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Toddlers & teens have plenty in common

19 October
Posted by:
Michael Grose
Raising toddlers is great training for raising teenagers as developmentally both groups have a great deal in common.

First thing tots and teens have in common - both stages of development involve enormous brain reconstruction.

The use it or lose it principle applies in both stages. I’ll explain. The brain of a one year old and a thirteen year old are similar in that they overproduce synapses or connecting points of the brain. The next few years of both stages is similar in that the synapses are pruned back leaving the most used synapses in tact. These remaining synapses are then coated in myelin to maximise their performance.

Here is the important bit for parents. The activities kids do in these stages become hard-wired. That’s why, for instance, the early years are the prime time for learning multiple languages. The same principle applies for teenagers who learn a complex sport – the skills learned become hard-wired for life. That’s why when you learn a sport as a kid and you’ll always be able to play that game even after a prolonged break.

The message for parents of tots and teens is the same. There is a window of opportunity open and not to be wasted. For parents of tots this means providing heaps of natural interactions with their social environments, mainly peers and parents. For parents of teenagers this translates into getting them off the couch and away from the computer and into healthy, social pursuits. Don’t let them be coach potatoes at this stage.

Second thing tots and teens have in common – they often push for independence.

Toddlers will often push their parental boundaries. The easy compliant tot suddenly says no to bedtime and becomes picky with food. Let’s see if I can push a few boundaries and have a bit of fun is the go.

Teens play the same game. Many parents find that their once pleasant, easy-going child suddenly becomes morose, moody and challenging. He or she begins pushing boundaries in ways they haven’t before. What is going on thinks a bewildered parent? Well the same underlying issues as they may have faced with a toddler – the push for some independence and a greater say in the way they are raised. Now what you both fight about is different. “Don’t play on the couch” is replaced by “Come home on time!” Parents need to hold their ground with teens just as they did if they had an unruly toddler. This early training is excellent grounding for a parent.

Third thing tots and teens have in common - the challenging stages don’t last.

Toddlers eventually stop saying “No” to every request. Often this is replaced with “Why?” Teenagers’ vocabulary, which often shrinks to 3 words – ‘whatever’ (which means yes), ‘as if’ (which means no) and ‘maybe’ (which means ‘no, but I am willing to negotiate a deal that suits me!’) – eventually returns to its full 1,000+ word range. You just have to hang in there and wait.

I can go on with the similarities but I think you get the point. The early years of a child’s life provides a great training ground and preparation for raising adolescents. learning In both stages it is important for parents add a few minutes to every interaction with children, have a sense of humour, work with a partner (if willing, able and available), make sure you have firm backbone and kind heart, and take a regular break from the kids to help you keep perspective and stay fresh.

Tags:
  • adolesence
  • growing-up
  • raising
  • teen
  • teenage
  • teenagers
  • teens
  • toddlers
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