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"Because never in my entire childhood did I feel like a child. I felt like a person all along — the same person that I am today. [...] The nasty side of myself wanted to answer that guidance counselor by saying, the only reason you don't think gifted children talk this way is because they know better than to talk this way in front of you."
Orson Scott Card, defending his use of this trope in the introduction to Ender's Game

Toddlers can form complex ideas and speak in full sentences. Eight-year-olds are looking for their true love. Your fourteen-year old will often fret about work and already be looking to settle down with their high school sweethearts. A group of nine-year olds will bike on down to the next town with no parents in tow. The seven-year old kid down the street will never eat a bunch of sugar and cry because he didn't get the toy he wanted; he's too busy planning out a zany, very involved scheme to get what he wants.

You may have noticed that children in fiction act notably older than their Real Life audience. There's a good reason for this. Any fictional depiction of young people is going to be viewed through the lens of an adult. Most writers aren't themselves children. They tend not to be child psychologists either. If they don't happen to have children, but must write young characters, they tend to end up with characters who are tiny adults. The characters are physically children but they are still treated as adults in most situations (except for when plot calls attention to it). This is usually in terms of personality, how they react to situations, and the situations that they get into in the first place, which tend to involve plot points generally associated with more mature series.

This is significantly more prevalent in animated shows starring kid characters, since it's easier to get an adult voice actor to act like an adult than to get a live action child actor to act like one, naturally. Often a staple of ongoing series that use Adults Are Useless, the Kid Hero, or really anything where kids are the main characters but the series is targeted towards all ages. This is an omnipresent trope. In general, fictional children tend to act at least five years older than their stated age. There is some overlap with Wise Beyond Their Years, but that trope deals with cases where one or two characters act like this.

Of course, Tropes Are Not Bad, and Reality Is Unrealistic; plenty of children have interests in things outside of stereotypical children's activities, and sometimes a show where kids act exactly their age simply isn't the most interesting thing that could be happening.

Note that children acting in ways that they shouldn't be able to, i.e. like adults, is also a common go-to Horror Trope, though comedic versions are not unheard of, either.

May involve Little Professor Dialog. See also Improbable Age and Vague Age. Sometimes results in Menace Decay. Compare Most Writers Are Human. Contrast Kiddie Kid, when children behave in ways they'd realistically be too old for, and Manchild, when adults behave in childish ways.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Pokémon: The Series, ten is the age at which one can leave home to become a Trainer and fend for 'emself. And while they are still called "kids" and "children" instead of "young adults", they still look, talk, and sound more like teenagers (notably, fans have remarked about Hau from Pokémon Sun and Moon actually acts like a pre-teen compared to the others). And how do they make money to support themselves (and their Pokémon) if they're traveling all the time and can't hold a job in any fixed location? note  At the same time, the fictional society of Pokémon has the titular creatures being so centered into society that perhaps it's just very difficult to imagine how their society would have ended up similar to the real world, yet also much more differently.
    • Pokémon Adventures is even worse about this than most other adaptations. The characters are preteens and teens in all-but name. 10 and 11-year-olds run around and fight oftentimes brutal Pokémon battles with no adults in sight. Blake is a high-ranking member of the International Police and White runs her own company despite neither being over 15.
  • The Digimon franchise, where a bunch of kids are thrust into the middle of nowhere and exposed to powerful mons without any adult supervision whatsoever...
    • This trope is justified, for Digimon Adventure anyway. The kids were ripped out of their reality and placed into the Digital World, and its war, against their will. Digimon Adventure 02 is bit more dodgy, since they come and go at will, but at least it's simply what the kids choose to do, and they know another world is at stake, and they're the only ones capable of saving it.
    • Digimon Tamers is the big aversion of the franchise: the characters generally act much more like children, their adventures in the Digital World have clear emotional consequences as one'd expect from children, and they are supported by adults who are instrumental in taking down the Final Boss.
    • Digimon Frontier and Digimon Fusion have the same justification as Adventure, with the caveat that Taiki is slightly more reasonably-aged than the Adventure protagonists. Digimon Data Squad is the most reasonable: the youngest of the protagonists is fourteen, and they're working for what amounts to a police force.
  • Mon Colle Knights: Justified with Rokuna, since her mother left, her father spends most of his time in his lab, and she has no choice but to maintain her household (not to mention that she's a genius). There's also the fact that most kids in real life cannot summon the sheer bravery that she and Mondo (and other child characters at times) can when facing off against monsters many times their size. (And that's saying nothing about Rokuna's English-dubbed voice.)
  • Kocchi Muite Mikko: This series has a good chunk about puberty and serious topics that are rarely shown in kids' manga series. Oh, and it features romance as well, involving underage characters.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura has underage characters develop romantic feelings for one another, and of course, talking as if they're older than they are. Even goes so far as to have one of the kids in love with her teacher, and vice versa. But then, considering this is CLAMP...
  • The World of Narue. Kazuto develops romantic feelings for Narue, instead of mere lust... although he does sometimes briefly gets perverted thoughts.
  • A Little Snow Fairy Sugar: Saga and her fellow 11-year-olds. She also has a part-time job, prioritizes a lot more than can be expected of any real kids her age, and acts more as a mother-figure than a sister-figure towards her little cousin. The fairies (at least the younger ones, such as Sugar herself) do act more like children, though. Brownie points for that!
  • Naruto:
    • Naruto is a strange case because while most of the young characters in it would fit the trope, Naruto himself is as mature as a person his age would really be (initially), making him seem immature just by virtue of being normal. May be justified in this case, seeing as how the fictional society in which they live apparently saddles young people with responsibilities up to and including conducting wars at much younger ages than we consider appropriate in ours. Some characters, like Itachi and Kakashi when they were young, and Shikamaru take this to the point of being flat out Wise Beyond Their Years.
    • This is averted in the sequel Boruto. Despite being a Child Prodigy, Boruto acts rather age appropriate. He likes hanging out with his similar friends, playing video games, and generally acts like a 10-to-12 year old. The odd part is his sister Himawari, who inverts this by acting younger than she actually is.
  • FLCL lampshades the hell out of this trope, with twelve year olds Naota and Ninamori always trying (and failing) to act like mature adults. Of course, they are arguably more successful at it than the actual adults in the story, although this says more about the behavior of the adult characters then the behavior of the children.
  • One point of criticism in the Anime News Network review of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha is the seemingly unrealistic maturity of the main character. The first time we see the nine-year-old heroine, she's pondering the direction and purpose of her life, which has been perfectly ordinary so far.
  • Lampshaded on Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. Teenagers should not be saving the world!
  • Kanon, where 18-year-old Yuichi and others talk kinda like adults... even though just the opposite of this trope is displayed particularly with Ayu. Ayu and Makoto are the biggest exceptions to the trope, for justified reasons. Ayu is mentally younger than she seems, since she's been in a coma for the past seven years. And Makoto is the youngest member of the cast at around 14 or so...or rather, she's a fox spirit pretending to be a 14 year-old human.
  • Ditto for just about everyone in The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, also released by same company Kyoto Animation. That is, except for Haruhi herself and Kyon's ten-year-old sister. Mikuru is implied to potentially be Older Than She Looks, and Yuki has acess to the full experiences of a several thousand year old being despite technically being three. No one else really has an excuse.
  • Inverted with another K.A. work, Lucky Star, where the "teenage" girls look, talk, and sound like preteens. The cutesy music and pastel-colored artwork only makes this series feel more like elementary school than high school. (Especially for Konata and Yutaka, who look immature for their ages even in-universe, and in the former's case, is not very responsible about her schoolwork.) That is, until they start talking about eroge. Or about yaoi. Or about their periods. Yeah.
  • Gundam abuses the hell out of this trope for just about every single series. Many of the Super Prototype Gundam pilots are just an Ordinary High-School Student around the age of 16 who's never even touched something of such mechanical complexity, (But are frequently well gifted with robotics) however can instantly grasp how to operate the machine. Even if top Aces much older then them had trouble with them in the past. Beyond that point, they often behave with a maturity and sense of purpose a decade beyond their time, unless they are a Wide-Eyed Idealist. Even then, they can possibly be capable of being the leader of an entire country, or at least a Cool Ship.
  • The titular character of Ojamajo Doremi falls in love more often in one season than other people in their whole life. And she is 8 at the start of the first season.
  • Due to Fridge Logic, Lelouch of Code Geass is a borderline example, being a 17-year-old capable of leading an army and dealing with politics without any (visible) prior experience. Yes, he's The Prince and a genius, yet the show asks the viewers to accept that he's capable of leading La Résistance against the well-trained army of The Empire with experienced military commanders ten (Cornelia, Schneizel) to twenty (Tohdoh) years older than him.
  • Now and Then, Here and There. It's justified though.
  • Averted in Pani Poni Dash!. The whole point is that the main character is eleven years old, has a job as a high school teacher, and yet acts childishly as you'd expect someone her age to (such as shrieking at the top of her lungs or calling her students by distinguishing traits rather than their names).
  • This is a common criticism of Shugo Chara! where the 11-12 year old protagonists act like they're 15/16. Oddly enough. Utau, who is actually 15, still acts more mature (Although, some times, it only is an act.), whereas Ikuto, who is two years older than her, is actually more of an impish figure, but still manages to be probably more mature than her when he isn't doing that. (Although whether it's for the best or not is variable.) Conversely, the protagonists can also act immature for their age as well. In the manga, Amu screams "this isn't in the health manual!" after seeing the guardian eggs for the first time and wonders why her fifth grade classmates are talking about bras even though most girls begin puberty at that age and have a vague idea about sex and reproduction. And there's Yaya, whose rationale for her immaturity is being unable to cope with her baby brother's birth... err, Peach-Pit?
  • Sugar Sugar Rune treats ten-year-olds dating and having boyfriends/girlfriends as the norm, to the point where it's literally all they seem to think about. Granted, some kids do discover the opposite gender at that age, but not to this extent.
  • A common complaint for Wandering Son is that all the cisgender ten-to-fourteen year old characters are too aware of gender issues for their age. They act more like adults in that respect, and are more mature than even the actual adults.
  • In Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches, the characters act like fairly believable teenagers in comedic situations, but in more serious situations they become way more mature, considerate, reflective and/or scheming than realistic high school students would generally be. Evidenced by how one of the most prestigious high schools in the country is run by teenagers - the student council has the absolute authority. It gets especially weird by how the president has been able to personally choose his successor for the last 40 years instead of a democratic voting for the most capable student - and yet, all presidents throughout the years have apparently been competent (if not necessarily sympathetic).
  • Played with relentlessly in Revolutionary Girl Utena to the point of a study on the trope of the type "What measure is an adult?". Both Utena and Anthy are 14 but are described by a 10-year-old kid as "adults" which they ponder about adult things they have done, the same kid is called childish by a 11 year old girl for trying to act more mature, 13-year-old Kozue has an active sex life but is shown to not be due to mature reasons but childish pettiness, Juri (16) is the more composed of the student council and apparently the most mature but still doesn't understand how to identify the toxic relationship she's in, and all of them from Nanami (13) to Touga (17 or 18) are being manipulated by an actual malicious adult who in turn is very vapid about his maturity but since they all are just teens, they're unable to notice.
  • Subverted in Azumanga Daioh. Chiyo is 10 and a Child Prodigy who skipped a few classes due to that, but acts her age because she's smart but lacks the life experience needed. The other girls, usually around 15, also behave like teenage girls should.
  • This appears to be the case in Silver Spoon. The characters, who are all in their first year of high school, and thus no older than fifteen, seem to have decided their career paths already (they attend a vocational school, but it still provides quite a lot of mutually exclusive options) except for the Fish out of Water protagonist, who is self-conscious about it. In Real Life, a lot of people are unsure of their ultimate careers until they're in college, if not later. But this pales in comparison to the fact that, despite the cast being made up of young teenagers, It's All About Me is conspicuous by its absence. Mikage has completely accepted that she has to succeed the family business despite it conflicting with her own desires, and doesn't complain about it even once, even though she is of the age where teenagers are more openly rebellious and self-centered than any other, to a much greater extent than can plausibly be explained by Values Dissonance. Komaba is even more ridiculously mature for his age; when his family's farm is foreclosed, and he is left no choice but to withdraw from school and get a job, he outright turns down a friend's offer to manage their own farm because he doesn't deserve it and would rather be a Self-Made Man. No adolescent narcissism here! At least there's a plausible reason for why Hachiken doesn't act his age. This point is actually noted and dismissed as a statistical anomaly in-show: the hero finds it strange and feels a little left-behind to be the only one with no concrete future plans, but his friend just notes that somehow that one class got filled with people set to inherit who like their family business, while most of the school has normal teens with far less in terms of plans for the future.

  • Most artwork from the 16th through early 19th centuries tends to portray children as small adults. Possibly because children wore the same clothes as adults once they got out of baby clothes. Until well into the 19th century, the only difference between a nine-year-old's clothes and a thirty-year-old's was the size. A classic painting from the 1600's, When Did You Last See Your Father, is on the face of it a charming picture of a lost small boy of about ten being comforted by concerned adults. It gets sinister when you realize it depicts the boy being interrogated, as if he were an adult, by the Star Chamber: the secret police of the time, who have less than benign reasons for tracking down the absent parent.

    Comic Books 
  • The various Robins have been theoretically in their teens. Outside of awkward romance they have rarely had anything in common with teenagers. Then again, they are being raised by Batman. Lampshaded in an issue of Young Justice:
    Superboy: I bet you were born potty-trained, weren't you?
  • The original New Mutants (oxymoron noted) of X-Men fame had this problem with some of the kids. Moonstar and Cannonball both acted very mature for their age, though Moonstar had a lot of youthful impetuousness and rebellion in her, picking fights for no reason (particularly against authority figures like Professor X). Karma basically acted like an adult woman (though there are reasons in-universe for this — she had a very traumatic past in Vietnam). Magik has a similarly-horrible upbringing (except she basically was raised in Hell), and so acts in much the same way (albeit with a more sinister, trickster bent). Magma was a mature aristocrat from a Roman colony. Sunspot and Wolfsbane were the only two early kids who acted like most adults would expect kids to act — immature, unsure, etc. Of course they used verbose language unexpected of teens, but this is Chris Claremont we're talking about (even his adult characters were wordsmiths). At least in between adventures, they had typical teen angst about things like crushes (Sam especially crushes on Magma in the early issues), dating, parties and fashion. The series at least certainly captured the feel of being a teenager — nearly all of the kids suffered identity crises, rankled against authority, and had to deal with crushing insecurity.
    • Somewhat justified in universe, since they shared facilities with the X-Men, whose original team were teenagers and that Kitty Pryde was on the adult team despite being the same age as the New Mutants. She'd joined the team and earned her place before the New Mutants were formed.
    • Later on, Louise Simonson added a great deal more immaturity to the kids, and included some newer "Mall Brat" types and rebellious Punker Teens. That this was the least-popular era for the book leaves it questionable as to just how much of a negative this trope really is.
    • Generation X was much more along the lines of what "typical" kids acted like.
  • Sugar and Spike was about two young babies who were fully aware of their surroundings and capable of semi-rational thought, but spoke a language only the two of them understood. "Fxlbgl?" "Rtmskt." "Word."
  • Runaways focuses on a group of preteens and teenagers living together without any kind of adult supervision. For every example of the characters acting their age—making out in public places, not knowing about current events because they've been watching Friends reruns instead of the news—there's a dozen examples of them handling situations your average adult would find overwhelming. And while most of them go through crushes like any normal teenager, two of their relationships become quite serious: Gert and Chase act more like husband and wife than boyfriend and girlfriend, and Xavin and Karolina are actually engaged. (Granted, it started out as an arranged marriage to end the war between their home planets, but they stayed together long after that arrangement fell through.)
  • The Young Avengers are like a less extreme version of the Runaways. All of them are at least living with some sort of adult guardian, but they're still a group of teenagers who banded together to fight crime all on their own.
  • The Legion of Super-Heroes, depending on the version, had characters considered legally adult at 14. The reboot had Ultra Boy and Phantom Girl getting married at some vague age not too long after that, which on top of that happened when another 14 year old almost got married.
  • The Life of a Fetus series by Andy Ristaino, revolves around a baby who escapes the womb prematurely and goes on an existentialist journey. The puppeteer character Billy also acts disturbingly adult (though he speaks like stereotypical 1950s child). Of course, this is fully intentional and kinda the whole point of the story.

    Comic Strips 
  • Peanuts: These kids occasionally take on amazingly adult responsibilities, such as the time Charlie Brown checked himself into the hospital.
  • Calvin and Hobbes played this to excellent effect, with Calvin sometimes wise beyond his years, and sometimes just being hyper-articulate about his various selfish whims. He has a deep understanding of complex moral philosophy but gets tripped up on simple addition problems. To quote creator Bill Watterson, "Calvin has never been a literal six-year-old."
  • In For Better or for Worse, Anthony Caine's daughter Francoise was supposed to be 2, yet her vocabulary and knowledge of the world was on par with a child 6 or older. In contrast, Elizabeth, April, and Meredith and Robin when they were that age in the strip acted more realistically like 2 year olds, speaking in mispronounced words and Elmuh Fudd Syndwome.
  • Simultaneously justified and averted in FoxTrot: the featured pre-teens are Jason and Marcus, whose adult speech and mannerisms are justified by them being a pair of hyper-intelligent ultra-nerds. Averted in that the two also indulge in childish mannerisms, and their peers behave in age-appropriate manners.
  • Most of the point of Cul-de-sac, similarly to Calvin and Hobbes, is taking children and seeing what happens if they're as articulate as adults while retaining their childish personalities.
  • Bloom County features "children" who work for newspapers, run political campaigns, and hack into government organizations. Granted, this IS a strip with talking animals, space aliens, and tons of breaking the fourth wall so it may be justified as Rule of Funny.
  • Suske En Wiske: Suske and Wiske act like normal children most of the time, but sometimes they just happen to know how to read Morse code or even fly a plane. All this without us ever seeing them going to school, by the way!

    Fan Works 
  • Jaded Eyes of a Prodigy, a Harry Potter fanfic, has a five-year-old Harry having deep philosophical thoughts about material possessions, rationalizing that he must murder the Dursleys in their sleep or he'll die from their abuse, follow up by carefully stealing money and jewelry and disposing the murder weapon, and go on to learn multiple languages flawlessly, study advanced math and science subjects, gain perfect control of his magic, become an expert pickpocket, master the violin, and care for a younger child, all by the time he's six.
  • One Frozen (2013) Continuation Fic, The Queen's Admiral, is narrated by a 12-year-old Prince who is more interested in history, war and politics than anything else a boy that age would more reasonably like. He is allowed to partake in council meetings, is mostly treated as a fellow representative of Arendelle by the other adult participants, and is generally considered a more mature and capable ruler than his mother, Anna.

    Films — Animation 
  • Inverted in the 2009 Astro Boy movie; most child characters look and behave much younger than their given age. (Astro/Toby is said to be thirteen and more closely resembles a nine-year-old; Cora is claimed to be seventeen but comes off as perhaps fifteen; the twins are said to be nine but seem more like six or seven-year-olds. Zane, on the other hand, is fourteen and seems accurate.) Of course, this is long-term in Astro Boy - the original was claimed to be nine and looks six.
  • Mr. Peabody & Sherman: Sherman and Penny are both 7 (and a half) years old, but they behave several years older. Penny in particular.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Spy Kids, particularly the sequels and especially the third one.
  • The "kids" in The Wizard talk more like 1980s businessmen. That's not even getting into the pedophilia implications of one scene. Bizarrely enough, a very common criticism is that all the adults act like children. Maybe the script got the characters mixed up?
  • This was the main problem with Blank Check: a 12-year-old receives a million dollars in cash, and while he does buy a lot of frivolous entertainment, it's glossed over with shopping montages and the plot focuses on things an adult would want, such as buying a castle and seducing an adult woman.

  • Lampshaded in The School Story, a book about a kid who writes a book. One of the adults mentioned that the author seems to be really good at portraying kids accurately.
  • In The Pendragon Adventure, the "books" are Bobby Pendragon's memories of what just happened to him being recorded. He writes in very professional prose. During the course of the series, the timeline is different for him than for the characters who primarily stay on earth; he is probably older than expected (and he does write a lot).
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: George R.R. Martin has acknowledged more than once that this is why kid characters like Bran are the hardest to write for. Most act very mature for their age. Justified though, childhood can be eroded in harsh conditions, and one wouldn't be able to act like a dumb kid in this Crapsack World. For Sansa, who tries to be a good little girl and believes what adults tell her, things do not turn out well.
  • The Babysitters Club:
    • It seems that any time they actually ACT like typical 11 or 13 year olds Stacey would find them quite immature. Of course thinking you're SO much more mature than everyone else is also typical 13 year old behavior as well.
    • Also, some of their sitting charges as well (when they're not acting a lot younger than they should be, such as five-year-old Andrew who doesn't know what New Year's is). Take for instance one of the Perkins girls: she's two years old, and yet speaks in complex full sentences and acts more like she's around TEN!
    • And then there were the jobs they were entrusted with by adults, the most egregious being the "Super Special" plots, where they would take charge of younger kids away from home, including while stranded in a snowstorm and on vacation in New York (which was a strange city to most of them!). All they had to do was offer to help and explain that they had started an after-school baby-sitting business, whereupon one of the parents they'd worked for would chime in with, "They're very responsible," and bingo, they were treated like honorary adults, no further questions asked. And since eleven was the magic gateway to the Competence Zone, often they would be "taking care of" kids who were only a year or two younger, who might exhibit different kinds of brattiness or stubbornness but would always treat them as an authority figure to be strategically undermined instead of just saying, "Dude, you're my age. Stop acting like a camp counselor. No, I don't want to see what's in your Kid Kit." Apparently you can be "handled" up through the age of ten, and after that you enter a higher plane of thinking and gain all kinds of insight into the minds of "kids."
    • Mallory wears an "I <3 Kids" shirt at the age of eleven. If you saw that in real life, you'd assume it was a last-resort item belonging to her mother and they were behind on laundry at her house.
  • Ender's Game. The author does point this out in the foreword of some editions, in what amounts to, "So what?" Somewhat justified by the fact that the kids are supposed to be towering geniuses, and most of them are being pushed to their limits. Especially Ender.
  • An American Dream. Steven Rojack's stepdaughter Deirdre is fluent in French, has a flair for poetry, has an eloquent understanding of marriage dynamics, and apparently believes that "people want to make love after a death". Rojack openly acknowledges this by noting that "she always spoke like an adult".
  • To Kill a Mockingbird has been accused of using the "cute precocious kid" device to get away with having six-/seven-/eight-year-old Scout know and think things she really probably wouldn't, no matter how smart she was and how much Atticus told her about practicing law. And then there's Dill's philosophizing; you could argue that he's not really supposed to understand the full reach of some of the things he says, but a lot of the time he just sounds a little too knowing. On the other hand, Scout is supposed to be recalling the plot rather than describing it as it happens, so some at least of the precociousness can be explained by her either "tidying up" what was said or thought through the lens of a rational adult, or simply wrongly attributing stuff in hindsight.
  • Tamora Pierce. Most of her protagonists start out at around ten and grow into their late teens or adulthood, and they're usually fairly mature before their Character Development. The Circle of Magic books, for example, feature a Four-Temperament Ensemble who all become accredited mages at the Improbable Age of fourteen and thereafter mix (apparently exclusively) in adult circles, and most any character who even suggests they might not be as mature, capable or knowledgeable as older people is either a Jerkass to be publicly humiliated, a villain to be defeated, or both.
    • In the Tortall Universe, pages start combat training at about ten years old and train for four years to become squires. The two quartets to have much to do with that are told from the POV of a page; the first one, Alanna, acts considerably more childishly than the second one, Keladry. This is probably due to temperament; Alanna is an impulsive hothead, especially in her youth. Still, they tend to be quite mature.
    • Some of this is justified through the fact that they're in medieval settings, where children were expected and often had to be more mature than modern children of the same age, since they had to help work at the family trade or saw combat or family deaths.
  • Some readers have suggested Tiffany Aching, the nine-year-old witch in The Wee Free Men doesn't seem like a real nine-year-old (she seems to pretty much run the dairy herself, for a start). The Brownie troop that made Terry Pratchett an honorary member disagreed, though...
  • Scott Ciencin's Dinoverse features a batch of 13-year-olds who sometimes do act their age. They're remarkably composed about the situation they find themselves in - cast back in time by 64 million years and possessing the bodies of large, charismatic Cretaceous-period animals - but they're each variably impulsive, self-centered, grudgy, and kind of whiny. Cue character development; they act much older at the end of the book.
    • Arguably justifiable - most adults would probably find being sent 64my back in time and being turned into dinosaurs to be truly disturbing. Most 13-year-olds would probably find it truly AWESOME.
    • In some of the sequels a teacher is also sent back and turned into a tiny Hypsilophodon. He spends a lot of time screaming and flailing at first, and while under the protection of his larger, more imposing students he tries to act composed but freaks out easily. One of the students scornfully thinks that he's acting like a baby. At some point he gets separated and has to do things himself, which makes him calmer but also gets him thinking he feels like he's thirteen again, and acting like it. Problem is, his thirteen is brattier, more self-centered, and generally more unhelpful than that of the actual thirteen-year-olds, who are a little better at deciding when to stop and think.
  • The protagonists in V. C. Andrews works start out as sixteen (sometimes younger), and right from the start, they all act, talk, and think more like thirty-somethings. In the Orphans series, the girls are twelve in their individual stories, but act sixteen. It goes the other way around too—notably in Midnight Whispers, where the protagonist's nine-year-old brother acts/is treated more like he's five. The most extreme example is possibly Jordan in the Early Spring series, who is six years old at the beginning of the story and eight or nine by the end. Her narrative voice is no different from that of any other of VC Andrews's protagonists. One of the main plot elements is her dealing with premature puberty (that causes her to start her period at age seven) and she's mentioned to look more like a pre-teen because of it; the author seems to have thought this would also give her the mental age of someone at least in their twenties.
  • Five-year-old twins in the mystery novel Aunt Dimity: Vampire Hunter are able to draw such compelling and detailed pictures of the "vampire" they saw in the woods that it nearly gives their mother nightmares. Most kindergarteners still draw "people" as a circle with sticks coming out of the bottom for legs, so while not unbelievable, this would be very rare. (Just as some kids read before kindergarten, some draw well much earlier than others.)
  • In A Series of Unfortunate Events, Sunny Baudelaire is a baby, yet has the same knowledge and intelligence as her teenage siblings, and this is not treated as remarkable. This is actually a Running Gag. While Sunny's behaviour is certainly adultlike (which can be partially, at least, justified in that she's living in a horrible, horrible world) one must remember that virtually all her language for the first half of the series is nonsense; it's the author that is translating for us, and he never states for a fact that it's what she's actually saying; instead he always uses "she probably meant", "something along the lines of", etc. It's also Zig-Zagged in several books; in The Miserable Mill where Violet and Klaus refuse to let Sunny chew gum because she's too young, and yet have no issues with her hanging around a lumbermill where OHS is non-existent. In the next book, her siblings angrily point out that babies should not be secretaries, yet the principal still blames Sunny for, among other things, not making her own staples and failing to use correct English when answering the phone. Finally in the penultimate book we have Kit Snicket giving the orphans a speech on how they're not children anymore; Sunny's response is a word which apparently means "I think I'm still a child."
  • Ayla in Clan of the Cave Bear matures exceptionally fast both physically and emotionally. She is taught to become a medicine woman at the age of six, teaches herself to hunt at the age of nine (which was also when she has her first death curse, the neanderthal equivelent of incarceration), goes through sexual maturity at the age of ten and has her first child at the age of eleven (!!!). Then again, she is raised by neanderthals, who physically mature at a faster rate than the cromagnons and wonder why she did not physically mature EARLIER than she did.
  • Yulia in Night Watch (Series) is a bit of a zigzagged example. At thirteen, she acts like an adult and works as a Night Watch analyst. But she also sits in someone's lap to play computer games.
  • Taken to sickening levels in The Clique series, where the 12-13 year old protagonists act like women in their 20's with all the implications that follow.
  • In Breaking Dawn, a sixteen-year-old Jacob is certain that Bella is the only girl he'd ever love, is tempted by the idea of having children with her, and at one point plans to challenge Edward to a duel over Bella.
  • Zig-zagged in The House of Night. On one hand, the teenage characters act like incredibly brainless stereotypes of teenagers, only caring about pop culture and dating and the like. On the other hand, at the age of 16, Zoey is given a position of authority in the school as High Priestess-in-training and despite being unable to commit to one of her three boyfriends in Chosen, there is thought and discussion about two being soul mates with her and one wanting to spend the rest of his life with her.
  • Tales of the Frog Princess this is justified, since the story is set in the high to late Middle Ages and the teenagers have already been forced to mature due to their circumstances, but Grassina finds the man that she will eventually marry (and falls in love with him, and accepts his marriage proposal) when they're fourteen. Her sister is sixteen and also marries her fiancé then.
    • Emma meets her future husband at fourteen as well, and he proposes to her at the end of the book. She doesn't accept until she's sixteen, but marries within the year. Her mother wants her married to Prince Jorge when they're fourteen.
      • Though set even farther back in time, Emma is untroubled watching "just turned thirteen" Milly pine over Prince Jasper (who's probably at least sixteen, since he was courting her sister at her sixteenth birthday party), and reflects that she is a bit young for marriage, but not too young to start thinking about it. at the end of the book, they decide to marry (it's only been a few days, so they're no older) and Emma is delighted for them. Princess Hazel, turning sixteen, announces her fiancé on her birthday and they will marry soon. While this is actually pretty historically accurate for the time, the issue is more that the books are marketed towards younger children, where such facts are more likely to be subverted: though little kids are more likely to think of a sixteen year old as an adult; adults looking at the books and imagining actual fourteen year olds marrying is a little weird.
    • Murkier in the case of Emma's daughter, also named Millie (after the first one). She meets her future husband when she's sixteen, but she doesn't actually marry him until two books later. The length of time isn't specified, but she could be seventeen or eighteen by then.
  • This is par to the course in Warrior Cats. Apprentices and even some kits act like adults.
  • Even for a precocious Creepy Child, Pearl from The Scarlet Letter is too mature for her age. As a toddler she sounds much older than intended.
  • Hannah Swensen: Hannah's kindergarten-aged niece Tracey talks more like an eleven-year-old. She's supposed to be Wise Beyond Her Years, even reading at a fifth-grade level, but it's still a little exaggerated.
  • Roys Bedoys: Roys and his classmates are about five, yet they use social media and can visit each other unsupervised. Loys is about two, but he’s very articulate.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Saved by the Bell, too. The characters on that show act more like 20/30-somethings than teenagers. Ironically, despite averting Dawson Casting, they also look more like 20-somethings than teenagers.
  • Quite a few Hispanic Soap Operas directed to kids and tweens have an over-emphasis on romantic plots. This has come to bite back since Real Life preteens now seem as worried about romantic issues which are seen by their parents as way over their age.
    • In Carrusel, the girls play with dolls and read comic books, while at the same time talking about boys, clothes, celebrity gossip, and romance novels/soap operas. The boys have varying levels of interest in girls, but all still like boyish pastimes.
  • Many of the teenage protagonists in the various incarnations of Power Rangers rarely act their age or partake in realistic activities for their age. Even in the shows where the Rangers are adults, they seem far more along in their civilian careers than people in their early-mid twenties usually are.

  • ThreeLW's song "No More (Baby I'ma Do Right)" contains a lyric that shows the singers were supposed to be 9th graders. Nothing in the song suggests that all the singers are meant to be anything but adults. Most 9th graders in America can't even legally drive, yet both the song and music video feature cars. The actual singers were in their late teens.
  • Part of what made "Friday" by Rebecca Black the source of much mockery was this trope's usage. The song wants to be a fun weekend partier song, except it's about middle schoolers. They're too young to drive, never mind going out partying on Fridays.
  • Jacob Sartorius' song "Hit or Miss" is sung by a 13-year-old, but the lyrics are obviously intended for someone at least a decade older. He sings about "life gets hard when you're older", partying with girls, and having a lot of girlfriends in the past. The song sprinkles about a few kiddie references to emphasise his age, but most of the song is predominantly not something a 13-year-old would sing.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Many Sesame Street Muppets have canonical ages. For example, Rosita is five, Elmo is three, and Big Bird is six. They act like children, but not like their actual ages. Their vocabularies are more advanced, they're more emotionally mature, and they're more developmentally advanced as well. There are, however, some moments when they act their age, such as Elmo being too young to fully grasp his uncle's death, but usually, most Muppets act several years older than they are supposed to be.

  • The main girls of Bratz are meant to be high schoolers but they're commonly depicted looking, dressing, and acting more like college students, especially prior to the early 2010s retool. Most 15-18-year-olds don't go to nightclubs or have vacation houses to themselves.

    Video Games 
  • Psychonauts, sort of. The characters are all probably between 8 and 12, and they still have relationships, unrequited love, etc. But at the same time, they still have the songwriting skills of young kids, think friendship bracelets are awfully important, and have the general maturity of that age group, such as one camper assuming that his father hates him and wants him to die just because the father is very strict. Part of the reason for that mixture is that while Psychonauts features a mostly underage cast, it's definitely not intended for children, and the trope itself is pretty consistently Played for Laughs. Lampshaded at one point when you're wandering through the locker rooms in someone's memories, to which Raz says that "I'm starting to feel like I'm back in high school! Which is weird, because I'm only ten."
  • The majority of the Sonic The Hedgehog cast are under 20, while the main protagonist himself is 15. Tails is 8. Child Genius or not, he seems more mature/rational than the rest of the main cast. Also, since when is a 15-year-old and an 8-year-old allowed in a casino? There are almost no adults and only one member of the cast has a parent (six year old Cream), meaning that everyone lives by themselves. 12-year old Amy is shown owning more than one apartment/house for herself and doing her own groceries in Sonic Adventure. Amy herself has always acted like a teenager when she's twelve (originally eight).
  • The average age of the cast of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is a lot lower than that of most other Zelda games. You wouldn't notice if it wasn't for them being modelled in Chibi-style. Medli is just as sage-y as every other sage in the series (while being about 10 years younger than every other sage in the series), the Koroks (who are repeatedly called "child-like") speak in a way you would expect from the royal court members of England and pre-teen Tetra... Let's not start about Tetra.
  • Inverted in Heavy Rain. So much so that you have to wonder if the main kids portrayed are actually meant to be mentally handicapped in some way. The game features a 10 year old who blindly wanders away from his father into traffic, for God's sake.

    Visual Novels 
  • Double Homework:
    • The teenage protagonist has perspectives on violence, sex between exes, and psychology that is beyond the capacity of many middle-aged people.
    • In Lauren's epilogue, the emotionally immature Tamara has an insight that encourages the protagonist to propose to his girlfriend.
  • Lampshaded by the protagonist of Melody twice. The title character and Becca are both around 20 years old and have had only a single relationship apiece (and not a very long one at that), yet the protagonist notes how mature they are with romance compared to himself, an experienced man in his late thirties.

  • Inverted in Axe Cop, which actually is written by a child (though edited by his adult brother). This means the adult characters act very much like children.
  • Homestuck: All the main characters are roughly 13 years old... when their segment of the story starts, anyway; by now they're up to about 16, so their preoccupation with romantic concerns is a little more believable. The trolls in particular seem considerably older than their physical age would indicate; by the age of 13, most of them are pretty much maintaining their own households, and several of them are directly responsible for multiple murders. At least in the Trolls' case, they're aliens with a very alien culture. One where life is harsh and murder is considered, at worst, a faux pas. Furthermore, Trolls are raised by monsters; animals at best slightly smarter than a simple beast. The guardians can provide protection from threats, hunt up some food, give a modicum of emotional care... and that's about it. Trolls have to grow up, and fast.
  • Assigned Male is [in]famous for this. The protagonist, Stephie, is supposed to be eleven, yet a lot of the time all she seems to care about is how cisnormative gender roles buds patriarchal masculine fragility.
  • Given that Elwood is a Fan Sequel to Arthur, it's expected that it would demonstrate this to the same extent that the original series does. While both Arthur and D.W. and their peers are older than in the original series, they're still only around 12 and 8 years old respectively, and there is a surprising amount of romance that goes beyond simple kiddie crushes going on between them. Especially notable is the "Play-Date" Story Arc that focuses on Lakewood Elementary having a School Play where the script calls for two students to kiss, which would be far more at home in a High School setting.

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe:
    • This is a common criticism, with characters in their mid-to-late teens acting like full-grown adults. The series would make a lot more sense if it was set in a college rather than a high school although, that might just be Ayla and Sara, the private school rich kid and the Fountain of Youth case.
    • And then you have the witches, three characters who are presently in middle school, who come up with childishly simpleminded schemes while spouting babytalk. Their odd, stylistically low maturity level can be very jarring when compared to the behavior of real middle-schoolers, although that may just be Clover, who acts deliberately cute at times and is said by the narration that she "all too often she acted like she was only six."
  • In Game Grumps, usually the kid characters they play as will be characterized as full adults, frequently having sexual urges. Subverting it becomes a running gag in their playthrough of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, where Danny keeps pointing out that, as stated above, a lot of the cast is children.
    Link: This is bullshit, why am I ten? Why was I born with adult needs and wants?
  • This seems to be the opinion The Nostalgia Critic has about the 17-year-old Bella deciding that she has already decided she's absolutely certain about marrying her high school boyfriend and becoming a vampire.
    She gets a crush on a boy and decides she wants to marry him, even though she's not even out of high school yet! She wants to be turned into a vampire, which everyone has said is throwing her life away, but of course, at the enlightening age of seventeen, she already knows exactly what she wants! Aren't you glad you followed through with every bright idea you had at seventeen? Aren't you glad you totally committed to something you knew you could never make a mistake on at that age? Oh, yeah! Seventeen! Nobody ever fucks up at that age!
  • Parodied by Cleolinda Jones with this Mary Sue meme. The Sue created first captures Voldemort and his followers while in her second year, as the "youngest Death Eater ever", and goes on to be the youngest Hogwarts teacher ever, instead of moving on to third year, and then, a few months later, the youngest Auror ever. She then goes on to be an fashion model and, at age fifteen, decides to go on a spiritual journey to satisfy her questioning her place in the world.
  • Most, if not all, of ACTUALLY HAPPENED's stories are either fake or embellished stories stolen from websites. The stories star teens but they don't always sound like they are.
  • Cracked lists this as one of The 4 Most Annoying Trends In 'Prestige' TV Shows
    For prestige TV, one thing that's almost as important as adults being terrible is that kids, under no circumstances, can act like actual kids. They are to be mentally advanced by at least 20 years, in both performance and writing.

    Western Animation 
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy has 12-year-olds building impossible machines from cardboard and duct tape and literally living without any adults onscreen at any point in the series.
  • Rugrats:
    • This is justified with the babies; if the babies actually acted like babies, there would be no show. So they act closer to 3-5 years old except they can't communicate with the adults. This was actually a major point of contention among the show's creators, with Arlene Klasky wanting them to behave more like real babies, while Paul Germain was in favor of good storytelling at the expense of realism and most of the writers (including, allegedly, Klasky's husband Gábor Csupó) sided with Germain. This was mocked in a Fairly OddParents movie, where Timmy Turner enters a show which looks the same, but with the children actually acting like the toddlers they are.
    • On the other hand, Angelica and Susie, who are supposed to be 3, are able to communicate with the adults and are far more articulate than 3-year-olds should be, making them straight examples.
    • In All Grown Up! the kids are 9-13 years old, but they often act like and are treated like they're high schoolers, with Dil being the only one who mostly behaves like a realistic preteen (fitting, since he was also the only one to behave like a real baby in the original). It's one of the reasons why many Rugrats fans dislike it.
  • As time went on, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius slowly started to treat their main characters more like young adults than eleven-year-old kids, except for when they needed to either for plot reasons or to set up a gag. This is most obvious in the episode "Stranded", which uses every UST Trope in the book for Jimmy and Cindy. Much like Hey Arnold the characterization marched on with the characters to the point some fan sites and wikis credit the characters to have a starting age of 11 and 13 at the end of the series, which is not canon at all.
  • All over the place in Avatar: The Last Airbender. With all the Love Tropes, Drama Tropes, War Tropes, etc, it's not hard to forget that none of the main characters (bar the Big Bad and a few mentors) are older than 16, and neither characters nor the plot are held back by their lack of age. The series mixes adult tropes and Coming of Age tropes, and mixes them very well. Generally, though, it's still a series about two 12-year-olds, a 14-year-old, a 15-year-old, and a 16-year-old who act more like 16-year-olds and two 18-year-olds. Though it should be noted that the series is set during a Medieval-esque war, where people were just expected to grow up faster. Granted, Aang is chronologically 112, so...
    Katara: I haven't done this [penguin sledding] since I was a kid!
    Aang: You still are a kid!
  • Hey Arnold!, where the characters are supposed to be in fourth grade, yet no one finds it odd that Arnold's coach asks him to be the best man at his wedding. Or that the main character takes it upon himself to personally fix the problems of every adult in the neighborhood, ranging from a coach's alienation with his Ambiguously Gay son, to paranoia, to illiteracy, to obsessive-compulsive disorder, to so many more. Also, the kids on the show were voiced by actual kids. Even though they were permanently nine years old, their characterization seemed to mature along with their voices.
  • The South Park kids have gotten more and more adult as time has gone by, for definitions of "adult" that fit within South Park. Indeed, one could argue that the kids are the only ones who act like realistic adults. At times the show seems to be a deconstruction of this trope, as it shows how unsettling it is when kids actually act and talk like that.
  • The Weekenders, which had a bunch of 12-year-olds that acted and talked like 16-year olds.
  • This was the whole point of Fillmore!, which was basically Law & Order or NYPD Blue set in a middle-school hall monitor department, where all of the child cast and characters acted and treated situations like graffiti and candy eating with the same wordplay, attitude, and gravitas 30-year old beat cops would use in rape and drug cases.
  • Doug, a show that took place in middle school where all the kids looked and acted like high school students.
  • Used frequently on The Simpsons. Was lampshaded and justified in one episode where Marge worries that Bart and Lisa (who are 10 and 8 years old, respectively) are already acting like teenagers. Homer chalks it up to all the growth hormones in food. Of course, if the characters in the show actually aged in real time, Bart would be closer to 40 than 10. Lisa in particular has read a lot of classic novels, speaks with a high level of vocabulary, and is very knowledgeable about politics and history. Yes, she has a high I.Q., but she is also only eight years old! Where did she find the time to educate herself?
  • Arthur:
    • Watching a group of supposedly eight and nine-year-olds (Arthur and his group are stated to be in the third grade, with the occasional fourth-grader) biking around a city, holding jobs, and doing things that are generally more suited for early teens doesn't really make sense. Particularly all those scenes in the Sugar Bowl without a parent in sight... and not to mention the school. Lockers and many-page reports for third graders? Seems more like a junior high than an elementary school, really. Considering Ratburn, though, he just might assign rather difficult work for third graders. One throwaway line was something like, "For today's test, identify every country on this map of the world. And as always, spelling counts."
    • This also applies to D.W. to a lesser extent, as she's a preschooler who looks and acts more like a first or second-grader, has knowledge of some mature topics such as divorce and entrepreneurship, and is a rather clever schemer at times. Her speech and language are also on par with Arthur and his friends! Special mention goes to the episode "Kiss and Tell", where she seeks a kiss from a specific boy after learning that her friend Emily got kissed by a boy, and which includes overt Love Tropes like Rescue Romance and Returning the Handkerchief.
  • Subverted and played straight on Phineas and Ferb; the main characters clearly have a genius intelligence well beyond most adults, but use their abilities for childish antics like building a roller coaster in their backyard. While there are love interests, these are played more as kiddy crushes than epic romances. Nearly every episode lampshades this with some adult asking them "Aren't you a little young to be ..." The typical response from Phineas is "Yes. Yes I am."
  • Justified in Kim Possible, as Kim's twin brothers are kid geniuses from a genius family. And like real child prodigies, they do kid stuff and get in trouble, just in an extra-smart way—like unscrewing cables in a jet to see what they do.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door often fell into this (especially with Numbuhs 1 and 5), which just got silly when you considered this meant they acted like the adults they hated. One of the ten-year-olds was even in a somewhat serious relationship. Though it's balanced out by having a few characters be Kiddie Kids, and at times it seems to be parodying this trope. It also helps that many of the problems they treat like important, epic issues are still kiddy worries like snow days, eating veggies, or how evil teenagers are.
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • Blossom, Buttercup, and Bubbles are supposed to be five years old, yet they (especially Blossom and Buttercup) act like they're at least 10 years old or so, what with their understanding of certain sexual things like seduction, in a mild way at least. The first time they beat the Rowdyruff Boys by kissing them. They were tipped off to that weakness by Miss Bellum hinting at them by telling them to "act nice" and showing them her cleavage to solidify the fact. True, they aren't necessarily human so that may be a justification on their maturity, but the thing is, it's not just them- most of the other kids in the show are shown to be as equally mature as the Girls. Interestingly, this is also a rather strange case because they still occasionally struggle with problems a five-year-old might actually have, such as learning manners, getting over "cooties", sharing, and learning what's right from wrong, but, even then, they learn about those things in a more mature way than actual five-year-old girls would.
    • In the original show, the girls acted much like little kids. In the reboot they act like middle schoolers. Bubbles in particular behaves like a meme-loving preteen, in contrast to her being the most childish of her sisters.
  • Gravity Falls plays with this trope all over the place:
    • Dipper and Mabel, just shy of thirteen, are ridiculously capable (Dipper can do advanced mathematics and Mabel is an Action Girl who can fire a mean grappling hook) and tend to slip into adultlike conversation (example: Mabel, trying to convince an elderly woman to date her great-uncle, explains that "women live longer than men so your dating pool is smaller and you should really lower your standards"), but the writing clearly treats them as children, with the naiveté you'd expect, and their goals and ambitions (crushes, etc.) tend to reflect those of actual twelve-year-olds. It's somewhat justified with regard to Dipper in that he's considered "mature for his age", and his main character flaw is having the need to be grown-up and to be seen as an adult. The show frequently highlights the fact that "[his] quest for maturity is in itself immature," as creator Alex Hirsch puts it. His Precocious Crush on a 15-year-old friend, for instance, only serves to underscore the fact that he's not ready to be one of her peers yet. The fact that their arch-nemesis Gideon Gleeful is canonically nine seems to be attributable to Troubling Unchildlike Behavior with a dash of Rule of Funny.
    • And then there's Wendy, who is absurdly strong (justified by her 'freak lumberjack genes'), extremely clearheaded in tense situations, able to approach difficult emotional situations with surprising grace, wisdom and maturity, seems only very slightly fazed by her friends being killed before her eyes (with no suggestion of previous trauma to justify this), appears to be thriving alone in the apocalypse, and throughout the whole series, shows exactly one outburst of emotion in response to something irrational. How old is Wendy? Fifteen.
  • PJ Masks: According to Word of God, the three heroes are six years old, yet they are superheroes with their own headquarters, can pilot vehicles, and aside from the occasional time they do act childlike, are overall more mature than you'd expect children their age to be. The same also applies to their enemies, the nighttime villains, who are around the same age.