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SALT LAKE CITY — If it feels like a constant revolution in your home with battle after battle, here is some insight into your teenagers' or toddlers' worlds. You will be surprised how similar your children and our founding fathers really are.
1. Unique fashion sense
This aspect is more in jest but is still an important point. The founding fathers were dressing for the time period, but they also had a unique way of dressing to indicate that they were part of the United States. Toddlers have moved out of being completely dependent on their caregivers and into wanting to do things for themselves.
When encountering a toddler wearing a raincoat, tutu and sun hat, it is easy to see that they are starting to develop a sense of self and an ability to make their own decisions. When they turn into teenagers, they are in the stage of figuring out who they are as an autonomous person. Their clothing choices show a sense of self and how they want the world to see them.
For all three groups of people, this is an important step to creating identity. Keep in mind that these stages are critical to self-esteem, development and self-acceptance.
Anyone who has taken middle school history knows that the United States of America and its founders were seeking independence. What many people don't realize is that the teenage and toddler stages are when we start to develop our own personal independence. Although most of the time this independence is welcomed and cultivated by the caregivers, it can also be a headache and create anxiety.
Having multiple outfit changes, wanting a later curfew, forcefully stating opinions or refusing to eat healthy foods are common. Notice that these happen in both teenager and toddler stages. This is a perfect time for them to learn how to calmly communicate, how to compromise and how to be part of our social structure, like doing chores, brushing our teeth or taking a shower.
3. Want to be heard
Legend states that John Hancock wrote his name the largest on the Declaration of Independence so King George would not need his spectacles in order to read it clearly. He was making a statement and wanted to make sure that it was heard loud and clear.
During the teenage stage of life, teens seem to be making definitive statements constantly. They want others to take them seriously. This is extremely important because they are stretching their wings for adulthood and testing how society may react to their thoughts, feelings and emotions. The same goes for toddlers. They start to taste independence and test the waters of how their wants and demands are considered and fulfilled.
It is essential to take the time to understand their point of view while having an understanding of the developmental growth they are making. It is important that as the caregiver we realize all this experimentation leads to the end goal of full independence into adulthood.
At times, it can be difficult to see the forest from the trees. We often get caught up in the moment and miss the big picture. When we hold a newborn in our arms, we can forget that the end goal is to have that little being turn into a moral individual who contributes to society and who can take care of him/herself. It is imperative as caregivers that we are a guide in their independence and not a controlling force. Through all of these awkward and sometimes frustrating phases of life, they are creating the future adult they will become.
Jessie Shepherd, MA, ACMHC, specializes in assisting children, adolescents and parents to overcome life's challenges. She is the director of youth services at Life Stone Counseling Center. Learn more at lifestonecenter.com.