What Is the Toughest Age to Parent?

Updated on November 10, 2011
H.1. asks from Des Moines, IA
44 answers

What do you all think is the toughest age to parent?

A family member said to me the other day.... "Little people, little problems. Big people, big problems." This, of course, freaked me out because my 18 month old son is really giving me a run for my money already!

What was the hardest age of your kids to deal with as parent? I know every kid is different with personalities and temperaments and such, but just curious the opinions out there.

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answers from Lynchburg on

Hi henry's mama-

I guess for me, the hardest has been once they have 'left the nest'! I miss the day to day contact...and look forward to holidays and 'breaks' when they are able to come home.

I enjoy them as people (in fact I always have)...but miss really 'knowing' all that is going on in their lives.

I work to make holidays special...and hope they will always know that home is ALWAYS there for them.

Best Luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

It depends on the kid and the age. I have three kids: 16, 6, and 2. My 2 year old is a handful as is my 16 year old. My 6 year old is wonderful. He's always been a great kid, thus far. In my experience, I really have enjoyed the years from ages 4-8. That's when a kid is really a kid. They usually listen to you and can do things themselves like bathe and eat. Teens are mouthy, self-centered, and rude. The only good thing about teens is that you don't have to bathe or feed them. But, you have to watch them more as teens than as little kids sometimes.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Omaha on

I think it is in whatever you are in. I look back and say oh the terrible two's don't have anything on three's... or 8 was a breeze compared to 9.

I've talked about this with my mother who had 7 of us. She always says the worst years varied with each child. Some were terrors as toddlers others teenagers. My mom will say I was a nightmare till 2 after that I was easy. Now my one sister that was a tad bit older than me was a perfect child till she got in school then stayed a nightmare till she was pry 25.

I think she is right though what is difficult in the end we won't know till we are out of it and it will vary with each child.

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answers from Charlotte on

Without reading other posts, I'll tell you about my experience. I have a 16 year old and an almost 19 year old. The 19 year old is in his first year of college. My 16 year old is a sophomore.

My older son was a tempermental child. Gifted, smart, serious. Difficult, too. His intellect would astound me - in 4th grade he could do math in his head that I had to put pencil to paper to do. He was also SO intense - and he could have meltdowns if something went wrong - like if the gameboy didn't save and he lost his "play" on it. That was awful. The stress of competition was too much for him too sometimes - I learned to pair him and his brother against me during games, instead of him against his brother. He would get so upset about losing that he'd play worse, and the worse he'd play, the more upset he'd get, that kind of thing.

This was so hard on me when he was young.

I just kept trying to get him through things. Being consistent. Understanding that he couldn't deal with big changes. He needed to go to bed at the same time everynight - even up until he got into high school. The teen period of not liking anyone at school was hard, too. Magically, his junior year, all that changed when we moved and he went to a new school. He made tons of friends, blossomed into theatre and musicals, became pretty popular in his circle. And got into a great college.

I am grateful that he "grew out of" his difficult temperment. He talks about his younger teens, saying that it was his "hating everything" period, (he doesn't remember his personality when he was younger) and tells his younger brother to "grow up already" and find something special about school so that he'll have a ton of friends too. (My younger son has friends, but they are different than the theatre crowd.)

I don't agree with the "little people, little problems/big people, big problems" remark. I see it as the problems just are different. My younger son had speech and language issues - severe speech issues because of a submucous cleft palate. That was a huge problem, which could have impacted his future substantially. It was one of the biggest things I worked on to help him overcome it. (Seven years of speech therapy.) The thing is, you have to just keep working through stuff. Each stage is different, and you have to learn how to cope with it. Understanding why your kid is going through what they are going through , and what you have to do to help or mitigate the problem, and be consistent about it, is the hardest job you will have as a parent.

Also learning when to stop being a "helicopter parent" and let them fail at some point, is a hard lesson for both child and parent.

Now I am working on learning how to be the mother of a college student who is 16 hours away. That's new territory for me. Whew!


5 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I'd say it depends on what triggers your own buttons the most.

Whatever is your weakest part, your kids will innately understand and test you over and over.

For me, the toddler years are the most physically demanding...the constant running after them. I always told them I'm taking them to the park to make them tired, not me.

The puberty years are emotionally exhausting, keeping abreast with all the social and moral development, and endless questions that usually come late at night when I'm ready to shut down and need peace.

The teen years are fret with real concern about their personal safety and prayers and hopes that they will make the right decisions in the moment of temptation. Guiding them with tried and true wisdom, loving them unconditionally when they don't make the right choices, allowing them to learn the consequences from their decisions, when to step in, when to support, when not to...

The hardest part for me has been when they are grieving or heartbroken over the loss of a first boyfriend, the death of family member, dealing with divorce, dealing with betrayal, dealing with rejection....these lessons are hard but happen to all.

But we pick up the pieces and move forward. I love parenting...I feel like I have grown up with my kids...the toughest part for me is what to make for dinner most nights.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

My great aunt told me that 45 is the hardest age to parent.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Rapid City on

The hardest and most heartbreaking age is 16 to 18 or 19 years old. They are fighting for independence with the want to have fun and no common sense to think things through. Don't borrow trouble by starting to worry about those years yet. The hardest age will be the age you are going through from the sleepless baby age to the wild child toddler age to the attitude preschooler and grade school ages to the drama filled preteen/early teens and then of course the rebellous teenager year. Each one you will look back at and say "oh I didn't know that was going to be the easy time." You will make it through it and you will work to teach them right from wrong and if you be more a parent then a friend, you will have them coming back when they grow up and say "thank you for being a good mom"

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dover on

In order of dificulty:

1. Teens
2. Teens
3. Teens
4. Teens
5. Toddlers

They say that toddlers and teens exhibit the same behaviors but at different levels. The problem is that if my toddler refuses to go to his room, I can put him there. If my teen refuses, I don't really have that luxury because he is bigger than me. He would never ever hurt me, but I can't pick him up and carry him to time out and we both pretty much know it. *Sigh* I miss those days.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Each age has its "toughest" moments.

Your son is 18 months. This is only the beginning.
Also, a kid changes not only per development and cognition, but in personality too.
I had NO problems with my son from birth to 3 years old. Then at 4... whoa. He became personality plus! He is more extroverted now. Wasn't previously.
And, he is so much more... a rascal and spirited. Not bad or naughty... but a real handful, because he is so... rascal and full of super quick ideas to responses from me, and he is so physically active and verbally active.
He is now 5. Still full of gusto. BUT he is so well behaved in school... and in fact, the MOST behaved in his class. Per his Teacher.

Each age is challenging.
To me, the easiest is when they are babies.
Sure you get lack of sleep etc. But that to me, is really nothing.

And no, it is not true that "little people, little problems. Big people, big problems."

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Well, my twins are three. When they were newborns, I thought, "Nothing could possibly be harder than two newborn babies." Ha! Boy, was I ever wrong. Three is horrible!!! I'm hoping it gets easier from here because I am pulling my hair out right now.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

My kids actualy get a little more difficult because parenting becomes SO much more complex all the time... (they are 3, 6, and 9). Currently most of my struggles are stemming from my 9 year old who is trying to figure out his place as a big kid all the time. The boundry pushing never stops and it causes you to REALLY examine you values and what kind of person you want to rasie.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Redding on

i think the teen years are the tougher years. Watching your kids fall into peer groups and such, not being your lovey little innocent kid anymore. I'd do the baby years over and over, I loved newborn to 10 the most I think. Junior high is where they start getting a little more independent of you, it's a bitter sweet transitional period.

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answers from Dallas on

My one and only daughter (16) has always been a great child, although very strong willed from day 1. Of course, we never squashed the strong willed personality because we felt like it would certainly benefit her later in life. When she was younger, we simply re-directed. SHe ended up with a black belt in martial arts.

The HARDEST for me personally was teaching her to drive and letting go with her in a car. She is a good, safe driver but I still say a little prayer EVERYTIME she gets in that car to drive 30 minutes to school and where ever else she is going.

The strong willed personality is still there and she is thriving. She is very driven just like her us and sometimes we have to hold her back a little. She lives for responsibility and independence.

I've enjoyed each stage because each stage has its own little quirks and special moments. The hardest by far though was age 15 when the driver permit and driving started.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Redding on

My daughter was a lovely blessing until she hit about 16. Then, we had some problems. I was a single mother and she didn't appreciate the fact that I couldn't buy her all the things her friends had.
She's 25 now with a baby of her own and we get along wonderfully. She is very self sufficient and independent. She asks for my advice. And trusts it.

My 16 year old son is very mellow and respectful and go with the flow. He's been an easy kid all around. SO FAR.

All kids can be a challenge in one way or the other.
Never let them see you sweat.
I was always firm but also had a sense of humor so I didn't have to look like the wicked witch at all times.
Being the mom and the dad, I had to get creative.

You just have to let your kids know that they don't run the show. That's not the way it works. They may not like it, outwardly, but all kids need boundaries and someone to keep them in line. It makes them feel safer and more secure.
There's a time for goofing off and a time when Mommy is serious. They do learn the difference.

Best wishes.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Middle school, 12 to 14, ugh :(
Give me a newborn, STAT!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Well, mine are still young--5.5 and almost 3--so I don't know how they will be as teens. My son was a tough toddler with tantrums, constant limit testing, high energy, talks constantly. He has matured a lot between 4.5 and 5.5 but 2 and 3 were really tough (sent home from preschool for fighting!). My daughter is just a more easy going kid so she has been a very sweet 2 year old though she does do most normal 2 your old things that get annoying after a while.

I have heard a lot of things:
"With babies and toddlers it is physically demanding with teens it is all mental and emotional challenges." paraphrased from my mom.
"Boys are hard at the beginning and get easier and girls are easier at the beginning and get harder." I've that from several people and my kids fit so far but it way too soon to tell.
" Toddlers and young teens are very similar emotionally because they often want more independence than they can handle." I don't recall where I heard this but it fits what I know of child development.

I don't know how my kids will be when they are older. I've worked with a lot of kids and teens of all ages. I have seen some very nice teens and some very out of control ones (though most times big problems build for a long time to get really big).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Sorry to tell you this but it does get harder. With that, you are able to see the fruits of your labors...so work hard now! My youngest is 16 and that is where the independence comes out and the preparation for flight appears...."when I move out" starts and plans to do things differently come about. It doesn't help that Disney and Nick all have teenagers either living with an absent uncle or a stupid older brother that doesn't have a clue.

I prayed over my girls but I feel I didn't pray enough. They have turned out fine so far but as the world changes, I'm still holding my breath!

God bless!

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answers from San Francisco on

For me, it's the years under 5, when you have to watch them every second of the day, and never get a moment's break.

The teen years aren't as cute, and teens can sure be unpleasant between 13-17 years old, but at least teens can do most things for themselves.

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answers from Reno on

I found the 2-5 age really tough. Both my boys are teens now (13 and 17), and, yeah, there are some challenges, but for me, it's sooooooooooo much easier than the toddler years.

Of course, after 19 years in 7-12 education, teens make sense. Toddlers never did...

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answers from Portland on

The only time I ever felt frustrated, bewildered and lost with my daughter was in her senior high school year. Our communications and bonding had been pretty solid until then, so I was completely sideswiped by her refusal to talk to me about much of anything. It only lasted a few months, and then we were on excellent terms again. She needed some time to figure out who she was, separate from her mom, I think.

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answers from Seattle on

Whatever Age You're In...or the most recent 'hard time'.

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answers from San Antonio on

what ever age (ages) your kids are at this exact moment in time is the "hardest" age to parent LOL
Mine are 12 and 10

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answers from San Francisco on

18 months! But my DD is only a little over 3, so I may not be the most qualified person to respond :)



answers from San Francisco on

My son was a VERY busy boy at 18 months, but he was so adorable and sweet it pretty much made up for it. Now that he's 11, WOW. While he is still cute (or handsome now..LOL) It doesn't make up for when he's in trouble. And it can be difficult to find a good balance for independence and responsibility. Right now we have more good days than bad, but I think that as kids grow their independence, they need MORE guidance, not less....so while it's tempting to let your tween or teen "figure it out" on their own, really, they still need your support! (a lot more than they will let on) So as far as which age is the hardest, I think that each has it's points, but the older that they get, the more you have to let go and believe that your parenting is enough to help them become the awesome people they are created to be...(while still staying around to help guide) and I think letting go can be the hardest part. (I'm not there yet, but that's my 2 cents... )

Blessings to you and your sweet boy. :)


answers from Detroit on

Im glad Im the first to comment, because I dont even wanna know! Im not going to open this again. lol


answers from Tulsa on

My son is going to be 5 this month and age 3 was really tough! Although things are starting to get more difficult now. As I let him do more and more things by himself, he thinks that means he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants! I'm sure when he's a teenager I'll look back on these days and remember how easy I had it!



answers from Norfolk on

18 months to age 3 has been hard here, but of my 4 kids our oldest are twins and they are 4. (The last 6 months have been way easier with them since they turned 4). In reality I think whatever you are doing feels hard to you at the time and then you look back with goggles.


answers from Washington DC on

I used to envy parents of older kids when mine were 4, 2, and newborn. Now I want to go back to that stage! I think each stage brings its own ups and downs, goods and bads, opportunities and challenges. My 8 year old daughter and 4 year old son are my most difficult children. My 6 year old son is fairly easy. I joke with them that it's the "K" children, because the oldest and youngest start with a "K" and the middle starts with a "C".



answers from Houston on

My daughter is a truly horrible 3 - My son was also a horrible 3 and 4. He is much better at 9



answers from Washington DC on

My oldest son, 16-18.
My next one, a daughter, she is 16 now, but it hasn't been that bad
My other two are 14 and 10, so far pretty easy.

It depends on the child. My oldest is very ODD and had it in for all rules since he heard the word NO. In his mind rules are meant to be broken.
My second is a rule freak and wants everyone to follow the rules. So if tell her something, then that goes for everyone.
THe other two are homeschooled and not very influenced by outside factors.



answers from El Paso on

I can't say for my own yet (still too little), but I know I made my mom cry when I was a teenager. I wasn't THAT bad, either! Lol. I just frustrated her to within inches of her sanity.



answers from Albuquerque on

So far I've found 3 and 10 to be particularly difficult.


answers from Kansas City on

It depends on the child but I would say from 14-18 or so. It also depends on you too and your personality, values, firmness, etc. but for me I found the little ages so much easier and more natural for me to handle. I had to work much harder with teens.


answers from Dallas on

Well all ages brings its own set of challenges but to me I believe the teen years are the hardest. Simply because of all the issues that go hand in hand with being a teen, hormones, attitude, defiance, struggle with independence and it's limitations. Not to mention all the outside influence that plays a part. Sometimes you feel as if you are battling not just with your teen but the whole world. "So and So gets to go, So and So's parents let them do this, etc....." and of course all the peer pressure from their friends. It's a very fine line to walk with teens. You need to give them some freedom but you have to know when to reign them in. With younger kids, there's not that struggle so much. It's more clear cut. With teens not so much. At least I found this to be true when I was parenting my eldest who is now 20. It was a stressful time for us and to think I have two more to go through. Hopefully I've learned some important lessons the first time through that I'll be able to relax more with the next two. One can hope. But for me, it's the teen years that are the hardest.


answers from Springfield on

I have 6 kids, 5, 11, two 13 year olds, 14, and 16. My 14 year old and my 16 year old are my only girls. RIght my hardest has been 11 - 14ish haha. Cause that age is jsut so awkward, and your body is changing and all that. My 16 year old was really good when it came to teenage years, never had a sterotypical teenage girl, but my 14 year old on the hand, is a little worsre, but you just gotta help them throu it. My other boys are getting a mouth on them, and when my 5 year old gets this age, i have no idea how he's going to be haha. I have no idea of how many times ive givin "the worlds not going to end" speech, lol.



answers from Denver on

My kids are 7 and 3 1/2. So far 4 has been by far the toughest---and my 3 year old is heading that direction now. At that age you say "no" and they argue with you! I had to get much more creative with disciplining. What works is finding out what their "currency" is. For my oldest, taking away his stuffed animals worked. For my youngest it's typically taking away the super heroes.
BUT they can also do more stuff for themselves at this age so some things get easier. Every age has its challenges and rewards!



answers from Minneapolis on

So far age 4 is the hardest with my boys (they are 6 1/2 and turning 5). My daughter is turning 3, and she's a peach right now... so for her... I'd say turning 3.

I'm sure I'll have a new number in a few years ;)




answers from Philadelphia on

I have 17 months to 20 plus. I vote for 13 and over! It just gets harder! You cannot make it better for them after that, which hurts. When they are little, it is hard physically --- you are on call 24/7. But at the teen years, you deal with their personal issues -- much harder. Don't worry --- I was asked by someone who had a one year old --- When do you stop feeling tired? The answer is -- I have a 24 year old (and an 18 month year old) and I am still tired :) If you asked my mom, she would say 40 years plus are the hardest at this point :) BUT It does not get harder really, just different. And it does depend on personalities, but in my experience, all teenagers have problems! But you will be ready at that point!



answers from Raleigh on

Gosh, we have 4. Ages 14, 13, 11 and 6. I found 4 to be a tough age with all four. I think there are wonderful, fun aspects to each stage. And then there are the trying times with each stage where you want to pull your hair out. You grow with them and some how figure it out!! The hard part for us with the bigs is middle school, grades and having them try to fit in somewhere. The "baby" just started Kindergarten and that is a challenge b/c she wants to be with mommy. But a few years ago it was different. Just try to find a way to enjoy each stage, b/c as sappy as it is, it goes by way too fast. We are having to look at high school and think about college for our oldest and really, yesterday I was just changing his diapers.


answers from Chicago on

I have a 7, a 16 and 18 yr old.100 % I prefer the teenagers,I realized they are a breeze compare to my 7 yr old right now and thinking back....
I love my independence,young children need constant attention for different reasons,for me the hardest years are from age 3 two 13..junior high was "toughish",but than the little guys are so darn adorable, too....



answers from Des Moines on

By FAR the teen (16ish) is the hardest.... I used to think the youngers years were hard but my sisters kept telling me to just wait...... well they were correct :/



answers from Washington DC on

Depends on the kid. Sometimes I find it equally challenging to deal with my teen stepdaughter and my preschool aged daughter. Toddlers and teens have about the same emotional control. Teens are just better able to tell you how much they hate you for not letting them do x. Like someone else said, you can pick up a toddler and put her in her room. You generally can't pick up a teen.

As much as the tantrums or things like not going to bed aggravate, I think I'd take little kids over big ones.

Worst age for my SD was probably from about 8 to 11. Late elementary/early middle school. Middle school girls are horrible little creatures, and the way they treat each other....maddening.

We are also currently dealing with our teen dictating our household schedule, which I find disrespectful. You want a ride? You are ready on MY time. You don't just tell me you're going out. You ask before I'm wondering where you are 2 hours after you were supposed to be home. At least I know where my DD is.



answers from Portland on

I've only parented to age 5 so far but my experience this far says that age 3 is the worst!


answers from Los Angeles on

My son was non-stop crazy between 15-20 months, then he calmed down a bit. I don't think I sat down for those 5 months! That age was physically hard for me because I had to constantly chase, pick up, sit down, clean up, hold on to, and clean up my son.
He didn't have terrible two's, he had terrible 3's. And now he's in the f-ing fours!!(At least that's what my Mom calls it!) My Mom tells me 4 was her hardest age for her 3 kids. My son is 4 1/2 and so far the 4's have been the hardest. My daughters have been super easy so far, but they are only 2 and 6 months old. I know I'm gonna be pulling out my hair when they turn into teenagers! I will have 3 kids in high school at the same time :/

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