Recently I have encountered brides and grooms, graduates and others in their late teens and early twenties who look like adults and want to be treated as adults but emotionally and socially are stuck in middle school. Could this be you or your child? If so, how do you change your attitude and actions from those of a 12-year-old?
How does a socially and/or emotionally immature person act? One clue is their self-focus rather than engaging with others. Does the person watch as you or someone else struggles with a task rather than offering assistance? Can he/she carry on a conversation in more than monosyllables? Do they initiate conversation? At social events, does he/she stand on the sidelines immersed in their phone, ignoring those around them? Believe it or not, even those who are the guest of honor at a party or part of a wedding party sometimes act this way.
Thinking of the needs of others begins at home as a child is encouraged to help parents and other adults with chores – carrying in groceries, shoveling snow, raking leaves, helping with cleaning, pet care, laundry and more. Children should be included in conversations with adults of varying ages so they develop an ability to listen and interact in a meaningful way.
The child who sits and watches as parents serve them will grow up to be selfish and clueless and may have to learn social responsibility the hard way. The socially immature, self-absorbed employee may be surprised to receive a negative performance review citing him/her as not being a team player. Or they may not get the job in the first place if they cannot appropriately converse with the hiring manager.
If you recognize yourself, it isn’t too late to begin taking your place in society as a contributing adult. Old habits can be broken. Try it; you may find that serving others can be much more fulfilling than sitting around playing with your phone waiting for someone to serve you.
If you are a parent who has enabled your young adult to grow up with a sense of entitlement, stop right now. Talk to them; apologize for not teaching them responsibility and help them to begin focusing on someone other than himself/herself. Help them learn how to carry on a conversation, how to be aware of those to whom they can demonstrate kindness and courtesy. In the process, you and they will find your lives fuller and happier. Remember the Golden Rule and look for ways to put it into practice.