children on beach

Managing the behaviour of children so that everyone can have fun, be safe and benefit from participating is possibly one of the most basic skills that anyone that has responsibility for groups of children needs, but can be most hard to feel competent in. Here are some ideas that you might like to reflect on and discuss with your children’s ministry team.

Be well prepared and organised

Arrive early and have your space set up and all materials you will be using ready to go. Use a check list. NEVER, never, never leave your preparation until the night before (and definitely not that morning!); being prepared not only takes away the stress, but also indicates your respect for the children, and your commitment to the ministry that God has called you to.

Build relationships

Build respectful and warm relationships with the children, and if possible, their parents. If children know that you like them, they will like you and will be unlikely to behave badly.

Keep rules simple and few in number

Have a safety rule, a respect rule and a happy rule. Talk to the children about the rules you have. Explain why they are important and what the consequences will be if they are not kept. Make sure that everyone knows the rules and understands them, and has agreed to them – teachers, children, parents, parish leadership. It is particularly important that consequences for not adhering to rules have been agreed to by everyone involved in enforcing them. Be fair and consistent.

Model behaviour and attitudes

Model the bevaviour and attitudes that you desire to see in the children. Be in charge of your own behaviour at all times. It is not OK to be rude to children, be sarcastic or lose your temper. Children have the right to feel safe, no matter how annoyed you are with their behaviour.

Review the session

Have a review of every session and learn from your mistakes, and your successes. It can be very helpful to keep a journal and write some brief notes about the session, what worked well, what didn’t, ideas for future sessions or how the activity could work better. Take the trouble to ask for feedback from other leaders, parents, and the children … you might need to pray through some of the responses and shift out the junk, but you will learn heaps.

Problems and causes

If there was a problem think about possible causes. Undesirable behaviour can be caused by:

  • Boredom; think about whether you engaged the children with a variety of learning styles; were you properly prepared; did you expect them to sit and listen for too long?
  • Inability of the children to understand the lesson or what you want them to do; did you try to teach too many points, did you use clear, simple language, and did you check that the children understood as the activity proceeded?
  • Physical environment; are there fights over where children sit, can you maintain good eye contact with all the children, are there places where children are out of your sight, are the children comfortable – is the room too hot, too cold, the floor too hard?
  • Distress or other emotional problems that the child has brought with them; be caring, provide some space if needed (have a quiet corner where children can be away from the group). Don’t try to deal with issues that you are not qualified to deal with, don’t try to counsel the child or the parents, let the minister know if you have concerns.

Pray for the children

Thank God for them, ask for wisdom, patience and love. Ask that the Holy Spirit will be at work in the children and in you.

Sufficient number of adults

Have enough adults to assist children with learning activities. Make sure that all helpers understand clearly what to do. If possible have regular team meetings to develop skills, build shared understanding, and pray together and support each other.