How To Stop Being A Manchild: 5 Essential Steps

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Consult a counselor to help you deal with the root causes of your manchild behavior and mature as a person. Simply click here to connect with one via BetterHelp.com.

If you’re reading this article, chances are someone has called you a “manchild” fairly recently, and you’d like to be free of that label.

Maybe several people have thrown that word at you, and you want to do something about it.

This is an excellent step toward greater maturity.

Of course, in order to stop certain behavioral patterns, we often need to understand where they stemmed from to begin with.

By identifying causal factors, we can undo a lot of damage, and move forward with a lot more self-confidence and grace.

What is a manchild? 

Depending on where you look or who you ask, you’ll get a few different explanations. These mostly center around the age at which a man is no longer considered a juvenile.

Generally, however, a “manchild” is defined as a man over the age of 30 (or thereabouts) who still behaves like a teenager. In some cases, the behavior is even pre-pubescent.

Manchildren generally display similar characteristics. These include wearing the same clothes they loved when they were in their teens, sporting the same hairstyle, and listening to the same music/watching the same movies.

They’ll often still make a lot of bathroom-type jokes (yes, we’re talking poop jokes here), and giggle like kids if and when they talk about sexuality.

Some will have extensive toy collections that they keep adding to. Others may be really into comic books or games.

Basically, when spending time with them, it’ll be like hanging out with a 12-year-old in a mansuit.

What causes this type of behavior?

Quite often, it’s due to some kind of adolescent trauma, often involving an older (often male) authority figure.

If their father abandoned them when they were young, or mistreated their mother, they might subconsciously choose to stay in an adolescent state as a form of self-soothing.

They fear being rejected again, so they create cocoons of comfort for themselves.

If their mother was the one who took care of them after dad left, then they likely want to keep being taken care of, rather than taking care of themselves (and others).

In a similar vein, if their father (or stepfather) was abusive, they may balk at the idea of turning into the type of person they hated. If they never grow into “men,” then they’ll never be like their abuser.

If both parents were abusive, then the “manchild” takes it upon himself to create the happy childhood that he never had. Was he over-disciplined? Then screw the rules, he’ll live life on his own terms. Not allowed to have the toys he wanted? Well, he’ll buy everything he wants now!

He’s away from his parents, away from their rules, and self-soothes that wounded inner child pretty much eternally.

For others, there might have been some moments in childhood that were bastions of joy and light in the midst of a storm. Their manchild tendencies might revolve around clinging to nostalgia.

They hold to a wonderful experience they had at a particular age that brought them joy, and try to re-create those happy feelings by making a false environment that embodies their experience.

They tend not to have the skill sets needed to cope with adult life.

These men tend to be incredibly insecure. They take offense very easily, and lash out like petulant pre-teens if and when they feel upset by someone.

In simplest terms, these men carry a lot of hurt within them that they’ve never truly worked through. This hurt festers inside them, and the tiniest perceived offense will open the floodgates and let all kinds of damage pour out.

What are some unhealthy behaviors attributed to a “manchild” persona?

The primary one is a refusal to take responsibility for your own life.

This could be abdication of responsibility when it comes to home life, such as not doing your share of household chores. You may refuse to do any cooking, or wash dishes.

Alternatively, you might balk at the idea of taking part in “grown up” activities like holding down a real job. You might really love the super cool barista job you’ve had for the past 15 years, even though your clientele is now young enough to be your own offspring.

You may procrastinate about (or even ignore) adult obligations like filing your taxes, registering for retirement savings, or even making regular dental appointments.

Another very unhealthy behavior is the refusal to step up when you’re needed.

For example, if your partner, children, or parents have to depend on you for something, and you just don’t show up. You find an excuse not to take part for one reason or another, and distract yourself with something else to avoid feeling bad about your terrible behavior.

It’s also very difficult to have a healthy personal relationship with a manchild. Not only does the other partner have to walk on eggshells so as not to set off the ticking time bomb that is the man’s unhealed trauma, they’re also expected to be both partner and parent.

This isn’t just exhausting and unfair for their partner/spouse, it also creates a really awkward, uncomfortable relationship dynamic.

Who wants to sleep with a person they feel that they have to parent all the time? Having to baby someone else’s emotions, as well as picking up after them and reminding them to shower on a regular basis is a surefire way to lose any/all sexual attraction.

A less-than-ideal role model for one’s children.

Another thing that an immature man has to take into account is the effect he’ll have on his children, if he has any.

One of the hallmarks of a manchild is that he’ll be considered the “coolest dad ever” by his kids.

That’s only while they’re still children, of course.

This is the super-awesome dad who’ll play video games with them for hours every weekend, and agree with them that ewww, no, they don’t have to eat their broccoli.

They’ll sneak the kids out of the house when they should be doing their homework so they can go grab ice cream, and take them to baseball games or shopping when they should be grounded.

They are dearly loved by children because they are big kids themselves.

The manchild will often project his hatred of authority, rules, and responsibility toward his spouse/co-parent. This person – with their rules and expectations – undoubtedly reminds them of the authority figure(s) they hated and resented in their own youth.

As a result, they lash out against that person’s perceived mistreatment and injustice toward the kids. They side with the children, against the other parent, thus undermining any discipline or structure in the house.

Sure, the kids will love this kind of lawlessness when they’re young, but as soon as they start to get older, one of two things will happen:

1. They’ll realize just how immature their dad is and want nothing to do with him.

2. They’ll turn out just like him, thus perpetuating the cycle of arrested development.

5 ways to stop being a manchild:

The good news is that people can always change.

Again, if you’re reading this piece, you recognize that things need to change.

Are you ready to start that process?

1. Take a good look at your life and be honest about how you feel.

If you don’t have a journal yet, get one. In it, write down all the things about your life that make you feel truly happy, fulfilled, and accomplished.

On another page (or several pages), write down all the things you find frustrating.

What do you dislike?

How would you change things, if you could?

What’s stopping you from changing them?

2. Find a counselor you can trust and open up to.

Getting past the hurt that’s stunting your personal development can be almost impossible to do by yourself.

Unfortunately, if you grew up in an environment where you couldn’t trust either of your parents, it’ll be difficult to open up to anyone you consider to be an authority figure. Even if that person can offer you tremendous help.

You’ll need their help to work past the traumas and blockages that are keeping you from maturing into the strong, confident adult you’re capable of being.

As such, it’s important to “shop around” for a counselor that you feel you could be comfortable talking with.

Even more importantly, they’ll be someone you feel you can receive help and guidance from, without feeling like they’re trying to control you.

When you’re looking for potential counselors, aim for those who don’t bear any resemblance to adults that may have hurt you when you were young. Someone who looks very different from the people who hurt you is unlikely to trigger your pain response.

3. Choose one thing to change at a time.

Making a huge laundry list of things you need to change might have the opposite effect you’re looking for.

Instead of encouraging you to take positive action, it’ll just shut you down and turn you back toward your self-soothing habits.

Instead, choose just one thing, and take solid action toward it.

Create SMART goals to help you achieve what you’re striving for, and stay accountable to these. If it helps, get a friend you trust to help you stay accountable with regular check-ins to see if you’re meeting your set goals.

This goal could range from finally cleaning out your garage after years of accumulating random stuff, to sorting out your personal finances.

Whatever it is, just focus all your attention on this goal.

Once it’s done, you’ll likely feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment. Your self-confidence will skyrocket, and chances are you’ll start to realize that taking responsibility for your own life isn’t all that terrifying.

4. Ask your loved ones for support and encouragement.

This one might be really scary for you, but it may help your interpersonal relationships exponentially.

If you want to change your behavior because you want a healthier, stronger bond with your partner, then let them know what your goals and action plans are toward being the man you’re capable of becoming.

Be as open and honest as you can within your comfort zone, and ask for their support as you move forward. You can let them know what kinds of positive reinforcement work best for you so they can keep encouraging you.

Even just the awareness that you are trying to move forward in this might increase their patience level toward you.

5. Create a balance.

Some people believe that in order to be a mature, fully functional adult, they need to leave “childish” things behind.

There’s a huge difference between being childish, and childlike, however.

People who hold onto their sense of childlike wonder and joy tend to live longer, happier lives. They can take immense pleasure in painting for the sake of playing with colors, or reading a book beneath a tree on a sunny day.

You don’t need to pack all your cherished toys off to the charity shop. Hold onto the pieces that make you happy, and discard what doesn’t bring you joy.

Declutter your home if needed, but don’t throw away your sources of happiness.

It’s absolutely possible to take responsibility for your life and step into a more adult role, while still playing and having fun.

Have ice cream for dinner now and then, but eat well and get plenty of exercise the rest of the time. Create a solid expense budget, but set aside money for fun stuff too.

Change can be scary, but positive, self-directed change can make life a lot more fulfilling too. These types of changes result in positive growth, stronger relationships, and a greater sense of self-confidence and self-worth overall.

Still not sure how to stop being a manchild? Need some help to work through the events from the past that caused you to be one? Speak to a counselor today who can walk you through the process. Simply click here to connect with one of the experienced counselors on BetterHelp.com.

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About Author

Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais region. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.