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Jan 30 2012

When Your Toddlers Start to Act Like Teens

By at 9:03 am

little girl in heelsThere is a saying that the way your kids were as toddlers is how they’ll be as teens.  (Only bigger and louder and, in some places, with the legal right to drive.)

If that’s true, then we’re really in for some fun times over at my house.

When my oldest was a toddler, he didn’t talk much.  But–Bad Mommy confession–we really didn’t notice until our pediatrician got a concerned look on her face and started asking questions while taking notes and measuring the size of his head (boy had a really big head. Literally off the charts big. He still does). I think the reason we didn’t notice his lack of verbiage (and no, not only because as our friends suggested, between my husband and I, the poor kid never had a chance to get a word in edgewise, ahem) was primarily because he never got frustrated at not being able to make himself understood. Whatever he wanted, he went ahead and got. He’d climb up on chairs or head-dive into his playpen to reach a toy. He’d open the refrigerator and retrieve a sippy cup of milk. When a television production job took me out of town for extended periods of time, he expressed his displeasure at my career choices by simply ignoring me on my days home. “Mommy? Who is this Mommy person of which you speak? I don’t see any Mommy.”

So, to extrapolate:

Independence = Good. Silent treatment = Less Good. Daredevil lack of need to ask for permission before embarking on less than wise courses of action? Something to be on the lookout for.

My middle son was a completely different child. (As I described in the blog on my kids’ names, we might as well have named him, “Not Adam,” as that was inevitably people’s response to him.) My middle son was chattering away in understandable sentences by the age of 1. Which meant he was ready, willing and able to argue. Anything. And if he found he couldn’t outtalk his foes (in the end, he was still 1 year old; we were a couple of decades ahead of him), he’d throw tantrums, complete with plates of food being flung on the floor, books and toys flying off shelves, and sheets ripped off the beds to be piled in a heap in the center of his room. (Ironically, experts will tell you that tantrums are for non-verbal children irritated at not being heard. Those experts do not live at my house.)

My aunt, who ran a daycare center for 20 years and is, to all intents and purposes, a toddler whisperer, suggested I bring him over so she might offer me a few pointers on how to deal with him. I did. After an hour, she shrugged and said, “I don’t know what to tell you.”

On the other hand, while he stymied adults (though my mother observed, “He’s a perfectly amendable child as long as what you want him to do dove-tails exactly with what he wants to do.”), he was extremely popular with other kids. While my oldest could sit for literally hours on his own, drawing or digging a hole in the sand, only to run away in terror if other kids attempted to join him, my middle son would start doing something on his own at the playground and, within minutes, a swarm of kids–including older ones–would materialize to mimic his activity and ask to play, too. (That was something else my older son never did as a toddler. He never imitated anyone. He just did his own thing. It was another reason the pediatrician looked concerned and went to work measuring the size of his head.)

Middle Child Conclusions:

Sociability? Good. Endless debates? If my parents could survive it, I can survive it.  (Right?) Violent tantrums upon not getting his own way? Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. Yet.

Meanwhile, my daughter turned 5 over Martin Luther King Day weekend.

Her toddlerhood was notable for her insisting on picking out her own clothes at an age when her brothers could not have cared less. (Let’s be honest: they still need to be prompted to put on matching socks. And pants. They get that from their father.)  And a tendency to, when forbidden or denied, toss her hair and dismiss, “Oh, I didn’t want that, anyway.” (At least my middle son could be coaxed by either appealing to his intellect, or a flat-out bribe. When my daughter doesn’t care to execute something, she doesn’t care to execute something. End of discussion. Save your Skittles and your stickers, lady. Did you not hear me: I didn’t want that anyway.)  Followed by a march to her room, a slam of the door, and cranking up the music on her CD player (today, it’s the Wiggles, tomorrow… who knows what the angsty music of choice will be in ten years.)

Even before she could walk, my daughter was under the impression that anything her big brothers could do, she could do. And was summarily disappointed, each and every time, to learn that hanging upside down from a bunk-bed or operating a computer keyboard or peeing standing up was (for the moment) beyond her capabilities. So she kept on trying.

Perseverance is a good quality, isn’t it?

Indiscriminate stubbornness and not knowing when to quit… isn’t. (On the other hand, maybe she can help me with my wardrobe.)

For those of you currently making your way through the toddler years. Can you already see the teen in your tot?

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on Kveller are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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