Why adults need to stop saying children are 'mature for their age'

‘It’s a red flag’: Why adults need to stop complimenting children as being ‘mature for their age’ NOW

  • A psychologist has warned parents to note if their child acts ‘mature of their age’
  • Briony Leo said maturity levels can arise from personality traits and birth order
  • But in other cases it can be a ‘red flag’ of ‘excessive responsibility’ and concern
  • Children who also grow up too fast may face challenges later in life  

An Australian psychologist has warned parents to take note if their children act ‘mature for their age’, as this can be an indication of external pressure influencing their behavioural choices. 

Briony Leo, Psychologist and Head of Coaching at Relationship Self Care app Relish, told Daily Mail Australia a number of factors must be considered first before deeming the maturity level to be a ‘red flag’.

While high maturity levels can arise from personality traits and birth order, in some cases this can signify a child who might be taking ‘excessive responsibility’ about practical scenarios. 

Children who also grow up too fast may face challenges later in adolescent and adulthood years.  

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Briony Leo, Psychologist and Head of Coaching at Relationship Self Care app Relish , told Daily Mail Australia parents to take note if their children act ‘mature for their age’ 

How is it a red flag if children act ‘mature for their age?’

Ms Leo said how in most cases it isn’t necessarily a red flag if children seem mature compared to others their age, as factors including personality, birth order and cognitive ability come in to play.

But maturity levels could be a red flag if the child is worrying excessively about practical considerations or taking on excessive responsibility.

‘This might indicate that they have become “parentified” and have needed to take on responsibilities at a young age, as their parents haven’t been able to do this,’ she said.

Children can become ‘parentified’ if the adults in their lives are not able to cope with their responsibilities due to mental or physical illness, addiction or personality issues.

‘That said, some children will do this regardless of their parenting – sometimes children can be very sensitive to the environment around them, and can respond to environmental stressors by worrying and working hard to manage a situation that is out of their control,’ she said.

Ms Leo said how this could be a sign of behavioural problems occurring at home or school that’s impacting the child’s development and emotional health.

Mental Health activist Zachery Dereniowski also shared a TikTok video with Fabio Tischler outlining the topic to thousands online.

How does this impact the child?

Children who become ‘parentified’ have a tendency to miss out on aspects of their childhood because they were placed in a ‘caregiver role’ and don’t have the opportunity to experience ‘the normal developmental process of adolescence and young adulthood’.

Ms Leo said issues may arise later in life from children who have fallen subject to being ‘parentified’.

‘A person might find themselves struggling to have adult relationships, or to move away from the role of the caregiver or to articulate their own needs or be ‘selfish’ and take their own path in life,’ she said.

How do issues that arise in childhood impact adulthood? 

Problems with parents in adulthood – feelings of anxiety and anger at how things were and how to navigate relationship now (might still be a caregiving relationship with emotional enmeshment or guilt)

Problems at work – taking on too much responsibility and facing burnout and being taken advantage of

Problems with parenting as they have not had the optimal experience of being parented, and have strong emotional reactions to childhood milestones or situations

Relationship issues – it can be hard to assert themselves or speak up for their needs – can feel taken advantage of or put themselves in a situation of being exploited 

Substance use as a way to deal with stress and anxiety – bringing more feelings of guilt

What should parents do?

Ms Leo said it’s important for parents to be open and transparent with their child’s emotional reactions and how they deal with different situations.

‘Make sure your child has the opportunity to share with you safely how they are feeling, their concerns, anything that is going on for them,’ she said.

‘This might mean you spend time as they go to bed talking about their day, or in the car on the way home from school.’

This will ensure the parent is aware of any changes taking place and avoid confusing or traumatic experiences.

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