Acceptable Immaturity

Last night, I gave a presentation to a small group of Confirmation students and their parents at a suburban Chicago parish. The kids sat as a group and the parents were scattered around them in the church. My presentation was on Living the Mass. I thought the kids were very well behaved and I complimented them on their behavior, especially after a very long day.

Afterward, when talking to the DRE, I repeated that I thought the kids were very well behaved. She said she agreed for the most part but said that some of them were acting immature. I said that I agreed but that I considered it “acceptable immaturity!” In other words, it’s the kind of behavior to expect from kids who are being asked to sit quietly for over an hour after a long day in school and perhaps some after school activities. It’s the kind of immaturity that can be corrected with a glance, a brief word, or a tap on the shoulder. I’m mentioning this because I’m sure that sometimes I make it sound as if the kids in front of me are complete angels. Not so. I am constantly working to correct behavior that is immature, however, 95% of it is what I consider “acceptable immaturity” – not that the behavior is acceptable but I can accept that this type of behavior is typical from this age group and I can address it dispassionately (i.e. it doesn’t upset me…I just deal with it).

So be sure to separate “acceptable immaturity” from behavior that is completely unacceptable. We can sometimes wear ourselves out and beat ourselves up over behavior that is less than satisfactory but is completely understandable. Part of our job is to consistently remind that kids that certain behaviors are not acceptable but it’s good to do so in a way that communicates the notion that you have complete confidence that they can overcome it and outgrow it.

So do kids in my classes engage in side-talking? Giggling? Passing notes? Making unsolicited remarks? Blurting out answers without raising their hands? Of course. I expect that kind of behavior. I don’t ignore it…I deal with it firmly but dispassionately: I don’t make a big deal out of it and I don’t let it get to me emotionally (although it can wear you down!). It’s simply unacceptable behavior that is “acceptable immaturity!”

About Joe Paprocki 2745 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at

2 Comments on Acceptable Immaturity

  1. Something I am dealing with… I have a 3rd grade class—7 and 8 years old. By the time they get to me, most of them have probably been out of their houses 9 hours—and then they come to me for an hour. They haven’t had dinner yet. They probably have homework to do later. The chit-chat and misbehavior (minor but annoying) gets to me…but then every single week, when I stop and I actually read them a BOOK/STORY…they are all eyes/ears on me…no one chatting or whispering. It’s an amazing thing. Ever since I realized how much they seemed to love being read to, I am scouring shelves to find good books to read. (They do like discussion too, and that goes well, but the reading to them—you can hear a pin drop…)

  2. Lucille, that is brilliant and so effective. I’m glad that you identified such an effective strategy for meeting the challenge of teaching that age group. And thanks for sharing it with others!

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