The teen, half-child, half-adult, still needs much guidance from his parents.

How to Handle Immaturity in Teenagers

by Damon Verial

All parents will witness acts of maturity in their teens at some time; immature actions are just part of how teens’ brains are wired. Nevertheless, the majority of the teen brain is wired just as it is in adults, meaning that parents can communicate effectively to their children on how to more maturely handle problematic situations. The first step to helping your teen mature is understanding the root of immaturity. Once you’ve handled that topic, you can engage your teen in conversations to lead her in a more adult-like direction.

1 Accept and understand the cause of teen immaturity. Realize that teen immaturity comes from an adult-like brain with a child-like decision-making mechanism. In other words, as medical health officer Dr. Paul Martiquet puts it in his article “The Teenage Brain,” your teen has adult needs but often uses childish methods to satisfy them. Know that this immaturity is therefore not intentional but a side effect of not knowing how to get what she wants.

2 Help your teen set goals and make responsible decisions. Walk your teen through the adult thought process of deciding on what she wants and figuring out how to get it. A teen skipping school to practice with his rock band, for example, might have the goal of gaining fame as a musician, yet he is hurting himself academically to achieve his goal. Sit him down for a talk and elicit. Listen with a nonjudgmental mindset. Summarize what he has said, emphasizing his goals. From there, brainstorm with him to discover more mature ways of reaching his goals.

3 Consent with your teen’s harmless identity changes. Avoid emotionally reacting to your teen’s spontaneous and strange personality, dress or attitude changes. In many cases, she is roleplaying or experimenting with new identities. As teens have a natural need for self-discovery, they will commonly try out new “senses of self” to see what fits them best. A teen might dress like a punk one day and wear a three-piece suit the next. Avoid responding to some of these harmless changes negatively, as to the teen this shows a lack of respect for “his true self.” As Michael Riera, counselor and psychologist, writes in his book “Uncommon Sense for Parents with Teenagers,” much of the changes teens make on their own are superficial and not the concern of parents. When teens have a serious issue to take care of with, they will usually bring it up with their parents

4 Teach your teen to take control of his emotions. Counter emotional outbursts with bringing up the fact that your teen is reacting to her emotions without thought. Explain to her that she has the choice to misbehave in response to emotions but that regulating her emotions and rethinking her actions would benefit her in most situations. As psychologist John Gottman wrote in his book “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child,” parents who help their teens recognize their emotions and how those emotions drive them to act are more likely to end up with responsible adults as children. Teens with emotional intelligence skills can better control their immature impulses and solve their problems through communication, as opposed to less mature strategies such as violence or stonewalling.

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