Being a teenager is rough. I probably don't even need to say that, but I want to acknowledge the reality of life between the ages of 12 and 18. You're beginning to think deeper, experience new things, and your body is no longer childlike. You want to be treated like an adult, but sometimes parents and other adults still want to treat you like a child. You're caught between two paradigms. One day, you may feel totally stable, then the next you want to throw a tantrum. (You can thank your lovely hormones for that one.) It can be super frustrating!
So how can you get your parents and other adults to treat you like the grown up you're becoming? Well, not to burst your bubble, but unfortunately, it is impossible to MAKE anyone do anything. People will treat you like they want to when they feel like it. Kind of lame, but that's the way the world works. We don't have hypnotic powers that will control how people treat us. (On second thought, it's probably better that way. ;-)) However, what you CAN control is how YOU treat other people. How you use your words and actions will reflect your "adultness."
Being an adult is not just about being over a certain age. Surviving on the earth for more than 18 years doesn't prove anything about a person's "adultness." It just means nothing has killed you up to this point. And, well, congrats on that at least!
Being an adult means being mature in how we handle life and interact with the world. Maturity is reflected in our words, actions, and interactions with others. "Adult" means nothing without maturity.
If you want to be seen as an adult and treated as an adult, your maturity is what's going to earn that from people. And your level of maturity is dependent on YOU and your decisions about how you interact with the world and the people around you.
Maturity is about a lot of things. Here are just a few of the big ones:
Owning up to our mistakes when we make them. We shouldn't diminish our mistakes to make them seem lesser nor blow them out of proportion to get people to feel sorry for us. Throwing emotional tantrums like saying, "Now everybody hates me!" is never going to earn respect from anyone. But admitting our mistakes, asking for forgiveness, then making things right shows grace and humility.
Knowing how to appropriately interact with different types of people and different age groups. This includes everyone from your 5-year old sibling to your 11-year old neighbor to your atheist history teacher to your mother and father to a grandparent who doesn't understand your generation to your highly-sensitive friend who cries at the drop of a hat. We should always be aware of how our actions and words will affect others and take those others' feelings into account before we act, react, or respond. Life is not a long string of doing whatever amuses us and not thinking of others or the consequences of what we do.
Trying our best to make good decisions but also graciously taking responsibility when we make bad ones. Our goal should be to make the best choices in life, aligning them with God's will. Period. Sure, sometimes we'll screw up, but hopefully it will not have been on purpose. This kind of goes back to owning up to our mistakes. When we do make bad decisions, rather than pouring on the "sorrys," we must seek forgiveness from whomever we have offended, then do our very best to make things right.
Living selflessly. Maturity cannot be fully reached without selflessness. We really can't grow as individuals until we TRULY start putting others first—not just as a show or as lip service, but TRULY in our hearts. Selflessness doesn't come naturally to everyone, but that doesn't mean it can't be practiced and practiced until it becomes a part of you.
The most mature and wonderful people I know are those who always put others first, never trying to draw attention to themselves. Think of a person in your life who you think of as "mature." Who do they put first—themselves or others?
Handling life with integrity and grace and interacting with the world in a loving and respectful way. Keep your promises, and if you break them, try to make it right again. Express more joy and less anger. Forgive quickly and don't hold grudges. Care about others' well-being and needs above your own. Grant mercy to all people—even if they don't deserve it.
I can guarantee you that if you live your life in this way, the adults around you will notice. And THAT is what will earn their respect.
You are a work in progress, just like everybody else on this planet. We're never going to make it to "perfect," and yes, we will still mess up sometimes. Accept that reality, but do not stagnate where you are. There are always new things to learn and mistakes to conquer that will help you grow and become more like Christ.
This post is not intended to shame you or make you feel inferior. We're all in this together, and we want to help you be the best you can be. I have people in my life who help me too and speak truth into my life, calling me out when I make mistakes.
You've been through a lot and come a long way already. Maturity is a process. Take it one step at a time.
"This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won't be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.
"Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love." —Ephesians 4:13-16 (NLT)
Cat is the webmaster and editor of 412teens.org and writes novellas with local young writers at her workshops. She also contributes at GotQuestions.org, Blogos.org, and GQkidz.org. When Catiana is not writing or hanging out with teens, she loves spending time with her two kids, five socially awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily that gets together every Saturday for various shenanigans.