What to Do When the Children You Teach Don’t Respect You

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One of my two favorite times of the week both happen on Sunday—at the beginning and end of children’s church. I can’t wait to get in there and teach but by the time the service is over, I’m ready to crawl to my couch and hope a kind family member will bring me a glass of iced tea. I’ve noticed that the weeks when I feel especially tired/aggravated/frustrated are occasions when I encounter kids that don’t respect me. A child announces to the entire class that he or she is bored, wants to play or doesn’t like the candy in the goodie bags that I’m sending home. It’s enough to make a committed teacher want to walk out the door.
What do you do when the children you teach don’t respect you? I know I’m not alone here. I’ve got a small group of volunteers that I’m constantly affirming on days like this. (I know how they feel!) First, remember who they are. Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Also remember the words of Jesus, But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves,” as found in Luke 22.
God doesn’t intend for you to be mistreated or unappreciated; however, it helps to remember you’re there to serve. Humility and kindness are two treats that many children don’t see too much of today. It’s the love of Jesus, often demonstrated through a patient and loving adult, that unlocks the heart of the disrespectful child.
Next remember the goal is to mold the child’s character not humiliate him or break his will. That’s never God’s goal. You’ll have to be persistent and apply some practical steps like:

  • Insist that children call you Miss, Mr., Mrs. or Pastor. It’s a subtle way to establish your authority as teacher. Kids shouldn’t call you by your first name.
  • Offer a positive incentive program. Personally, I prefer the Bible Bucks system but other systems work well too.
  • Say what you mean and do what you say. Keep the rules simple and remind the class the rules regularly. If you say something like, “Johnny, this is the last time I remind you today,” then follow up.

I’ve been pastoring children for fifteen years. I know it’s a tough gig but you can do it. I believe in you!

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