Five Ways to Get Kids to Shut Up!

Admit it!  I got your attention with that title.  Who says that sort of thing when they work in children’s ministry?

That answer is – no one says it, but I am willing to venture a guess that most of us have thought it at one point or another.  So, here are five simple things you can do to keep most kids in your ministry quiet:

1. Keep them Engaged

When kids are engaged they are much less likely to talk and cause problems.  This isn’t always true, but it holds up as a general rule.  So, make sure you’re presenting the Gospel and the Bible faithfully, but also make sure you are doing it in a way that kids are engaged.  Get them involved, have some fun, convey the excitement and your issues with kids talking at the wrong time will decrease.

2. Have Clearly Defined Rules and Consequences

Come up with a short list of rules for your class.  Keep it simple, but make sure being quiet when they’re supposed to is one of the rules.  Also have a very concise and clear consequence pattern.  Go over both of those every week so the kids know what is expected and know what will happen with they don’t follow the rules.

3. Give them Time To Talk

Build time into your lesson when they have the chance to talk.  Ask questions, get them involved in presenting the lesson, have an upbeat worship time.  Give them an outlet to speak and they will be less likely to talk when you don’t want them to.

4. Build a Relationship

Kids will have a lot easier time interrupting you and being disrespectful when you don’t have a personal relationship with them.  Build a relationship and speak into their lives, and you will be amazed at the difference in their behavior.

5. Whisper

No really!  Try it sometime when your classroom is really really loud.  No matter how much they want to talk, kids also want to know what is going down.  As they get louder, you get softer in your voice.  When it works, it’s magic!  The kids will stop talking because when you’re whispering they want to hear


  1. says

    I love #1 above all else!
    Here are my ideas:
    -Catch the kids being good – reinforce the behavior you like and create a positive culture for the preferred behavior. For example, notice the kids that ARE sitting quietly and paying attention by praising them and thanking them for their cooperation. “I noticed that these four boys in this row are doing a great job of listening and making eye contact with me. I love that. Thanks” and move on. You can address wrong behavior by praising the right stuff.
    -Be careful of using the LOOK too much. It will rapidly lose it’s effectiveness if you don’t use positive techniques along with it. BTW – practice the LOOK in front of the mirror, you’ll get it. clench your jaw and widen widen your eyes a bit.
    -Have private conversations with kids that are offending. Respect them like crazy and do it one on one so they don’t get embarrassed. In the conversation, tell the child what the behavior is, ask them what they should be doing and ask for their help, respect and support. Let them know that it cannot continue. *Sometimes you have to wait to address and issue so that you can do it respectfully and effectively.
    – Ask a misbehaving child “Alyssa, what are you supposed to be doing right now?” wait for answer…..then ask, “what were you doing?” Allow them to correct themselves. Do it all respectfully – treat the kids the way you want to be treated.

    Thanks for the forum to share good ideas.

  2. Mark Donnelly says

    good sound advice – thank you

    found ‘COOL’ rules work well with small or large numbers

    Care for your neighbours
    Only shout out when pick out (esp during the quiz :-)
    Obey the leaders
    Look and listen to the leader at the front

    with a big group i sometimes place 3-5 balloons at the front

    if any of the rules are broken a balloon is popped
    (everyone knows someone has broke the rules)

    if all balloons are popped by end of club then no treat is given
    (best to punish bad behaviour instead of reward good behaviour)

    i’ve never had to busrt anymore than 2 balloons at any one time in 8-9 years even with 90 children (most unchurched) at club

    also found the ‘Noiseometer’ can work a treat

    you need at least 8 shapes to write on and some blue tack

    write the letters B G L R E M and numbers 0 and 10 on the shapes

    B -Boys G -Girls L -Left R -Right E -Everyone and M -Me

    stick the two numbers on a wall behind you a few meters apart

    Stand in the middle holding letter M and tell them what it means

    explain that the two numbers work like a remote control

    as you speak move right and whisper quieter as you reach 0

    as you move left progessively talk louder as you reach 10

    to quieten children for the lesson place the E beside 0

    to encourage better singing etc have Boys v Girls or L v R
    tell them you will listen to see who sings best/louder and progressively place/move their corresponding shapes

    i often tell/remind them that 10 is shouting and that if we are shouting then we are not singing and so if we reach 8-9 then perhaps the angels in heaven may hear us singing God’s praise

  3. Zelna says

    A tip for rules – we only have 3!

    G – Give me (or the one who is leading) all your attention.
    O – Obey the leaders
    D – Don’t be a space invader, no touching or sitting too close.

    It works especially well with the younger, age 3-5. Thanks for the tips on keeping them quiet. There’s always one or two chatterboxes ;)

  4. Luisa says

    Thanks Tony and everyone who posted their comments and suggested their ideas. I think they are all fantastic and wonderful ideas! It might help my ministry as well. God bless!

  5. says

    These are awesome – thank you for sharing them. Your sharing made me think of a one room school house.

  6. Ginger says

    I have in one room ages 2-12. Sometimes it gets VERY loud, but here are my five tried and true. My objective is to get a classroom full of children who are excited, engaged and learning about Christ. Not always possible, but I have found that they have absorbed more than I could ever imagine, even when they are talking. Maybe it’s my obsession with beating a dead horse and going over the material and bible verses ad infinitum…

    1. Don’t just tell them a story, give them parts. For example, telling the story of Job I assign Cliff to be Job, every time I say Job’s name Cliff says, “God will never leave me or foresake me”, Shonti will be Job’s wife and every time I say wife, Shonti will say, “Oh be done with it already!” I will assign children to moo and children to be “weepers” for the lost children. The kids listen for their own parts and help each other come in on cue!

    2. Alternate quiet and loud activities. All of my lessons follow the same pattern: Praise and worship (if they are especially energetic we do “Father Abraham”), Prayer, Recite Bible verses, Lesson/theme, Craft, Offering, Snack.

    3. Tell ‘em what’s comin’. Make your lesson plan visible to the class. Assign jobs. Let them know what’s coming next but mix it up now and then and put special or surprise activities on the sheet. Tell them they must be quiet to be helpers next week.

    4. Do like their school teachers do. My kids told me their teacher says “1-2-3 eyes on me” when she wants them quiet. Another says “Hocus…” and the kids respond “Focus”. Another claps “shave and a hair cut” and the kids clap back “two bits”. I’ve seen a principal raise two fingers high above his head to get the attention of a whole auditorium. So I started raising my right hand straight up above my head and my left straight out toward the kids and I say, “Hearts on Jesus, eyes on me”, they mimic the hand movement and respond “Hearts on Jesus, eyes on you.” Works for us!

    5. Change the plan. Sometimes if they are really restless we go outside. I do outside games with our memory verses. I get them to scream out the answers as loud as they can. Or I forego the storytelling (instead offer the Cliff Notes version) and apply the lesson to life today and let them tell me how the lesson applies to their lives.

    Hope my five are as helpful as those listed :)

  7. Beth says

    I usually will stop what I’m doing and ask the culprit to give me his or her opinion about the topic we are discussing. Usually the embarassment of being “called-out” infront of thier friends and the awkwardness of not knowing what to say is enough stop the talking. If that doesn’t work I stop what I’m doing altogether and if after a few minutes they continue to talk or goof off (usually one thier peers will request silence) I will remind them of two things 1) they are breaking my #1 rule- to treat others as they want to be treated- by being disrepectful and 2) that they are wasting their game time. Works almost every time!

  8. says

    Something that worked well for me during my Bible clubs (2-3 grade boys) was to make a ‘stop light.’ I taped red, yellow and green pieces of paper together to make a triangle. When I was teaching and did not want to be interrupted the red side was facing the kids. If the yellow side was facing them, they were allowed to raise their hand and I would call on them. I would use the green side during craft time when they could talk without raising their hand. If anyone violated the stop light, they got a ‘ticket.’ three ‘tickets’ and they were out. Having the ‘line’ clearly drawn and the consequenses clearly explained made lesson time much more profitable and easy to teach.

  9. says

    I like the look! However I don’t think everyone has THE LOOK!

    I would also add – KNOW THE KIDS. There could be a whole bunch of reasons why kids are acting out. It is why we must continually be encouraging the volunteers to get to know the kids beyond Sunday morning.

    And know the right questions to ask.

    Oh yes – to go with THE LOOK is THE HAND – on the shoulder.

  10. Alex says

    haha… It strikes me funny when I read the title. This is so true in my class (composed of boys, mostly 4th-6th grade). So what I do is that I follow rules number 1 and 3 above. I ask them probing questions regarding the lesson. We discuss ideas and ways to apply them to our daily life. That way they’re kept engaged. Sometimes, I bring some snacks to be eaten after class. I could see they get excited when they know they’ll have something after class.

  11. says

    I find whispering and the LOOK to be the most effective. I have a group of boys who sit right by where I stand during our large group time and they definately know what I mean when I give them the look.

    Another one that generally works for me is just to stand perfectly still and quiet until they realize I’m waiting for them to do something.

  12. says

    Ha! I promised seven apparently, and I only came through with five. It was my effort to leave you hanging and wanting for more! :) I guess I owe you two more though. So. #6 – Candy and #7 – The Look. Use candy as an incentive for your kids to follow the rules you’ve laid out. Yes, I know all of the reasons not to use candy as a reward, but I am convinced that one or two small pieces of candy of week at church is not going to do irreparable harm to a child. As for “The Look,” I find it works well with boys. Kids know it when they see it. It’s a look that says “I need you to stop that now.” Not all kids will react to it, but it works with enough of them that it’s worth using.

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