One more thing -- think about why their comments threaten you so much. Do you take them personally? Do you think some of the comments unfortunately have merit? Are you all too willing to be distracted because you are not doing as well as you would like in the class?
Rebecca from Cleveland asked, "I'm an active churchgoer and can be seen at the same pew every Sunday. I truly enjoy church, but what I don't enjoy is the unruly children whose parents allow them to run up and down the aisles, play noisily, and [they] scream when they are told to be quiet. Now, I understand when it is an infant and that it is hard for a 2- to 3-year-old, but I'm at a loss of what to do. I feel if I say something I'm unchristian, and yet the parents do little … to stop this behavior. I want to say something to the pastor, but again, [is that] unchristian? So what would you do? Most everyone just allows it to happen week after week."
Keating: When children's behavior is really over the top, they are viewed poorly, their parents are poorly regarded, and that is of no benefit to anyone.
If you don't know the parents, you could approach them in a friendly manner, introduce yourself and say, "It is wonderful to see you and your little boy in church. But I sometimes have trouble concentrating on what the pastor says when children run around. It would be great if you could ask your son to sit quietly. I'd appreciate that so much."
You are likely to gain compliance if you are nonaggressive, direct (give the specifics of what you want, which is "sit quietly"), give the reason why (you have trouble concentrating), and don't phrase things in a question format that could be challenged.
If that doesn't work, go to the next level and ask your pastor to intervene. Your pastor would likely make an excellent go-between.
Michael from Flint, Mich., wrote, "I have two friends who are a couple. They are always grabbing one another or just always touching to the point it looks just silly and childish. I have called them on it, and I get the claws from the girl and get excuses from the guy. They do this everywhere. They do not see anything wrong with it. Even when we go somewhere he has to sit next to her so he can touch her. If he is in the back seat and she is in front he has to reach around and play with her. There is no way to get through to them; its annoying. It draws attention -- the wrong kind. Keep in mind one is in her late 30s and he is in his early 40s. It's not like they are teenagers. How would you get through to them that this is just not cool?"
Keating: Many of us have felt your pain!
The signaling that the couple is engaged in shouts, "This is all about us -- and you are excluded!"
They may not recognize that this kind of behavior is read by others as a sort of rejection. If they are truly your friends, they will understand when you say, "I think you and Sally are a great couple but sometimes I feel left out of our friendship when you and Sally touch a lot. May we talk about this?"
Here you are confirming their special bond (not competing with it) and being honest about your feelings. You are also drawing out their thoughts. I'd speak with each one separately about it so they don't have the opportunity to face you down with a united front.