Tim Elmore wrote an article in Psychology Today in November of 2012, in which he outlines the “marks” of maturity: 1) is able to keep long-term commitments, 2) is unshaken by flattery or criticism, 3) possesses a spirit of humility, 4) makes decisions based on character, not feelings, 5) expresses gratitude consistently, 6) knows how to prioritize others before self, and 7) seeks wisdom before acting. Great! I’m almost mature! (My parents are saying, “About time!)
The definition of “mature” is much more attainable: fully-developed physically, full grown. Now that I can achieve. I am definitely mature by definition! When talking “marks of maturity,” I’m making good progress, but I’m not there yet.
Maturity is such a subjective idea. What might be considered immature by some might only be fun to others. Since I work with teens, I will address what each of the marks of maturity look like in your teen.
Able to keep long-term commitments: your teen reaches maturity in this area when he realizes that a commitment to running club means running throughout the seasons (i.e., in 100+° weather and in 20°weather). If your teen can keep a commitment for the length agreed upon, he is probably meeting this mark.
Unshaken by flattery or criticism: Okay, all of us are shaken by flattery or criticism. This refers to the making of decisions based upon that flattery or criticism. Your child is mature when he does develop a crush on every girl who compliments him and want to beat up (or cry) over every criticism. When he recognizes that others’ opinions are just that – opinions, then he has met this mark.
Possesses a spirit of humility: I have very few students who have reached this mark. Humility recognizes that she might have more talent than another, but the teacher is wise in decision-making and must have a purpose intended for the student chosen instead of her. Humility doesn’t demand his own way but gives way to the needs of others.
Makes decisions based upon character, not feelings: This mark is so hard to attain. We are not taught to deny our feelings often. The problem with feelings is that they are often based upon assumptions. To be mature, one has to weigh what we are feeling against what we know about that person’s character to make wise decisions. This is one with which I wrestle every day.
Expresses gratitude consistently: Again, there are many kids who will say “thank you” when a door is held open for them; there are not many who send thank you cards for gifts or awards that were purchased or even for a fun afternoon of activity. I don’t blame the teen, though. Gratitude is taught. Sometimes we have to show people the hard work, time and money that went into an activity. People don’t naturally seek the “behind the scenes” look. This is why mommies across the world start telling their kids to say “thank you” before junior can even say, “Da-da.”
Knows how to prioritize others before self: This mark is another work-in-progress for me. I know how to put others before myself; after all, I am a mother. What I’m still working on is not sounding like a victim when I do so! I think, for a teen, this look like “not always having to get his way.” Just being able to accept another’s idea when it’s up against your own is truly difficult. Any teen who can do so is definitely mature in my book!
Seeks wisdom before acting: This is another tough one. It’s easier to react than to act, and acting takes a conscious effort. If your child asks you what he should do before he acts, then I’d say he has reached this mark. That wisdom coming from one’s own experiences will take a lifetime to build, so for now, relying on a parent’s wisdom is a good second.
One last thought before I leave the idea of maturity. I always shake my head when a parent tells me that it’s okay for his/her child to watch Rated-R movies because he/she is very mature. I don’t care how maturely your child behaves, your child’s brain is not ready for the concepts presented in Rated R movies until the age appropriate for that movie. When kids watch images they are not mentally mature enough to grasp, they develop some pretty weird ideas and explanations in their minds. If you’re going to be their “friend” and let them watch those movies early, at least take the time to sit down and help them process every one of the scenes that might have content they don’t understand yet. If you find yourself blushing, maybe you’re guilty of not possessing maturity mark #7 above.