One of my favorite subjects to teach on is classroom behavior/management. In all the years I’ve worked with kids I have never met a kid that just wanted to be bad. As a matter of fact, most kids I’ve worked with want to please the adults that are in their classrooms, but some just really struggle with making their desire to behave correctly a reality.
So, what do you do with the kids who consistently cause behavior issues at church?
First of all I think it’s important that we try to figure out what’s really going on with those mis-behaving kids. Why do they do what they do? Several years ago I was fortunate to run across a book titled, "Win-Win Discipline." Dr. Spencer Kagan, Dr. Patricia Kyle, and Sally Scott share that there are seven reasons (they call them "positions") that a child misbehaves. I’ve found these concepts very helpful as I’ve considered why kids are acting out at church. In turn, once I figured out what was really going on I could then develop systems within my ministry that promoted success for everyone (me and the kid causing the problem). Here is my abridged synopsis of these seven reasons.
THE ATTENTION SEEKER: Some kids are just looking for attention and I’ve found that most of those kids will do whatever they need to do to get it. Receiving attention for being bad is better than no attention at all. So, we work hard to give this child the attention he needs to prevent outbursts and actions that fill his need in a negative way.
THE FAILURE AVOIDER: These kids are scared to death that they might be embarrassed by giving the wrong answer or not complete a task correctly. So, they’d rather be known as a class clown than a class failure. Be sensitive to these kids and create opportunities for success, not failure.
THE ANGRY KID: Some kids are just angry… and sometimes rightly so. Recognize situations that might cause a child to be angry and then offer understanding and ways for that child to express his/her anger in a constructive way.
THE CONTROL SEEKER: I’ve often said to parents and teachers who were struggling with a child that the very thing that frustrates you about that child, might just be the thing that God wants to use to make that child successful. Control seeking kids are natural born leaders. We need to embrace that child and find ways to encourage their God given leadership. The key here is allowing this child to be successful while you’re still in control of the classroom.
THE ENERGETIC KID: Do you have any energetic kids in your class? YES! Kids are naturally full of energy and we need to make sure we’re planning sessions that allow for kids to be kids! Sitting around a table for an hour on Sunday morning is not going to work in most settings. Allow them the opportunity to move. Even in a small classroom, provide sessions that embrace a child’s need to move, not suppress it.
THE BORED KID: I really struggle with this, but I’ve also been there myself. When a child gets bored (or thinks he’s bored) he starts looking for something to do. Most of the time it won’t include the session teaching aim. Some kids will get bored easier than others and you need to be ready for that. Plan sessions that consider the children, their preferences, and their abilities. More often than not, behavior issues can be connected to the sessions we plan (ouch).
THE UNIFORMED KID: Often times people don’t live up to our expectations because they don’t know our expectations of them (this applies to adults and kids). Make sure your behavior expectations are understood. Don’t have a mile long list of rules, but share that respect for each other is mandatory. That really clears out most of the issues. If you have kids who don’t understand they are doing wrong, they won’t know how to prevent that behavior/action.
At the end of the day, behavior is all about knowing and understanding the kids you teach then putting systems in place that will allow for success. When I consider it that way the Jasons, Natalies, Justins,