Dealing with children’s behavior is one of the most challenging parts of serving in children’s ministry. Jenny Funderburke Smith, Minister to Children at West Bradenton Baptist Church, drops by the podcast to discuss the purpose of discipline in kids’ ministry as discipleship and helps us identify practical ways to structure the ministry and classroom environments to develop a positive culture of behavior.
Have you ever heard of shadowing in a kidmin classroom? Shadowing is a great technique used with children who are having difficulty in group settings. It requires an extra volunteer to stay close and assist when the child requires help. The person shadowing becomes the child’s buddy and must remain close enough to intervene when necessary. The volunteer would help, love, support, and encourage the child. And being close to the child will help limit disruptive behavior, help protect other children, and help the child feel guided, loved, and accepted.
Shadowing works well with different ages and stages of development. One of the earliest issues that teachers encounter is biting. The person shadowing stays close to the child that is having difficulty controlling the urge to bite. Because the volunteer is close, they can intervene when the child is getting ready to bite. This person also gets to know the child better and learns to recognize what is causing the child’s frustration which results in biting. This method also works with children who are having difficulty getting along with others. Children sometimes need gentle loving reminders to be nice while playing with friends.
Shadowing is a great way to maintain a positive teaching and learning environment. This technique benefits the child that is experiencing difficulty in group settings too. It will help the child get adjusted to being in a group as well as helping him through any transitional periods. Shadowing will create a happier, more positive teaching and learning environment for both the teacher and child.
Do you practice shadowing in your kids ministry classroom? Do you think it might improve the classroom experience for kids who need a little extra help?
This post will complete a three part series on Guiding Behavior. I started with Understanding Bad Behavior, shared Principles for Guiding Behavior, Part 1 and today will share the last five principles.
I’m convinced that preventing bad behavior is the preferred strategy. These ideas have helped me over the years prevent instead of deal.
- Model proper behavior for the children. Too many times our behavior doesn’t match our expectations for the kids. If sitting on the table isn’t appropriate for the kids, then DON’T SIT ON THE TABLE. If bringing a drink in to the classroom isn’t appropriate DON’T BRING YOUR DRINK INTO THE CLASSROOM. Time and time again I see teachers whose behavior isn’t consistent with the expectations of the kids.
- Dislike the behavior, not the child! The Bible doesn’t say that you have to like all the kids in your class. However, it’s very clear that you are to love each one with an unconditional, Christ-like love. Be very careful not to equate the behavior you detest with the child you love.
- Provide choice and alternative solutions. Kids will work hard to see their choices be successful. The key here is providing a teaching session that allows for choices. Always have two teachers in the room, regardless of how many kids you have… with that said, plan for each teacher to do a different activity and then allow the kids to choose which activity they will do. You’ll be surprised at how much more successful your sessions will be.
- Never confront or embarrass a child in front of the class. As tempting as it might be, don’t confront in an effort to embarrass. There will be times when immediate action must be taken, but don’t choose that option as your rule. Kids deserve our respect and embarrassing them in an effort to correct their behavior will ultimately backfire on you. In a public place, quietly discuss the behavior problem without breaking his spirit. Embarrassing a child in front of his peers will most likely result in additional bad behavior.
- Be fair! Kids are quick to see when things aren’t fair. You can’t punish one child for something you allow another child to get by with. You can’t choose to have favorites in the classroom. If Jason can’t sit on the table, neither can Mitchell. Be fair.
I’d rather prevent poor behavior than deal with poor behavior. Understanding why kids misbehave and implementing these 10 principles will help you be well on your way to classroom management. This is a skill that can be learned and worth the effort.
Prevention is the Preferred Strategy!
Every Tuesday, I get the opportunity to volunteer at an inner city ministry here in Nashville, and every week there is at least one kid there who just doesn’t want to be there. They don’t want to work on their homework; they don’t want to listen to the devotional, and they certainly don’t want to sing.
Ever been there? You have that kid that has no desire to listen to what you have to say and doesn’t think that your activities are fun. They want nothing to do with this Jesus you are talking about and have no idea why their parents force them to come to your class.
Here are some tips I’ve learned teaching at church and working with kids each Tuesday:
1. Don’t take it personally.
Kids will be kids, and some days, kids just don’t like what they have to do. They may leave and even come back next week with the same attitude, and that is ok. The Word of the Lord doesn’t return void. They may not seem to be listening or to get it, but they may.
2. Don’t get angry.
Normally, kids who say they don’t want to be in your class will warm up to you after a while if you continue to love on them and talk to them like they are an adult. Ask them lots of questions and really invest in them. Raising your voice will make them feel like you don’t really care.
3. Don’t leave boundaries undefined.
In many cases, kids will push you until they know exactly where the boundaries are. They crave them. Boundaries make kids feel safe. Set up rules at the beginning of class. Re-emphasize as you go. One of my favorites that I have learned volunteering is “raise a quiet hand to tell me …” Also, the kids know that they don’t want to be sitting along the wall because they won’t get to play capture the flag. Rewarding good behavior and participation is great.
Again, don’t be upset if you are not able to be the catalyst that makes this kid love coming to Sunday School. Sometimes, they will still not want to be involved. They may want to sit at a separate table or on the floor, and that’s ok. Try to keep their attention and make class way too much fun to want to miss! They’ll come around. It may take time, but the more they know you care the more interested they will be.