How Toddlers Prepare You For Teenagers

20/08/2015 2:55 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST
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Shocked Teenage Boy Holding Baby

"Small children, small problems; big children, big problems" my mum used to say when I shared my concerns over my son's lack of sleeping. Or eating. Or anything.

She was not the first, or the last, to warn me that what lay ahead of me when I would be responsible for parenting a teen was worse than anything a toddler could offer.

But she was wrong. Looking after a toddler was practice for looking after a teenager but the teenage years actually came with a few added bonuses.

Toddlers and teenagers both need a lot of sleep but they aren't able to communicate that very well and so they have tantrums and act out. Teenagers are usually softer, they don't kick and scream in public and when they wake they don't need a nappy change.

"But everyone else has.../does...." is a common toddler and teenager refrain. Teenagers can be put to work to earn their own money to buy ridiculous shoes. Toddlers just keep nagging and when they get what they want they discard it. Teenagers feign interest once they get what they want because they are aware there is a next time.

If you think you get to sleep at night once the baby/toddler years are over, you're wrong. Parents of teenagers don't sleep at night. That said, teenagers sleep all morning so if you don't work and have any other commitments there is make up sleep time for you.

While we are often urged to use star charts and reward-based strategies to encourage good toddler behaviour, the incentive system actually works much better with teenagers because they respond well to the bribe, understanding the commercial world as well as they do.

Having toddler playgroup at your house is like inviting Genghis Khan over for morning tea. Small kids take each other's toys, bash each other over the heads with said toys and shout a lot. They also spread all over the house like soldier ants keen to explore every corner and ensure their thumbprints are all over it. Teenagers sit in one room and play quietly on their electronic devices with earphones in. You can't even hear they are there.

Toddlers have a bite of food and leave the rest to rot in the DVD slot or behind the couch cushions. Teenagers never leave any food in the house at all.

Both toddlers and teenagers actually have a sense of humour, except toddler humour is not funny unless you are a fan of the knock-knock jokes. Teenagers get humour even if they don't always share it with their parents.

Both groups have very specific dress requirements and get uptight if they don't get to choose their own attire. On the plus side you don't really get the opportunity to be seen with your teenager in public that often so it doesn't really matter what they wear.

They are both quite incoherent. The difference is that you want to hear what your teenager is saying because they might not be speaking to you for much longer.

They both need a certain amount of toilet training -- one to use the toilet and one to learn how to change the toilet roll but it's decidedly easier to remind someone to put a new roll of toilet paper in the bathroom than it is to teach someone to poo in a potty.

So really, once you've mastered the toddler years you are well equipped for the teens, until they get to the drinking stage, then you can try swap for a toddler again.


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