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Six Tips for Dealing with Unruly Kids

Guest Post by Collie Coburn Jr.

Every church has them. Kids that are easily distracted, too cool for school, or just plain rowdy. In reality, it’s a blessing that you are stuck with unruly kids, because they need to hear the gospel just as much as anybody else. That being said, it’s important to be intentional about managing them in a way that doesn’t allow them to distract the rest of your students. With that in mind, here are a few tips for dealing effectively with unruly students.

  1. Make them slow down and communicate. Sometimes when the classroom feels chaotic it’s tempting to immediately send a kid to time-out and move on to other things. Resist the urge, and instead require a misbehaving child to stop moving, look you in the eye and communicate. Not only will you really get the kids attention, but being forced to pause and take a breath may be all it takes to calm the kid down.
  2. Give them something to do. Kids often act out because they feel bored, and one way to combat that is to give them a task. Maybe that means getting them inspired to participate in an activity, or maybe it’s giving them a job like changing power-point slides or turning on lights. Whatever it is, if you can give a kid something to do, their behavior will often improve.’
  3. Try to figure out the root cause. Sometimes kids just have bad days, don’t sleep enough, or eat too much sugar. Other times kids act out because of problems at home, being teased, or as a response to confusion or grief. If you can figure out the root cause of misbehaving kids, you may also find the opportunity to minister them through a difficult time.
  4. Don’t be afraid to talk to parents. This experience can be nerve-wracking, but in my experience most parents want to support you as you minister to their children. Getting the support of parents will make a big difference as you work with unruly kids.
  5. Be willing to take the pressure off your volunteers. Dealing with unruly kids can be very intimidating for volunteers. When you see a kid running circles around their leader, don’t be afraid to intervene. Discipline problems can lead to a drop in a leader’s confidence and effectiveness, so be willing to step in and take on the burden of discipline. Not only will it help contain the energy of a child, it will also encourage your leaders.
  6. Try and turn discipline problems into ministry opportunities. Don’t be satisfied with simply controlling behavior, look for opportunities to tie behavior into the work of the Holy Spirit. Rather than focusing on broken classroom rules, try and turn the conversation toward character development. After all, the goal of classroom management isn’t simply behavior modification. The goal is to set up an environment where the Holy Spirit can speak and be heard.

Those are just a few thoughts. I’d love to hear yours, so please share some of your tips for managing unruly students. Thanks!