If you’ve ever wondered why some teens act almost the same way toddlers do, there’s an answer for it. There’s a new study that suggests some teenagers are developmentally on par with toddlers when it comes to controlling their emotions.
As many parents can attest to, it’s not easy watching a toddler kick and scream when they don’t get their way in a grocery store and it’s equally as frustrating when a teen does the same thing, but instead of kicking and punching the air, they slam their bedroom door. Dr. Kathleen Van Antwerp, the leading expert in juvenile justice reform says there’s a good reason why toddlers and teens act so much alike, especially when they are angry, hurt or frustrated: it’s because they are in the same range when it comes to expressive skills.
According to Deseret News, Dr. Van Antwerp said, “Developmentally, teens and toddlers are about at the same level, with each age group struggling to grow into the next stage of life, but not yet equipped with all the tools.”
While working with her study’s participants, Dr. Van Antwerp noticed that toddlers and teens express their frustrations similarly, but in different manners. While a young child will resort to physical kicking and shrieking during their temper tantrums, teens do almost the same. However, during their meltdowns, teens stomp their feet, throw an object across a room, or sit and pout until they get their way. This is because, at the teenage state, a part of the brain that controls emotion is hijacked developmentally.
One of the reasons behind this is because the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that governs rational emotions and cognitive thinking, doesn’t fully develop until a person’s mid-20s.
With that said, there are many different ways that parents can help manage their child’s behavior, regardless if they are a toddler or a teen. Health professionals and child experts suggest trying to understand the core root of the problem.
Try connecting to your child by listening to what they have to say before looking for a solution. Offer positive attention, or consider your child’s request if he or she wants something. Most importantly though, know what your child’s limits are, stay calm, and practice prevention.