Kids bloom at such different rates and in a variety of ways. But are there certain signs of emotional maturity in teens we should be on the look out for in our tweens and teens? And how do we cultivate emotional maturity if we think our teenagers are lacking in certain areas?
Before we jump into characteristics of emotional maturity in teens, let’s come up with a workable definition!
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Definition of Emotional Maturity
Emotional maturity is being able to think through a situation and choose how to handle it in the best way possible. A person who is emotionally mature is in control of their emotions. They recognize what they are feeling and choose how to react in a way that provides the best outcome. Emotional maturity is a recognition of self but also an awareness of others.
8 Must Have Signs of Emotional Maturity in Teens
Teenagers are not adults. I think we can all agree on that. Yes and Amen! Their brains are still not fully developed and they are going to make poor decisions at times.
But nothing magical happens when a teen turns 18 or 20. So naturally, as parents, we should not wait til our teen is 18 to expect some emotional maturity. We can begin to cultivate emotional maturity when they are young.
Then by time our teenagers traverse the teenage years into adulthood, we will hopefully see emotional maturity began to blossom.
Mature Teens are Able to Delay Gratification
We all want what we want and preferably now! But most of the time life isn’t going to happen exactly how we want. So we have a choice. We can either force it to happen by taking a substitute or by cheating, OR we learn to delay gratification by waiting.
A sign of emotional maturity in teens is the ability to wait for what they want.
This may include waiting to drive until they have a license, saving money up for a big purchase or saying no to dating someone that may be popular but not healthy.
Make sure in your home to reward delaying gratification. Point out how proud you are of your teen for making a wise choice to wait. If your tween is saving for a big ticket item, perhaps you can offer to match their money (or a portion) after you see them put in some effort!
Is Your Family Healthy? Check for these 10 Signs of Emotionally Healthy Families!
Taking Responsibility for What Needs to be Done
Ideally by time our kids are in the teen years, they are no longer waiting for someone to tell them what needs to be done. We want our kids to be able to self-direct and have the motivation to take on a task without someone telling them to do it.
While some kids are naturally leaders, all kids can display this quality. I know when we hire help around the farm a few kids will just jump in without being asked. Others will hang back. It can be hard to tell if they are just hesitant and inexperienced or they don’t like to work too hard.
If you have a kid that is more cautious (I can relate, as I often hesitate), you may need to encourage them. Instruct your teen to watch others, ask questions as to how they can help next or follow an adult that is already working.
Emotionally Mature Teenagers Think of Others
Teenagers that are emotionally mature are able to consider others’ feelings. They are aware of the mood in the house or how a friend is doing.
Again some kids are naturally wired to be more emotionally attuned to others. But we can still teach all our kids to care for other’s feelings. We can ask them how they think their friend is feeling, share some of what we are thinking about lately or encourage them to send a text to check on a friend.
Emotionally Mature Adolescents Take Responsibility for Their Feelings
On the flip side of being able to think of others, is the ability to consider their own feelings. While I am always pleased when I see my kids thinking of others, I want them to be able to take into consideration their own emotions. What do they want? How are they feeling.
Remember while we want our kids to verbalize and take responsibility for their feelings this does not mean trying to control others.
In my work in the domestic violence field, I have learned that domestic violence isn’t just something adults struggle with. Teens can manifest signs of this in teen relationships.
So if you notice your teen trying to change their girlfriend or boyfriend’s behavior by intimidating, “punishing” or saying it will help them be “less jealous”, pay attention. This is NOT healthy!
Develop Self Coping Skills is a Characteristic of Emotional Maturity
We all need to develop healthy coping skills. Healthy coping skills is the ability to calm oneself. Work with your tweens and teens to identify areas in their life that cause them stress, anxiety or fear.
Then develop a few strategies that relieve and calm them.
As they get older, teens ideally began to notice triggers in their lives and can work to manage things that stress them. But we may need to gently point out triggers or cycles that we notice our teens going through as this may take a while to identify.
Emotional Mature Teens Realize Their Action Have Consequences
Allowing our kids to experience natural consequences is one of the best things we can do for them AND for the peace of our household. The sooner kids learn that their actions have consequences (positive and negative) the better.
We will know if our teen has this sign of maturity if they are able to control their behavior or they pick and choose what to do and NOT to do based on the consequences that may occur.
But some teens aren’t worried about consequences because they have never truly had to clean up their own mess.
For example, if your teen has no concern over driving too fast and recklessly or spending too much money on “for fun” items then they are probably not concerned about consequences. Start allowing your teen to face the consequences of their behaviors.
Need some creative consequences? Check out Mom’s Best List of Consequences!
If you have a teen that seems to love high risk situations, find healthy outlets! Involve them in sports, entrepreneurial adventures or ROTC that will channel their desire to push themselves and test the limits!
Mature Teenagers Deal with Conflict
Years ago, I had a co-worker that I believe would be defined as a narcissist. I once questioned them on something and they turned it around on me so fast my head was spinning. In that instance, I was wrong in what I was thinking, and I just needed someone to explain it to me. But the co-worker made it into a personal attack.
And I was soon to learn that if they were EVER questioned, they would launch back with a full scale nuclear attack. There was no reasoning with them.
While no one likes conflict or to feel criticized, it is a part of life. We want our kids to be able to have others give them feedback or share a different opinion without escalating it and making it more personal then it is.
We can encourage this in our homes by listening to each other’s opinion. Model disagreeing with other’s beliefs without devaluing them as person. It is definitely a lost art to see others as people first.
I found Brene Brown’s book, Braving the Wilderness, a good challenge to some of my actions and thoughts in this area of dealing with conflict. In her book, Braving the Wilderness, she encourages us to step closer to one another and the human experience even as our world becomes increasingly segregated into a “us against them mentality”.
While I think it is important to pass along values and beliefs to our children, I don’t want to ever pass along the idea that we can’t care for others despite a difference of opinion or belief.
Teachablility is a Sign of Emotional Maturity
We want our teens to be confident in themselves, but we also want them to be teachable. By teachable, I mean our teenagers are able to recognize when they don’t know how to do something and to ask for help.
If someone offers our teen a better way of doing something, they are willing to hear the person’s ideas BEFORE deciding if they agree or disagree.
From this mom’s perspective it seems like teens may take a dip in being teachable from 17-20 years of age.
I’ve witnessed this lack of teachability in our own as well as some teens with which I am close. But while they may not want to listen to their parents, you hopefully will continue to see them listen to other mentors.
This can be painful to notice your teen take their questions to others, but it can also be healthy as they need to push away a bit to become more independent. As long as our teens are finding other healthy mentors, we can relax a little.
As our society praises youth as the end all, life experience and maturity can almost be frowned upon. Teach your kids the value of learning from others, to be respectful of adults (even if they disagree) and to learn to ask great questions.
8 Must Have Signs of Emotional Maturity in Teens
To recap if you skim read like me! Here 8 signs we want to see in our kids:
- Able to Delay Gratification
- Take Responsibility for What Needs to be Done
- Care for the Feelings of Others
- Expressive and Responsible for their Own Feelings
- Healthy Coping Skills
- Recognize that Decisions have Consequences
- Deal with Conflict Well
So what signs of emotional maturity are you seeing in your teen? Have you identified an area that you would like to work on with your teenagers? Any areas that I left out that you think should be added to the list? Comment and share below:)
Bri Adams says
I love this list! It gives me something to work towards as I parent my kiddos and my 9 year old. She’s able to do some of these things already and I know that I’d love for her to start doing more of them with my help so she’s up and running when she heads off to college.
Bri, Yes, it is so much easier if you are able to start when they are younger! That is wonderful that you are already seeing that growth in your tween. I’m so glad you found the list helpful. Thank you so much for commenting and sharing:)
Heather bee says
Thanks for all the time and thought you put into these posts! They always contain such valuable advice, even for those of us who have “kids” past the teen years. I especially like how you included caring for the feelings of others, which doesn’t always come naturally for some. Being socially aware and acting appropriately is so important!
Funke Ransome-Kuti says
I’m a Teen’s coach, some of the things I teach are well spelt out here. Thank you for doing a great job.
Heather Bishop says
How many times have I said to my teenagers, “You are not mature enough for X, Y or Z!”
While I can point out examples of when they have demonstrated maturity, it’s much easier to point out examples of when they missed the mark. Either way, there’s more to it than trying to replicate a scenario or trying not to repeat one.
So we had a conversation on the way to school this morning about what exactly does it mean to be mature. This article was very helpful. It’s not a color-by-number picture, rather a concept, an ever-evolving work of art, where the strokes can be microscopic and easily missed until you’re able to step back and see the big picture.
What an incredible responsibility and opportunity raising human beings!
And you know what? These concepts don’t just apply to teenagers. After I dropped them off at school and made my way to the office this morning, it gave me time to think about how I am demonstrating maturity myself.
Just as with our kids, every day presents an opportunity to learn and grow and make gains. It starts with us.
Heather, I struggle with this too. I can get so focused on what needs to change in my kids or myself that I forget to celebrate the wins. And you are right it is so important to stop and see all that our teens have learned and the ways they have grown! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!