or have suffered a devastating hearing loss from listening to their music so loud. Why do you think this? Because you will say something to them and then they will go and do the very thing that you just told them not to do.

6: You will spend nights lying awake, worrying. (The only difference is that when they are toddlers you probably know exactly where they are at that moment you are worrying.)

7: You will be concerned about their eating habits. (Don’t worry, all those times when you thought as toddlers they weren’t eating enough, they make up for that during the teen years. Only now you’ll be concerned with the junk food.)

8: They go through more changes of clothing per day than you thought was possible.

9: They scatter their stuff everywhere in the house.

10: They don’t know how to pick up after themselves and can never find that one thing that they must absolutely have right at that moment.

11: They want to do everything themselves, except for when they want you to do it.

12: They have crazy sleep habits that make no sense.

13: They do not understand the concept of going to bed early.

14: They have tantrums that are at times so irrational you will laugh.

15: They don’t want to hold your hand to cross the street or in the case of the teenagers walk within 20 feet of you.

16: If you think something sounds like fun, they won’t.

17: They dress themselves in outfits you think look like they were put together by a crazy drunk. (Only with teenagers you sometimes hope they aren’t really a crazy drunk.)

18: They will never want to be friends with the kids who have parents you actually like.

The one plus to having teenagers is that you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. You have glimpses of all the hard work coming to fruition. You are able to see the adults they will become. You have the knowledge that it is finally going to end. Well, unless you still have younger kids at home, then you only have the knowledge that it does eventually end. Something I am not so sure I believed when I had a two year old and wondered how much the circus would pay.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Chris Jordan
About the Author

Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she wrote about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children. Yes, they...

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she wrote about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.
Yes, they are all hers.
No she’s not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.
Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That’s why her youngest is a teen now.
Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.


icon icon
chat bubble icon


newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Absolutely awesome comparison. I have toddlers and teenagers and I agree 100%!

Cath Young
Cath Young

Nice light hearted article. If you really believe that, you are leaving out the whole area of why it is difficult to be raising teens and young adults. The problems that arise these years can be epic and deatdly. Mental illness, depressions, addictions, contraband, sex, relationships, vandalism, illegal actions, criminal actions, murder, suicide, drugs, alcohold. These are not issues you have with toddlers but can well have with adults.


You  are 100%!     I have already experienced the teen years with my oldest and he/we survived.  Now I am starting over raising teens with my second son turning 13 in less than 90 days with two more in the wings.  


Well, yea, the issues are more serious some of the time. But really, the majority of time I am spending raising my teens centers around the eating/sleeping/not listening thing, not the illegal activity thing.  And then they turn around and say things so insightful or so wise that it takes my breath away. And then they either lose their shoes or smack a brother for no reason and the breath comes right back.  The problems? Yea, they can be there. But the idea, I think, is to start early with communication and talking about those behaviors BEFORE they hit those… Read more »


OMG – that is so funny and right on.  #1 son is 12 and I just want to know where the sweet, funny boy went and why this obnoxious trouble making man-child is here in his place.


I don’t have teens yet but you had me when you mentioned how terrible 3 was.  That completely caught me off guard too because no one warned me.  Having taught teens though, I think the comparison is apt.  The problems they face may be different than toddlers, but the way they approach those problems is remarkably similar.

Tiffiny Felix

This was very funny. And I totally needed something funny this morning. *:)*

Kimberly at Rubber Chicken Madness

Oh, so true! 


This is SO brilliant! I can’t vouch for the teen years, but the list fits my four year old daughter to a T. Thank you!


I meant to add that your comparisions are supported by some brain research going on – those areas of the brain so active in toddlers are the same areas growing and changing in teenagers!