Sunday school left me bewildered….again. I’m baffled about how and why young people in today’s world can act so rudely and disrespectfully that teaching them is a chore, not a pleasure, especially teens who have been raised in loving families by parents who teach manners and appropriate, civil behavior. When a teacher has to stop her lesson to remind students to stop chatting and “listen up,” every three minutes (or less), soon the Spirit is missing. What’s up with that??? Are all youth this way, or is it just American ones?

Rather than give THE LECTURE about appropriate behavior in Heavenly Father’s house yet again, I decided to try blending a little psychology into the introduction. I gave a brief overview of the major psychological perspectives and then tried to relate their unruly, seemingly uncontrollable behavior to each of the viewpoints in order to come up with the WHY of general incivility.

  • Could it be psychoanalytic? Were they misbehaving because of some regressed memories? Were there some unconscious forces that made them all vie for attention? Or maybe their ids were overpowering their superegos.
  • What about the behavioral perspective. Evidently somewhere along the line someone (perhaps several someones) had reinforced being cute and talkative and disruptive. Perhaps they even did it to each other. Even worse. I could be strengthening their antics by calling attention to them.
  • That brings us to the humanistic view. Were they trying to achieve positive regard? Achieve a healthy self-concept? Were they in the process of growing and “becoming?”
  • The cognitive view offers “food for thought” because it’s definite that teenagers think dramatically different from younger children and from more mature individuals. I looked at these adolescents and realized that by the time they turn twenty-five, they’ll in all likelihood look back on their disrespectful behavior in disbelief. Right now they’re wrapped up in the “imaginary audience.”
  • Then there’s the sociocultural perspective. There’s absolutely no doubt that teenagers in other cultures share some of the same characteristics as those in
    America, and yet in many countries (especially Eastern ones), they are more disciplined and self-controlled. To giggle and chatter away incessantly while an adult talks would be unthinkable in other cultures. Is it any wonder that we’re sometimes referred to collectively as the “ugly American?”
  • A biophysical viewpoint offers answers too. Perhaps the prefrontal cortex is still developing, or maybe hormones are raging or “out of whack.”

While I enjoyed thinking of these possible explanations, I came up with no definitive answers to my class’s irreverent behavior. ..and neither did they. By the way, yes I did consider that perhaps my boring lessons are the cause of the shenanigans, but somehow I don’t think that’s the case. In fact, EVERYONE who teaches or works with this group of young people is experiencing the same frustration and exasperation. What can I (we) do?

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