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Toddlers vs. Teenagers: Same Difference?

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I knew it was going to happen someday but I had no idea it would be now. Yesterday my daughter got mad, screamed at me, and then ran up the stairs and slammed her bedroom door.

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Then, when her friend wouldn't give up the outfit she was wearing, my daughter threw herself down on her bed declaring, "I'm going to go to sleep and never wake up."

And today, when I picked her up from school instead of running over for the usual hug, she ignored me, looking straight through me and returned to her business on the playground.

The playground, people.

Yep, she's 3, not 13, and the way I reckon it, this dramatic, moody behavior is at least a decade early. So what's up? Why has my baby girl suddenly gone all CW on me?

Both stages are dramatic moments where the wiring in the brain is getting massively reworked

It turns out toddlers and teenagers are a lot alike in terms of brain development. Both stages are dramatic moments where the wiring in the brain is getting massively reworked, and like all big construction projects, this neurological rehab isn't easy to live with. I just started reading Daniel J. Siegal's The Whole Brain Child (highly recommend) and it's helping me understand just what the heck is going on with my pint-sized Siouxsie Sioux. Still, it isn't easy getting through all the toddler/teenage drama and angst.

Here's one way to think about this stage. Have you ever had to pee in a bucket while redoing a bathroom? That sort of discomfort is a good guiding metaphor for dealing with a kid in the midst of a brain renovation—it sucks but on the plus side you can look forward to eventually having a beautiful, functioning toilet.

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In the meanwhile, the best solution I've found to enduring the roller coaster ride of her emotions, including the highly irrational tantrums and the nonstop need for independence (her favorite phrase is, "I can do it myself!") is sleep. For her and for me. After all 3-year-olds and teens need almost the same amount of sleep a night (10 hours is optimal for teens, 12 for 3-year-olds) and these resting hours are crucial to all that neurological work that's going in the brain. It's also crucial to caregivers of these brain-building maniacs, the underpaid parent/contractors who are stuck cleaning up the mess.

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