Emotional maturity doesn’t come easy, and it’s something a lot of us struggle with for years. Maturity is more than just a matter of age. It’s about knowing how to take criticism and being self-aware; having a strong sense of self-worth; being able to empathize with others; letting your head rule your heart; and maintaining a sense of peace and control over your life, no matter how much things change or what hardships you face (Dean, 1966).
It’s about understanding that while you may not be able to control every situation and its outcome, you can control your attitude and the way you deal with it. Having emotional maturity speaks volumes about your character as a person and goes a long way in strengthening your relationships with others. But it’s a difficult quality to grasp and even more difficult to practice when you don’t have any good role models to learn it from.
Having emotionally immature parents can harm us in a lot of ways, as it can teach us all the wrong things about love, identity, self-esteem, and relationships. Many of us may even end up following in their footsteps and adopting the very same unhealthy behaviors we see in them. With that said, if you suspect your parents may lack emotional maturity, here are 7 warning signs to look out for:
1. They‘re insensitive to your feelings
Instead of being considerate and empathetic like all parents should aspire to be, your parents don’t seem to care about your feelings at all. They have a hard time understanding you and seeing things from your point of view because they’re so preoccupied with themselves. They don’t think about how their actions might affect you or how their words might make you feel. They never ask you if you’re okay with their decisions or how it makes you feel. They just expect you to be grateful and go along with everything they want because it’s “for your own good” and “you’ll thank them someday.”
2. They take their problems out on you
Your parents aren’t in control of their emotions and they end up taking a lot of their anger and frustration out on you. They’re defensive, easily flustered, quick to get upset, and lose their temper a lot. They don’t know how to keep their feelings in check, so when they’re in a bad mood, you just know you’re going to get in trouble for every little thing you do wrong.
You walk on eggshells around them when they seem like they’re having a bad day and you hide things from them because you’re afraid it’ll upset them. But parents who are emotionally mature know how to control their feelings rather than letting it control them. They’re calm, rational, and level-headed (Kumar, 2014).
3. They demand too much from you
Gratitude is an integral part of emotional maturity, so if your parents make you feel like nothing you do will ever be enough for them, then that’s a clear sign that this is something they’re lacking. They’re always demanding more from you, setting impossible goals for you, and then making you feel guilty for failing to live up to their unrealistically high expectations.
They say that it’s “all for your own good” and that they “just want to see you succeed”, but the truth is, parents who are emotionally mature understand that it’s the effort and not the outcome that matters most. And they don’t need their child to be the smartest, prettiest, most athletic, most popular or most accomplished person in town to make them feel like they’re loved (Klever, 2009).
4. They’re quick to point fingers
Do you feel like your parents blame you for everything? Do they not know how to say sorry when they hurt you? Or own up to the mistakes they’ve made? People don’t really grow up unless they learn how to take responsibility for their actions and hold themselves accountable for the choices they’ve made. So if your parents are emotionally immature, they will try to pin the blame on others whenever something goes wrong. You will never hear them say “It’s my fault” or “I know I made a mistake” because in their eyes, they can do no wrong.
5. They’re not aware of their own flaws
Nobody’s perfect and nobody has all the answers in life. But your parents seem to think that just because they’re your parents, they’re always right and you should always listen to them. They’re judgmental, close-minded, and unaware of their own shortcomings. They can’t accept that, sometimes, you might know what’s best for you more than they do.
They’re so blinded by their pride and their ego that they want you to stay unquestioningly obedient and loyal. They don’t have the emotional maturity to see that they could be wrong from time to time or that they don’t know everything. And because of this, they instill a lot of self-doubt and feelings of dependency on their own children, making them think that speaking up or standing up for themselves is wrong (Strayer & Roberts, 2004).
6. They’re too controlling of you
Your parents have a tendency to be rigid, stubborn, and overbearing. They have their own values and ideals that they expect you to live by, too. They don’t allow you to disagree with the choices they’ve made, question their judgment, or have opinions that clash with theirs. They don’t respect differences and want you to be a certain way just to please them. Because of this, you grew up feeling like your self-esteem was dependent on their approval of you and that you had to hide certain aspects of who you are for fear that they would reject you. They’re unwilling to compromise or be open to your ideas, and it’s caused you to put their emotional needs above your own (Apter, 2001).
7. They have a low stress tolerance
Finally, a lot of us would argue that the true mark of emotional maturity is a person’s willingness to be flexible and adapt to their situation. But if your parents have a low stress tolerance, they’re likely to be rigid and overbearing. They don’t cope well when their plans fall apart or when things don’t always go the way they expect (Naik & Saimons, 2014).
They can’t accept it when you want something for yourself that’s different from what they wanted for you, and they get upset over things they can’t control. They don’t want you growing up too fast or having too much independence. They want you to stay that same helpless little child who needs to be taken care of by their mom and dad because they don’t know how to deal with change or uncertainty.
Every child deserves a parent who’s caring, attentive, loving, and emotionally mature. Emotionally mature parents are dependable, supportive, warm, open, respectful, and empathetic. They accept their children for who they are, value their individuality, allow them to be their own person, and free them from the burden of having to carry their problems. And while it certainly seems impossible to ever have a parent as perfect as that, what matters most is that they are striving to be emotionally mature and that they care about you enough to want to be a better person.
- Kumar, S. (2014). Emotional maturity of adolescent students in relation to their family relationship. International Research Journal of Social Sciences, 3(3), 6-8.
- Klever, P. (2009). Goal direction and effectiveness, emotional maturity, and nuclear family functioning. Journal of marital and family therapy, 35(3), 308-324.
- Strayer, J., & Roberts, W. (2004). Children’s anger, emotional expressiveness, and empathy: Relations with parents’ empathy, emotional expressiveness, and parenting practices. Social development, 13(2), 229-254.
- Apter, T. E. (2001). The myth of maturity: What teenagers need from parents to become adults. WW Norton & Company.
- Naik, P. K., & Saimons, S. K. (2014). Effect of parenting on emotional and social maturity among adolescents. European Academic Research, 2(3), 4065-4083.
- Dean, D. G. (1966). Emotional maturity and marital adjustment. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 454-457.