The differences are subtle, but you can see them if you kind of squint your eyes and look really hard.
Humor Parenting SPM/MM

How to Tell the Difference Between a Teenager and a Threenager

The differences are subtle, but you can see them if you kind of squint your eyes and look really hard.

By Jill Morgenstern of Do Try This at Home

Threenagers have demanded, sassed, whined and even eye-rolled themselves into the spotlight all over the internet, not to mention in their own families and homes. It’s true that the comparison to teenagers can be convincing. So how do unsuspecting adults know whether they’re dealing with a teen or a threen?

Teenagers are obviously taller, but it can be quite confusing if you happen upon a child slumped over their natural electronics. If you’re still in doubt even after measuring in inches or centimeters, try one of these sure fire ways to figure it out:

1. TV shows: A teenager’s television shows are gorier. Take a look at the TV. Are there zombies? The child in question is probably a full-fledged teenager.

2) Family secrets: Has mom had a recent gynecologist exam? You’ll know within seconds of meeting a threenager as enough personal information falls from their mouths to rival Niagara Falls. On the other hand, if it’s easier to break into a bank than find out what the child had for lunch, you’re dealing with a tried and true teenager.

3) Speech patterns: Threens tend to try very hard at good pronunciation but will still lack the ability to pronounce certain letters and blends, most notoriously the letter R. Teens, on the other hand, have the ability to pronounce all letters but are more likely, when they are willing to speak at all, to drop entire syllables and words, such as turning “frozen yogurt” into “froyo.”

4) Bedtime routines: Bedtime is a surefire way to sort the teens from the threens. If the child delays bedtime by as many hours as possible and wakes the very first second that can be considered morning, you have come across a threenager. If the child resembles a hibernating bear, you have met a teen.

5) Behavior: Threenagers have yet to perfect lying and sneakiness. Does the child in question say things like like, “Let’s go use permanent paint where Mama can’t see” and “Daddy says I can’t eat on the couch. Will you let me eat on the couch?” If so, you have probably encountered a threen.

6) Bribery: Try offering a bribe. If the child responds to a bribe of money or electronics, this child is most likely a teen. If the child seems confused by the idea of a bribe or will only respond to candy bribes, you have encountered a threenager.

7) Calendar expertise: Ask about a date in the future. The child who understands the term “a week from Tuesday” is a teen. Teenagers understand the calendar and are particularly adept at leaving things until the last possible moment. If the child in question answers, “Is today tomorrow?” you are likely speaking to a threenager.

8) Music: Ask what music they are listening to. If it is so repetitive that you first think the CD is skipping, the child in question is a threenager. Same thing if the song has anything to do with bodily functions. Songs that mention the word “potty” are a dead giveaway.

9) Games: Try a game of hide and seek. A teenager will take you up on it right away and is quite good at hiding for hours at a time. If the child announces, “I’m under the BLANKET!” the moment you call, “Ready or not, here I come!” mark this child as a threen.

I hope this guide has been of some help. It is not always necessary to tell the difference between a teenager and a threenager, especially if you do not know the family well. But it can be extremely useful when determining whether you should discuss college entrance or preschool plans with the person in question. So there’s always that.

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About the Author

Jill Morgenstern is a wife, mother, and teacher. She has four kids ages 27 to three, 13 years of teaching experience, and a Master’s Degree in Teaching Reading, yet reserves the right to be wrong about everything. She writes about food, family, and the ridiculous at Do Try This at Home. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.