13 Ways Your Teen Is Basically A Toddler

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 
Petar Chernaev / iStock

When you become a parent, everyone warns you that your life will change. You seek advice about tantrums, potty training, and toddler eating. You don’t sleep for five straight years, and you are pretty certain that your toddler spends more time in timeout than he does in the family room. It’s exhausting.

But then your child hits that sweet spot: They grow out of the toddler phase, and you feel like you deserve a medal for surviving the tantrums and picky eating. Your kid heads off to school full-time. She ties her own shoes and wipes her own butt. You pat yourself on the back for a job well done and eagerly await the teen years because, finally, maybe someone can help you out with the laundry!

And every parent of a teen just laughs and laughs for all eternity at your adorable naïveté.

Little known fact: Teens are exactly like toddlers. It’s a giant slap in the face when you realize you are right back where you started…in the toddler years. You’ve traded smelly diapers for body odor, and it ain’t pretty.

A few other ways teens are basically toddlers:

1. They outgrow clothes at an alarming rate.

Teens often outgrow their clothes overnight, and it’s impossible to keep them in shoes that fit. Remember when they grew out of onesies and adorable outfits? Now they’re growing out of man-sized pants and shirts. And the price tags? Those are man-sized, too.

2. They ask ‘Why’ until you want to rip your ears off.

Teens ask “Why?” just as incessantly as toddlers, only now it’s “Why can’t I have the car tonight?” and “Why can’t my friends come over?” And I was so sure we’d covered all the “Why” questions at the age of 3.

3. They’re picky eaters.

Toddlers are picky eaters, but teens are just as bad, if not worse. If they had their way, teens would subsist on cheese fries, movie theater popcorn, endless glasses of soda, and absolutely nothing else. Getting them to eat vegetables is no different than attempting to try to force a toddler to eat a green bean.

4. They rob you of sleep.

Two words: sleepless nights. When your teen is out with friends, you lie in bed wide awake listening for the sound of keys in the door at curfew. Their social life is making a decent night’s sleep an impossible fantasy, much like those constant midnight wakings that persisted all through toddlerhood. No wonder you have those giant bags under your eyes.

5. They’re impossible to understand.

Toddlers have babbling; teens have texting. Either way, it’s impossible to understand them. When your toddler talked, it was a slur of syllables and unintelligible sounds. A text from your teen telling you he’ll be late is a jumble of acronyms that make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

6. They abuse the word ‘No.’

“No” is a teen’s favorite word, and she’ll say it just as much if not more than a toddler does on a daily basis. Toddlers stomp their feet in defiance; teens slam their bedroom doors. Just like toddlers, teens are asserting their independence — “Me do it, Mama” becomes “Ma, I got it!” And it’s infuriating.

7. Snacks are currency.

Toddlers and teens have one universal currency: snacks. You can diffuse almost any situation in either age group by simply offering a snack. Goldfish crackers reign supreme with tots; pizza bites are a perfect distraction for teens. It’s really almost too easy.

8. They’re expensive.

Both age groups are just plain expensive. Diapers equate to a small fortune for the family budget, and just when you think you’ll be able squirrel a few pennies away for retirement, your teen suddenly needs sneakers endorsed by major sports figures. So much for retiring to that private island…

9. They’re unflinchingly honest.

Toddlers can’t keep your secrets, and teens are brutally honest. A toddler will announce to the grocery cashier that you haven’t showered in three days, and a teen will tell you just how uncool you look in your clothes once you finally do manage to bathe. It’s no wonder a mother’s self-esteem is in the toilet during the child-rearing years.

10. They’re super gross.

Teens smell like a subway bathroom on a good day, and they have constant, purulent discharge from the acne on their faces. Just like the days where they walked around with a load in their diapers and sticky, grimy hands, teens are not much better than toddlers in the hygiene department.

11. They need rules, whether they know it or not.

Teens and toddlers crave rules, only they don’t want us to know it. Both age groups are struggling with finding their voices and independence, and it scares them a little when they actually fly on their own outside the nest. Teens and toddlers need us to be the solid, reliable lifeline that pulls them back to safety when they’ve gone too far, even if they’ll never willingly admit that we saved the day.

12. They throw tantrums.

As any parent of a teen will tell you, a teenager will eyeroll, shout, and lose their marbles over the most trivial of subjects, just like a toddler in the toy aisle at Target. Teens and their hormones go from 0 to 60 in a matter of seconds when they feel they’ve been wronged, and they sound just as ridiculous as a toddler when they complain. Oh, and teen timeouts are a real thing too. True story.

13. They need unconditional love.

Teenagers need us to love them through their toddler-like behavior. They need us to look beyond the eye-rolling, door slamming, and incomprehensible texting language and reassure them that we will love them no matter what, even if they are being assholes. And they need us to look at their toddler pictures on the really bad days to remind us not to throttle them.

Mostly, teens just want us to hug them and tell them that we understand, that we’re there for them. And when you are hugging your teen tightly and he pulls away with an eyeroll, it is often possible to catch a glimpse of the little toddler he used to be just a few short years ago…back when you thought the “Terrible Twos” was as hard as it would ever be.

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