How to Handle Immaturity in Teenagers

As the parent of a teenager, you might struggle when you witness behaviors and actions that seem to belie your teen’s size and age. It’s common for adults to give teenagers a pass when they exhibit immature behavior. Conventional wisdom and popular beliefs tell parents that teens need further brain development to make smarter decisions. While there might be some basis to these theories, there’s nothing wrong with raising the bar to encourage your teen to conduct himself maturely.

Define your expectations for your teen so he knows what behavior you will tolerate and what behavior you will not tolerate. For example, you might insist that your teen speaks respectfully and politely, listens attentively and behaves responsibly with regard to house rules such as curfew, electronics, school and chores.

Talk with your teen frankly about immaturity so you have an understanding. While it’s fine to fool around and have fun sometimes, there is a time and place for this behavior. Tell your teenager that you expect him to always conduct himself responsibly and lawfully as he prepares for adulthood.

Call out immaturity when you see or hear it to help your teenager understand your expectations. For example, if you notice your teenager acting irresponsibly regarding a school assignment, breaking a commitment or talking disrespectfully about someone, call attention to the behavior and correct him.

Provide an example of maturity for your teenager to follow 1. Act responsibly in your affairs, paying bills, following laws, treating others respectfully, and manage the details of your life with care and attention.

Praise your child when you notice mature responses and behavior. When your teenager takes the initiative and performs extra chores, keeps his curfew, treats others respectfully or stays caught up on all school assignments, notice these major signs of maturity and tell him you’re proud of him. Positive reinforcement of the behavior you want is an effective way to motivate and encourage adolescents to try harder to meet your expectations.


Researcher and writer Robert Epstein, author of “The Myth of the Teen Brain,” asserts that society and the media have contributed to lower expectations for teenagers, which places fewer expectations on them for behaving maturely. By expecting your teen to behave maturely, he is likely to rise to the occasion. Studies of the brain through MRI can help determine how a person thinks. The Psychology Today website indicates that brains contain both white matter (neuron connections) and gray matter (unconnected neurons). As a teenager gets older, the gray matter portions of the brain diminish and white matter becomes more prevalent, indicating the brain becomes better organized as the child gets older. Even with information about brain development during adolescence, the Psychology Today website asserts that it is not possible to apply generalities about brain development to every teenager to explain or excuse immature behavior.