Coaching The Emotionally Immature Middle Schooler

A parent writes: Our 12-year-old son is too immature to receive the privileges and freedoms of most kids his age. But he keeps asking and we want to coach him to where he needs to be.

One of the puzzles of parenting comes delivered in the form of the middle-school-aged child who protests for more privileges and freedom but whose immaturity doesn't warrant increased independence. Evidence abounds of their inability to manage stress and adapt to age-appropriate expectations. Accepting events outside of their control, asking for help when needed, or planning ahead to ensure responsibilities are satisfied are some of the typical ways that parents hope they will respond but they often fall short. Their immaturity creates much parent-child conflict as they watch same-aged peers enjoy the fruits of being "older kids" and they are denied passage due to protracted emotional immaturity.

If this describes your child here are some coaching tips for consideration:

Begin with an honest discussion of your concerns and their frustrations. Speak in a straightforward manner about your wish to have more confidence in their decision-making and emotional self -management. Emphasize your awareness of the gap between what many of their peers are allowed and what freedoms they are permitted. Provide specific examples of how they have fallen short when certain "maturity tests" have been placed before them. Help them understand how so many events "count" in a parent's mind when they must determine if a child is mature enough for a certain privilege or responsibility. Emphasize how what seems to be unrelated to maturity in their mind is directly related in a parent's mind.

Consider if you are holding them back for your own reasons. Some parents loathe to let go of their child's dependence upon them, and children might play right along with this implicit deal of delaying maturity as an expression of loyalty. In other cases, the child may wrongly interpret a parent's behavior as favoring their dependency and immaturity. Such children may demonstrate age-appropriate maturity in the presence=2 0of other caretakers, such as grandparents and other relatives, but regularly regress when a parent is present. If this profile fits your child, be sure to sensitively bring it to their attention during the above discussion. Clarify the reality of your hopes for them.

Insert the concept of maturity tests into the family lexicon. One way emotional maturity progresses is when children learn to use constructive language to self-monitor, self-control, and appropriately express themselves to others. Parents can assist by offering the more mature language that fits the situation when the child does not have it available. Suggest that they could have said, "It's frustrating when you make errand stops," rather than have a manipulative temper tantrum in the car. Similarly, if you observe your child behaving in an immature fashion with a sibling or friend, privately discuss it later while emphasizing the language that could have helped them maturely handle the earlier interaction.

When the time seems right, offer ample opportunity for them to take steps toward being a bigger kid. When your immature child begins to show greater maturity be prepared to respond . Parents must support their efforts and not just wait for the child to bring up an earlier request again. Children tend to beam with pride when they are offered the elusive privilege rather than simply granted a request. Movement in the maturity direction tends to improve many aspects of family life, and parents can make note of those progressive changes when they come up for discussion. This helps "cement" changes for the better.

APA Reference
Richfield, S. (2019, August 19). Coaching The Emotionally Immature Middle Schooler, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 14 from

Last Updated: August 19, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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