The Difference Between Toddlers and Teens

The Difference Between Toddlers and Teens
By Andrea Rennick

When I was first pregnant with Emma, most people asked me how was I planning on handling Emma as a toddler, while our first two children were teenagers? That question was almost always followed by, “What were you guys thinking?”

Frankly, if I had thought of it beforehand, I wouldn’t be in this state now would I? But I kid, really. I have figured out that there isn’t much difference between parenting toddlers and teens. In fact, it’s almost like back in the days when I parented my two girls as a unit, since they were so close in age.

So here are some handy tips I’ve compiled in case you someday find yourself in the same predicament.

  • Learn how to say “No.” You’ll be using it often, so you may want to practice your delivery in front of a mirror. In fact, it’s quite a versatile word. It works just as well for, “No, you can’t take off all your clothes in the mall,” as it does for “No! You are NOT wearing that outfit to the mall!” See? Already you may have noticed the some toddlers are just as likely as some teens to run around half-clothed.
  • Have a well-stocked fridge and pantry. While your toddler may often eat one bite of carrot, three packages of sugary fruity snacks, the very centre of a slice of bread and half a crayon in the run of a day, your teen is also expecting about as wide a variety of food available. They seem to go through food at about the same rate as well. The teen may actually *eat* all the food you put in front of him (and some you forgot you had stuffed at the back of the fridge) but your toddler is likely to eat one bite of all proffered dishes and turn up their nose at the rest. Either way, a running account at the grocery store is a Good Thing.
  • Their taste in music runs to the weird and repetitive.
  • While as the parent of a teen, you may be required to know the difference between 50 Cent, Jay-Z and Ja Rule, (hint: they are all rappers), as the parent of a toddler, you are also required to know any song that involves counting, your letters, and pointing to various body parts. Actually, in some of those rap songs you need to point at some body parts too. Note that in either group, the singer is wearing some sort of sparkly costume. In toddler’s songs, there may be actions, but for the music teens listen too, they just refer to it as “waving your hands in the air” and you must do it “like you just don’t care”. Invest in a good pair of headphones for the teen and a set of earplugs for you.

  • They have similar taste in clothing. Look carefully. The toddler, once they know how to dress themselves, tries to assert their independence by picking out and donning their own choice of clothing. The same is true for the teen. Neither knows nor cares about colour choice or appropriate seasons. While the toddler may choose to wear a wool sweater, bathing trunks and rubber boots on the hottest August day, your teen may make an equally puzzling ensemble of mini skirt, army boots, someone else’s long johns and various layers of ripped sweaters in January. Just repeat the following to yourself and anyone else who raises an eyebrow: “At least they did it themselves.”
  • They will unknowingly blurt out secret family details. Or at least things you should not discuss in mixed company. One is learning that it is highly inappropriate to talk about body functions at the supper table with company present, the other… I guess the other one is too. At least you only have to tell one of them to keep the size of Daddy’s paycheque to themselves.
  • Shopping with either (or both) leads to temper tantrums. Usually your own. The toddler and the teen are both easily distracted by bright shiny objects with hefty price tags. Preferably with batteries not included. One may hold out their grubby sticky hand and demand you “Gimmie Dat!” while the other has a more highly evolved version of housework promises, eyelash-batting and flattery. Either way, you are left with an empty wallet.
  • Both have the attention span of a squirrel. Need I explain more?
  • They both love hugs and kisses. One of them wants them all the time from every family member, while the other wants them from anyone else. If you really must get on your tiptoes and kiss your half-grown teenage son, at least do it where no one else can see. Or sneak up on him. That works.

As you can see, they are quite a lot of similarities between the two age groups. I’m sure you can think of more examples, but I must leave off here. I have to break up an argument between said toddler and aforementioned teen. It sounds something along the lines of —


“No, mine!”


See what I mean?

Andrea Rennick is a homeschooling mom of four children, ranging in age from 3 to 16. A sense of humour is a big part of dealing with the ins and outs of her day. She can also be found at her website, . Reach her at