Thinking about my young son's short life (almost three months) got me thinking about how we (my wife and I) are going to parent him when he gets older. This also got me thinking about when this will be most difficult. So, I'll ask the community: what is the most difficult age to parent a child during? Is it the terrible twos, or the teenage years, or something else?

Note: I realize this may be a little more discussion than fact, so if this gets turned into wiki, I'm totally fine with that.

asked 12 Jan '10, 14:03

Matthew%20Jones's gravatar image

Matthew Jones
accept rate: 18%

edited 12 Jan '10, 14:24

My parents were really strict with me and my brother when we were younger. But as a result we learned what was okay and what was not, and as we were teenagers we knew how to act appropriately and got a lot more freedom as we proved ourselves. However, many of our classmates who were given a lot of freedom as young children, found their parents becoming more strict as they were teenagers.

I think the difficulty faced as parents has to do with what kind of foundation you give your kids. If you start teaching them right from wrong, appropriate and inappropriate behaviors at a younger age, then, hopefully, as they get older, your job will get easier.


answered 12 Jan '10, 14:52

mkcoehoorn's gravatar image

accept rate: 8%

+1 for appropriate behavior at appropriate ages

(12 Jan '10, 19:18) Emi

Every parent of grown up children I talk to about this says:

Little children, little problems. Big children, big problems.

So make the most of it!

(When I first read the title of your question, I understood 'At what age is the most difficult to become parents. I don't know the answer to that one either.)


answered 12 Jan '10, 14:20

Benjol's gravatar image

accept rate: 5%

edited 12 Jan '10, 14:27

I meant "parent" as a verb. Meaning, at what age is it most difficult to be a good parent to your children.

(12 Jan '10, 14:22) Matthew Jones

Or at what age is it most difficult to be a good child for your parents ;)

(12 Jan '10, 14:28) Benjol

Whatever age your eldest child currently is.

This is probably why eldest children are supposed to be more prone to mental illness.


answered 12 Jan '10, 16:14

Meg%20Stephenson's gravatar image

Meg Stephenson
accept rate: 7%


I am?? I'd never heard that before.

(12 Jan '10, 23:22) Artemis

I'd never heard that before either. Meg, do you have a source for the connection between mental illness and being the eldest child? I'd like to read more about it.

(13 Jan '10, 00:35) cat_g

There's some stuff about it here I should add that it's been refuted and may be complete rubbish, but it is a widespread belief.

(14 Jan '10, 19:10) Meg Stephenson

I think it depends on the child as well. The way my parents talk, the most difficult time they had with me was when I was an infant and refused to sleep. On the other hand, my younger sister was impossible all through junior and senior high school (about age 11 to 18). I'm not sure how different the parenting was between the two of us since we're only two years apart. The bulk of it had to do with differences in our personalities, I think.

And I suppose what we're all getting at here as well is that different ages are not necessarily more or less difficult but have different challenges. It's sort of like comparing swimming across the English Channel and climbing Mount Everest. Both are extremely difficult, but it's pretty hard to say which is more difficult.


answered 12 Jan '10, 23:33

Artemis's gravatar image

accept rate: 11%

My four kids are 17, 16, 2 1/2 and 16 months old, and I think that it totally depends on the child and what they're throwing at you this week.

  • The 16 month old is teething and not sleeping.
  • The 2 1/2 year old has decided that since she's the only girl and therefore obviously vastly superior to her brothers she should be able to boss them all around (yeah, she's popular!).
  • The 16 year is throwing tmeper tantrums that rival his sisters because he doesn't want to do the dishes.
  • The 17 year old has announced that maybe he'll go to University 2000 miles away next year instead of at our local University. (So, when I could be sleeping, I can't!)

So, yeah, I'd rather deal with the teething and the bossing this week, but next week, who knows, the teenagers may be sorted out by then.

I do agree however, that you need to set clear, age appropriate limits on kids. My older boys may be driving me nuts, and I know I don't know everything that's going on in their lives, but I can trust them, and if one of them was ever in real trouble, they know they can trust me to help them deal with it.


answered 20 Jan '10, 07:45

Neen's gravatar image

accept rate: 30%

edited 20 Jan '10, 11:33

Scott's gravatar image

Scott ♦♦

I think that you ask such a "uniquely individual question", that each answer will be right in its own unique sense. I agree both with Benjol about it getting harder as they get older and also with mkcoehoorn and her points on upbringing.

Here is my own opinion on what why I think its impossible to give an age where we can parent effectively;

Unlike a driving exam that you study for, pass a get a license/drivers permit to prove that you have passed and are safe to go on the road... you do not get a permit to be a parent. You just become one, and join the highway...

I believe that parenting is hard from day one. Demanding but equally rewarding and fulfilling. As the demands increase so do the rewards.. and you evolve as well becoming more experienced more seasoned and better equipped mentally and emotionally to deal with things.

So as we get more experienced we will be able to deal with challenges more easily, but always remembering and reminiscing about how easier things were as opposed to the current state you may be in.


answered 12 Jan '10, 19:19

Emi's gravatar image

accept rate: 19%

edited 12 Jan '10, 19:51

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Asked: 12 Jan '10, 14:03

Seen: 7,686 times

Last updated: 20 Jan '10, 11:33