The Parallels Between Raising Toddler and A Teen

I wanted to write this story while it is fresh in my mind as I saw a link between raising a teen and a toddler. I adore my 16-year-old daughter and by all accounts she is a creative, diligent and empathetic person. I can’t brag and say it is because I am the perfect mother, because I am definitely not that. I fall, fail and get back up and keep trying to do my best. Charlie (my girl) has pretty much had the same personality since she was born. There is, and never was an “in between” with her moods, opinions or past-times. It was either brilliant sunshine or torrential rain as a metaphor for her moods. She was always incredibly sensitive and empathetic.

I honestly believe she was born with her innate nature, and no matter how I raised her, she’d pretty much end up the same person.

That’s not to say that trauma or neglect doesn’t damage that innate person, but a sensitive child will be a sensitive adult, and there are character traits that you inherit from your parents.

Raising Toddlers Effectively

toddlers and teens
toddlers and teens

Let me preface this by saying I am not an expert. I have raise/am raising one child, Charlie and she’s what many other parents say is “just lovely”. And she is. No doubt about that. She’s way nicer than me and is my moral compass half the time.

The one this I do have over her is age and experience. I’ve never believed she is “mine”. She is definitely her own person, and I encourage her to think that way. If I see her doing something dangerous or engaging in some generally not positive behaviour, I let her know, any tell her why. I rarely use “because I said so”. This is important if you want to raise a self-regulating person.

She is, as a result, someone who questions me if I say no, and asks for reasons. As a toddler she was like having a little drunk person around physically. You need to watch out for them to make sure they have no fear, but it is also at this time that they discover tantrums.  Completely illogical mood swings, caused by a removal of a toy, being somewhere they don’t want to be, having to wear sunscreen shoes, clothes, being tired, or for no clear reason. There is no reasoning with a toddler. The mood swing has to run its course and my response was to make sure that Charlie was safe, but let it go. I ignored judgemental stars in the supermarket when Charlie kicked and screamed on the floor, and simply looked at the ceiling.

The think I found was that if I fueled the flames with air (attention) the tantrum got worse. Maybe not this time, but next time she knew I had a breaking point. Once you give in, they have you pegged. So being the determined and stubborn person I am, she’s eventually run out of steam and get back on with the shopping, playing whatever and we’d move on. Sometimes I’d talk to her about why that behaviour wasn’t acceptable or effective, if it was appropriate. I’d make her apologise to the host/shop assistant/friend etc, so she knew her behaviour effected others. It worked for me.  As I said, I’m no expert on raising children, just on raising my own daughter.

Tantrums and Teens

Yesterday I had an experience that both distressed me and taught me a lesson. I am teaching her to drive and we are in the learning to use roundabouts stage. I never remember this being hard, but for her it is stressful. We were going around a large round about I made the mistake of saying “go straight ahead”, meaning “take the second exit”. Charlie got super flustered and pulled to a stop just off the roundabout and nearly caused a motorbike to run into the back of us. She got scared and threw a massive toddler style tantrum. I sat there in silence and remained calm. She screamed every name under the sun at me, refused to drive further, climbed into the back seat and sobbed and screamed and kicked the seat. This went on for about 20 minutes.

sunset learner driving
sunset learner driving

Meanwhile I drew on my experience with her as a toddler, and a. go her to move the car off the road and b. didn’t give the tantrum fuel. She called me cold, horrible, unfeeling, etc, but I stayed calm (on the outside) and waited for her to calm down. I also didn’t given in about her finishing her stint to get to Ballina (it was only 10 minutes away, but it was a principle at stake and I needed her to know that you can just scream and crawl into the backseat in the fetal position of you make a driving mistake. I asked her to “use her words” instead of screaming, and other calming language I would have used with a toddler. When she is in this mode, toddler teaching techniques actually work (albeit adapted).

Eventually she angrily go back in the front seat, and drove the rest of her appointed section, removed her L plates and we swapped. I said very little, except that I was upset by with her behaviour. I asked her to look inside to figure out why she behaved so dramatically and how next time she could try use a different technique for dealing with fear.

She apologised later but as I explained to her, the damage was already done. I used the analogy of the piece of paper, and how scrunching it up and then regretting it and un-scrunching it up still left the wrinkles of the scrunching. I was hurt, stressed and very upset and told her this. I explained how her behaviour affected me as a person and as a mum.

The end result was that it did cast a slight shadow on what ended up being a lovely day in Byron Bay (the water was aqua, the shops full of the obligatory crystals and hippy garb but way more commercial that it was when I went there at 30 years old).

I guess the purpose of this post is to explain how consistency, doing what you say and following through, and steely resolve, with a sprinkling of guilt are what worked for me as a mother to a toddler and a teen. Point to take away:

Never, Ever GIVE IN!

I’m still upset about it today, but I will deal with that within myself. I don’t think I am ready to drive with her for a while, I’ll leave that to her grandfather and father.

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