Being a reactionary always put you at the losing end, take my word for it. When you spend your time responding to bad behavior, you don’t have the time to recognize good behavior. Chances are your little attention-grabbers need you but sadly, they’ve been trained to have their needs fulfilled in a negative manner.
If you’ve got behavior challenges in your children’s church, don’t be discouraged. You can turn it around!
- Be prepared. Someone once said, “If you don’t put on a program for kids, they’ll put one on for you.” So very true! Create an itinerary and stick to it. Map out your time in class or church by dividing it into sections. Assign out sections if you need to. Never walk in and wing it. That’s a bad idea.
- Plan the details. Once you’ve got an itinerary, create a “things you’ll need” list. It’s hard to demonstrate an object lesson or explain a concept if you forgot the actual object. Walk into class with everything you need, including snacks and crafts.
- Show up early. Manage behavior challenges by setting the tone from minute one! Have soft music playing when kids arrive. Welcome kids at the door and point them to an activity or seat.
- Make room for the Spirit. While you’re showing up early, ask the Holy Spirit to minister to your class. Invite his presence when you arrive and talk about him to the kids. Teach on the Holy Spirit and also invite him during the worship.
- Celebrate their energy. Expecting kids to sit quietly and behave like miniature adults is unreasonable. Insert small activities that allows kids to clap their hands, stomp their feet and shake their heads. Include a fun game, a march around the room or some other physical activity but keep it under control. Stop the parade and start again until everyone gets it right. (However, do be careful when correcting. Don’t embarrass or shame a child.)
- Recognize that each kid is different. Some kids respond to a touch on the shoulder, others don’t want to be hugged. Understand that each child is different and when correcting their behavior, you need to minister to the individual.
What You Should Try
- Kid of the week programs: Once a week, my volunteers nominate a kid for the Kid of the Week. This child demonstrated the Golden Rule with God-approved behavior. If you have a large kids church, consider having a boy and girl each week.
- Recognize good behavior immediately: I have a bucket of small toys on hand at all times. My volunteers quietly distribute small toys to kids caught doing good. It works!
- Set the standard higher: To shake up the status quo you have to raise your standard. Create a poster of four or five rules. Post it where the kids can see it. Don’t excuse bad behavior, even from your favorites.