Immature Behaviors

The immature child has not developed behaviorally, psychologically, intellectually, or socially according to some accepted standard. Most usual is the criterion of "average" as defined by peers and adults. Therefore, if a child shows a lag in any area of development, he or she may be labeled as "immature." The behavior is viewed as being more characteristic of the behavior of a younger child. Many children develop unevenly. They may be very mature in one area and very immature in another. For example, a child might be very neat, organized, and sow great self-control in school. Yet at home she might be overly dependent, messy, and complaining. A frequent problem is that parents may label children as immature, when in fact they are as mature as other children of that age but do not meet the parents' personal expectations. Also, children may be relatively mature and occasionally regress under some form of stress to more childish behavior. A significant point is that the more infantile behavior such as whining or complaining usually ceases when the stress is over. Criticism of the immature reaction usually serves to intensify the problem. Emotional support and encouragement enables the child to weather the storm, give up the babyish behavior, and resume her usual relatively more effective way of coping.

Therefore, a parent complaining that a child is immature has to say how that child behaves. If a child clowns, daydreams, and uses tome poorly, then those three immature behaviors may be dealt with. Otherwise, parents wind up using general approaches which are often ineffective in changing behavior. The behaviors covered are:

1. Hyperactive
2. Impulsive
3. Short-attention-span-distracted
4. Silly-clowning
5. Daydreaming
6. Messy-sloppy
7. Time-used-poorly
8. Selfish-self-centered
9. Overdependent and Whining-Complaining

These behaviors are often seen as indicators of an inability of the child to cope with the demands of a variety of situations. The demands or expectations of peers and adults for a child to act maturely or age-appropriately are often not met by a large number of children. Coping more adequately leads others to be more satisfied with a child's behavior and leads to the child feeling more self-satisfied or having a better "self-image". Overcoming specific problems paves the way for achieving more self-confidence, independence, and satisfying social relationships.

It is worth noting some general ideas about emotional maturity. Mature children are relatively flexible and respond rather to some degree, rather than all or none. They are able to delay their reaction rather than have to act immediately. Their ability to tolerate tension should gradually increase. By school age, they should be able to tolerate and handle minor everyday stress without exploding or falling to pieces. Promoting maturity and preventing immature behavior may be accomplished by the following (see the individual sections for specific details). Teach children how to focus their attention, solve problems, delay gratification, effectively use their time, accept responsibility, and give and get attention. Socially, you model and encourage concern, consideration, and sensitivity to others. Each day, children should feel relatively competent, self-accepting, and have a sense of personal satisfaction.

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