At a glance
There are lots of reasons kids might seem immature for their grade.
Being one of the youngest in the class can play a role.
Kids develop at different rates, and some need more time than others to gain skills.
Many kids have moments when they don’t act their age. They might burst into tears when something goes wrong or get clingy when they feel insecure — like little kids typically do.
But when a child often acts immaturely compared to other kids the same age, you may wonder what’s going on.
Kids develop skills at different rates. Some kids just need more time to develop. But sometimes immature behavior is a sign that kids are struggling and need more support. Learn about reasons for immature behavior and how to help.
What immature behavior can look like
Immature behavior can look different in different kids. Here are some common examples of immature behavior that you might see:
- Annoying other kids by talking too much or “barging in” on their games
- Overreacting to what seem like minor things and taking a long time to calm down
- Clinging and not wanting to be apart from you
- Having to be told the same rule over and over again, like “It’s not OK to climb on that furniture”
- Struggling with bathroom issues, like bedwetting or being afraid to poop
- Being overly sensitive to things like loud noises or the way clothes feel
- Using “baby talk” or speaking in ways that are hard to understand
- Having trouble with things like putting on a coat or gripping a pencil
Some kids seem to “act young” all the time. Others may show immature behavior in certain settings or at certain times. Every child is different.
What can cause kids to seem immature
Some kids act younger than their peers because they are younger than most kids in the grade. There can be an age difference of a year (or more) in class.
Here are more reasons kids may seem younger than other kids their age:
Hyperactivity: Does the child seem to be “driven by a motor,” like the Energizer Bunny?
Trouble with focus: Does the child seem like a “space cadet”? Do you often have to repeat the instructions for even a simple one-step task?
Learning differences: Is the child having trouble with reading, writing, or math? Sometimes kids act immature because of academic struggles.
Sensory issues: Some kids react strongly to sensory information and may get overwhelmed by things like bright lights. What looks like a tantrum could actually be sensory overload.
Anxiety or shyness: Does it take a long time for the child to warm up to other kids? Anxiety and shyness are surprisingly common in kids.
Language: Does the child have trouble pronouncing words or expressing ideas? That can be frustrating and cause kids to act out. They might be teased or left out because of their trouble with speech or language.
Sleep: Many kids consistently sleep less than six hours a night. This can make them cranky during the day.
What to do
Knowing why kids act immaturely or young for their age lets you offer the best support. Take a closer look at the immature behavior and see if you pick up on patterns. Share what you observe with others, like parents, caregivers, teachers, or health care providers. Find out what they notice, and work on ways to help kids develop skills like self-control.
Also, learn about developmental milestones at different ages.
Acting immature can be a sign that kids are struggling and need more support.
Hyperactivity, trouble with focus, and not getting enough sleep can be factors.
Connect with other adults to find out what they’ve noticed, and work together to help kids develop skills.
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About the author
About the author
Julie Rawe is the special projects editor at Understood.
Kristin J. Carothers, PhD is a clinical child psychologist devoted to the destigmatization of mental health problems.