Bad attitudes in children make teaching a class so difficult. As a teacher, I want to understand the reasons for a bad attitude; because I am a mom, I want to fix it. However, when dealing with bad attitudes in kids, even in kids’ church, you must have do two things: teach and train. Teaching about having a good attitude is the easy part. The training is a bit more difficult, especially if you only have the child for two hours on a Wednesday night.
For a bit of scriptural insight, remember what Paul said, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18 NIV) This scripture is true for us all, especially children learning to control their emotions.
When a child displays a bad attitude, it can also be a symptom of a problem. I will work towards uncovering the problem but in the meantime, Susie cannot disrupt the class. Here is how I train kids to have better attitudes.
Respond correctly to a poor attitude. Eye rolls, talking to themselves and scowling are three bad behaviors common in kids. Rather than responding in kind, I challenge kids with respect. I say, “Say that again please, without the eye roll (or you fill in the blank here.)” We do it again until the attitude has changed. Merely pointing out that swearing is bad behavior only teaches; having the child to repeat the statement without the “bad words” trains.
Ask again, respectfully. I have noticed that stinky attitudes often appear during snack or treat time. “I didn’t get one!” or “How come he got one?” are just some examples of bad thinking. I usually say, “Ask me, respectfully.” I coach the child to pose his question nicely. Just scolding a child for being selfish will not change the problem; you have to train them with practice.
Don’t be afraid of challenging bad behavior. I found out a long time ago that what I permit, I get. Don’t permit a bad attitude to take over your class. Teach kids to be thankful, train kids to be gracious.