Being told to ‘act your age’ is something you hear a lot. It's when an adult is told to ‘grow up’ or someone is told to ‘stop acting like a four-year-old.’ It's when a child is told to ‘be a proper child’ or to ‘stop being so mature.’ But why is acting your age such a big deal?
When you're told to act your age, the actual definition of that is ‘to behave in a manner appropriate to someone of one's age and not to someone younger or older.’ There is a lot of societal pressure on people to act how they have seen other people their age act. It can be difficult to understand why someone may not be acting as mature as perhaps they should be, or why a child is mature and wise beyond their years. No-one should be treated differently just because they’re maybe typically not acting the way you have seen others act.
There are many reasons why someone may act in a childlike state or seem more mature than their age. Reasons for reverting back to childhood could relate to serious traumatic events where they revert back to acting like a child as a form of defence and protection, or it could be something simple and silly like their sense of humour is childlike or they just find it fun. As for why a child could mature quicker, it could be down to biological factors. Everyone is different and different people mature at different rates and stages. It is thought that girls typically mature quicker than boys, and even then there are girls that may seem less mature than boys. It constantly depends on the person. It could also be that they’ve had to ‘grow up quicker’ because of an event in their childhood that has meant they’ve had to deal with it maturely and like a grown-up, such as a death in the family.
I was always told as a child by my godmother that I wasn’t a normal child. One thing I vividly remember is going to visit her niece when I was 12 years old and she said to me that her niece was ‘a proper 12-year-old, not like me.’ She didn’t mean anything nasty by that, she just meant that I was more mature than you’d expect a 12-year-old to typically be. My parents told me that I’d had to grow up quickly because I’d lost my grandfather at age 3, my uncle at age 5 and then my grandmother at age 11 - I’d had to deal with more than you’d expect a 12-year-old to deal with and I do believe to this day that I’d forced myself to mature quicker as a coping mechanism to deal with these deaths.
Not acting your age isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless caused by trauma. If you’ve been through a traumatic event, you may find it helpful to go to a professional therapist in order to work through this trauma and work through your feelings so that you can heal. Otherwise, not acting your age isn’t necessarily a bad thing in most situations. In some situations, it can be perceived as insensitive and therefore you need to have the capacity to gauge when it’s okay to be immature compared to when a situation calls for a bit more respect and thought.
The following are some examples of when you need to put the aspects of your childlike personality to one side and act your age.
Like I say, it's okay to act mature or even immature sometimes. Just make sure you evaluate the situation first to ensure it is appropriate and to make sure that you won't ruin something for someone else.
Teenagers With Experience is an organisation created to provide teenagers worldwide with an online platform to share their own experiences to be able to help, inform and educate others on a variety of different topics. We aim to provide a safe space to all young people. You can contact us via email, social media or our contact form found on our home page.