The Childish Habits You Need to Break

Jon Hawkins

Can you recognize these counterproductive tendencies?

If you were emotionally immature, or intellectually irrational, would you even realize?

We rarely hold children accountable for their actions. With their lack of life experience, they struggle to recognize what they’ve done wrong. “They didn’t know any better,” we say.

Unfortunately, some people just never grow up — they're stuck acting this way long into adulthood. They fail to recognize their wrongdoings, have difficulty navigating social situations, and struggle to control their emotions.

What’s worse, is that most childish adults fail to acknowledge their immature behavior, and feel no reason to change. According to psychologists, this could be caused by a number of factors. To name a few:

  1. Our schema of “normal” behavior comes from observing those around us. If we’re raised around friends and family that are emotionally immature, then we internalize that behavior as “normal,” and see no issue in acting the same.
  2. We carry biases about ourselves that influence how we perceive ourselves. For that reason, we fail to recognize that we’re acting immaturely.
  3. Or, more simply, we were never taught how to behave and navigate certain social environments; so we just do the best we can when we find ourselves in them.

Unfortunately, as adults, we can’t make the “I didn’t know better” excuse, because we should. Acting like a child could be making your life worse. For example, it could be causing your relationships to break down, and making others lose trust in you.

The first step to resolving your childish tendencies is recognizing that you do have them. If you’re unsure whether you are a child-ish adult, here are some tell-tale signs to look out for.

1. Not Standing Up For Yourself

According to writer and editor Morgan Greenwald, a lot of children don’t know how to stand up for themselves, especially during the early stages of development. They become accustomed to the protection and guidance of a parent, so haven’t developed the necessary skills to navigate their own lives.

Often, these types of children are unable to deal with bullying, so experience it more than anyone else. And, according to a 2013 JAMA Psychiatry journal, this type of bullying strongly correlates with low-esteem and depression later in life.

Some people experience this long into adulthood. As children, they become accustomed to the protection they receive, and never learn how to stand up for themselves.

These types of behavior correlate with indecisiveness and a lack of confidence. Children often hand over the decision-making to their parents. And, in a similar way, childish adults let others dictate their lives — because they can’t deal with confrontation, and don’t trust themselves.

A Lesson Learned

Stop shying away from confrontation. Do so by recognizing that you have an independent life to lead. You have your own set of values, desires, and interests, distinct from anybody else. Following others means neglecting your own values and desires, and instead conforming to theirs.

Recognizing this will encourage you to take charge of your own life, consciously pursuing the life you truly desire. You’re not a child and you can look after yourself. To attain the life you truly desire, you need to take risks and avoid following the crowd.

By truly internalizing your self-interests, you will be better equipped to face confrontation. After all, as adults most conflict is the result of someone else’s self-interests being different from ours.

Our parents aren’t around anymore, and we need someone fighting our corner so that the outcome is what’s best for us.

2. Being Neurotic and Unpredictable

According to clinical psychologist Susan Heitler, Ph.D, some of us are neurotic in the same way that children are. They could be calm one minute, and do something completely “out of character” the next.

Children often do this in a heightened state of emotion, which they don’t know how to control. When they're angry or upset, they act on impulse. Without thinking about the consequences of their actions, they do things they later regret.

Rather than taking a minute to think things through, or hearing about the situation from someone else’s situation — they prefer to shut people down and act irrationally without getting the full picture of what’s happened.

It’s not the end of the world if a child does this. They’re often supervised by someone they know and respect (their parents). They quickly learn that this type of behavior is unacceptable because it almost always results in punishment.

But if an adult, acts in this way, their behavior often goes uncorrected, and they fail to recognize their wrongdoing.

A Lesson Learned

If things are moving quickly, and you’re agitated, angry, or upset — resist the urge to act out on impulse. Instead, take a minute to think through your options, assess the situation, and consider the consequences of your actions.

More importantly, if in a moment of weakness you find yourself lashing out like a child would, hold yourself accountable and recognize that this is not normal. If you don’t, you could find yourself repeating the same mistakes over and over.

3. Believing the World Revolves Around You

According to psychologist Jean Piaget, children under 2 years old think the universe revolves around them, and think objects only exist for as long as they are staring at them.

With all the attention and mothering they receive, it’s quite natural for children to think they’re important. They’re at the center of their parent's lives, after all, and that comes with expectations. For example, they feel entitled to things and want special treatment.

As we get older, we realize that we aren’t at the center of other people's lives. People are so caught up in their own, that they don’t really care about ours. We aren’t entitled to preferential treatment, people aren’t taking note of our every move — and if we want something, we have to work hard to get it.

Unfortunately, some adults never come to realize this, and they carry their childish personalities all through their lives. I’m sure you’ve met someone who has:

  • Felt entitled to things they have no claim to.
  • Carries unreasonable demands and expectations they believe others should fulfill.
  • Gotten angry and frustrated when things don’t go their way, as if the Universe is out to get them.

These are all signs that this person is yet to come to terms with one of life’s greatest lessons: the world doesn’t revolve around them.

A Lesson Learned

If you haven’t yet, it’s important for you to recognize that, in this vast universe, you are just one among billions. The spotlight isn’t on you. In fact, very few people even know you exist.

With that, it’s much easier to rationalize and understand why we aren’t entitled to preferential treatment, and why we can stop feeling self-conscious about superficial things, like appearance, when most people won’t even notice.

Final Thoughts

Some people don’t grow up. They continue being emotionally and intellectually immature and acting just as children do. Of course, unlike children, the “they don’t know any better” excuse doesn’t work. Acting like a child could be causing relationship breakdown, and making people lose trust in you.

Often, childish adults either: 1) lack the required understanding to recognize their wrongdoing, or 2) carry biases that prevent them from recognizing that their childish behavior is abnormal.

For that reason, it can be difficult to identify whether you’re making the same mistakes that children do. If you’re unsure whether you are, there are some tell-tale signs to look out for. Like children, these types of adults:

  1. Don’t stand up for themselves. They lack the confidence to assert their own desires and values, so instead allow themselves to be bullied, and follow a path set out before them.
  2. They’re neurotic and uncontrollable. They lash out and take action without thinking through the consequences.
  3. They believe the world revolves around them. They feel entitled, and believe they are owed preferential treatment. At times, they think the spotlight is on them — when in reality they are just one among a sea of billions of people.

It is by overcoming these habits, that you will be able to navigate your own life in a real and authentic way, rather than falling victim to your childish urges.

I write about Self-Improvement, Life Lessons, Philosophy, Psychology & Business — to help you reach your full potential. To stay in touch, and to receive free and exclusive content, sign up to my mailing list.

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Asking questions, seeking answers. I write articles that help you better understand the Universe. Durham University.


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