The Key to Maturity

Written by Scott Schimmel

Maturity. You know it when you see it. It looks like young people taking responsibility for their lives, solving their own problems and taking initiative when they’re stuck. It’s asking curious questions that reflect only a small glimpse of entitlement. It’s showing up on time, and staying late. It’s anticipating other people’s needs, serving others without demand for recognition and doing what’s expected without complaining. Maturity is adding value, building positivity and speaking the truth in love.

You know immaturity when you see it, too. Immaturity looks and feels a lot like irresponsibility and disrespect for authority figures. It looks like a disregard for the wisdom of people who’ve gone before them. It’s showing up late. Unprepared. It’s forgetting good manners. Immaturity is fakeness, with answers like, “I don’t know”. It’s a lack of focus and dedication. It’s giving up easily and quitting when things are hard. It’s blaming other people, or the circumstances and saying that things aren’t fair. Immaturity is annoying!

Recently, I was facilitating a group of young men through an honest conversation about their identity–who they are, what they’re known for, and the type of person they’d like to become. At first, many of them, probably out of nervous anxiety, told the standard “your mama” jokes and made gaseous noises. But once they realized that we were going to have real conversations about things that actually matter, the tone quickly changed. It’s made us realize something simple, but profound: The secret to helping young people make the transition from immaturity to maturity is to get real with them.

So, how do you get real? Here are a few things we’re learning as we engage in honest, authentic conversations with students every day:

·      Ask open-ended questions

·      Seek to have two-way conversations

·      Share your own vulnerabilities, weaknesses, fears and failures

·      Be willing to say, “I don’t know” and open up about how you don’t have life completely figured out either

·      Mourn and grieve with them, as they share stories about loss and sadness

·      Celebrate and rejoice with them, as they share stories of triumph and success

·      Be curious. Ask follow-up questions about what they think and what they feel.

·      Be patient, giving them the chance to warm up and open up.

·    Don’t take their first answer as their final answer.

·      Don’t pressure them. If they don’t want to share, don’t force them.


What are best practices you’ve discovered to have real conversations with young people?