You might be providing food, clothes, and shelter to your child but your responsibility as a parent doesn’t end there. Some people have unhealthy parenting approaches, and being emotionally immature is one of them. If you use anger or passive aggression as means of self-advocacy while dealing with your child then you are doing it wrong. Being an emotionally immature parent is not only unhealthy for you, but also for your child. So, let’s find out if you are an emotionally immature parent.
HealthShots reached out to Dr Rishi Gautam, a US-based mental health expert and a specialist in psychiatry, and he shared all about emotional immaturity.
What is emotional immaturity?
It is an ineffective way of appreciating one’s emotional states which then affects their behaviours or responses to typically stressful situations, explains Dr Gautam. Those who have an immature emotional structure tend to struggle with an accurate identification of their own emotional states, inaccurate identification of emotional states of others and tend to react in a dismissive manner. This only puts a strain on their relationships, and has serious implications when it comes to parenting. So, if you want a healthy relationship, focus on emotional maturity.
Signs of emotionally immature parent
It might not be easy for you to figure out if you are emotionally immature. Here are some signs to look out for –
1. A self-centred approach
You are absorbed in prioritising your own emotional needs over others, including your children.
2. Rigid and inflexible
Emotionally immature parents are often very rigid and inflexible in most situations. They are unable to adapt to changing demands of everyday life, says the expert.
3. Poor frustration tolerance and heightened reactivity
People with emotional immaturity tend to be overly sensitive of reactions of others towards them and respond in mostly unhelpful ways quite impulsively.
4. Fear and avoidance of unpleasant emotionality
There is very little scope of expressing disagreement, anger, dissent, sadness or grief when it comes to emotionally immature people. The automatic impulse is to “brush them under a carpet” by shutting down the conversation.
5. Authoritarian style of parenting
It involves controlling their children’s lives in a very strict, structured fashion. There is very little space for being creative or tolerating different perspectives and encouraging self-efficacy. This approach can be very damaging for children.
Dr Gautam notes that emotional immaturity is a risk factor for overall impulsive decision-making, poor functional status, alcohol, and drug use. Children who grow up in chaotic, unstable, and inconsistent environments can struggle with Reactive Attachment Disorder. This manifests as emotionally withdrawn, inhibited behaviour in children towards their parents. They tend to not seek comfort when in distress and not respond when comforted. This increases risk of an unstable psychological structure when they grow up into being independent adults. They may themselves struggle with low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, alcohol and substance use, domestic violence and post-traumatic stress.
Ways to avoid unhealthy parenting approaches
Parenting can be tough, but leave behind unhealthy parenting approaches. Here’s what to do –
1. Identify your own emotional state
You should know that it is okay to be sad and angry. It is also okay for certain people to see it as well. This process helps normalise negative emotions for a child. They learn that sadness is a human experience as happiness is and that it will pass.
2. Avoid weaponizing emotions
Do not use anger, derision and passive aggression as means of self-advocacy. If you need something from your children, ask for it calmly but assertively. This teaches them to do the same when they need things.
3. Be empathic and validating
Empathy is an exercise towards appreciating our current emotional state and being accepting of it, without the demand to correct or improve something immediately. Validation goes a long a way in making children feel secure around their parents.
4. Decrease reactivity
It is a very normal impulse to immediately react to a stressful situation. A heightened emotional state does not promote rational decision-making. The expert suggests to be patient, pause for a moment, assess the situation calmly or take a mental break before you respond to a stressful event.
So, be a better parent for the sake of your child and their happiness.