Classroom management is key to having a successful children’s ministry. This might not be our favorite part of the ministry, but without it, it will become a free-for-all! If we find ourselves getting run down, burnt out, or even butting heads with difficult situations, it’s good to take a step back and review some healthy tips to manage the classroom. Here are 21 “dos and don’ts” in children’s ministry.
Classroom Management “Dos”
- Show Up Ready to Go.
Before the children arrive, give yourself at least a half hour to set up and feel prepared. When all the supplies are laid out and ready to go, and you know what you are teaching, kids will have less time to misbehave and be more equipped to be engaged.
- Be Confident.
The way you present yourself when the children first walk in the door will set the tone for the day. If you behave like you know what’s going on and what the schedule is for the day with confidence, children will relax and be much more likely to let you lead. Some kids will have the gift of leadership and if they see a lack of organization or confidence, they may just try to take over!
- Teach and Listen Actively.
If half of your mind is in the classroom and the other half is thinking about your at-home to-do list, you aren’t fully present for the children. Kids are good at picking up on if you are showing a real interest in your lesson or not. Actively listen to children’s responses by making eye contact, nodding, smiling, and encouraging them! Without this engagement, you may find children aren’t engaged either.
- Correct Behavior with Replacement Behaviors and Redirection.
When a child does something inappropriate, be upfront and correct the behavior immediately. If you allow poor behavior to go on, other children may join in. When you correct behaviors, redirect children to a replacement behavior. For instance, if a kid is putting a snack in their friend’s face you can say, “No thank you, that is not how we treat our friends. Please eat your snack and then we can start our game. Does anyone want to know what game we are playing today?” This will direct the kid’s attention to the next activity.
- Pay Attention to Your Kid’s Needs.
When you pay close attention to your kids you will learn a lot about them. Some kids will have special needs, which if gone unattended, will sometimes result in outbursts or frustration. Other kids may need to be separated from one another because different personalities can sometimes clash. When you get to know the children well, you will be able to avoid certain conflicts and difficulties.
- Reinforce Good Behaviors.
The best way to reinforce good behavior is to acknowledge and compliment it. When you see positive behaviors happening, make a point to encourage the children by saying how well they are doing. You may find that this is all it takes to motivate kids to have the desire to behave.
- Utilize a Reward System.
Depending on your class, an extra incentive to behave is sometimes necessary. A clearly displayed reward system is helpful for children so they can pay attention to how close they are to a reward. Some great incentives are: working for a pizza party, a prize box, or a special movie day. Classroom reward systems where kids have to work together to receive a reward teach teamwork and unity.
- Create Clear Deal-Breakers.
Sometimes a kid doesn’t listen to corrections. This becomes a deal breaker because a consequence is absolutely necessary to show that the rules stand and that you will follow through with them. Some consequences you can try are: removing the item they are making poor choices with (such as a ball or toy), letting the child know they will have to sit out of the next activity because of the misbehavior, or if things get really out of hand, having the parent remove the child from the classroom. This can be difficult but setting these clear boundaries will teach kids that if they want to participate in fun activities, they need to take responsibility for their actions.
- Remain Positive Even Under Negative Circumstances.
When a consequence happens or a child needs to be corrected, stay positive about the day. The other children are watching and behavior issues can’t be allowed to set the tone for your classroom. Do your best to move on quickly, redirect, give kids another chance, and show children that there is no shame in mistakes. This provides an opportunity to model forgiveness and grace. Show them that their mistake will not change how much you care about them.
- Pray About Everything.
Pray before, during, and after each class. Ask Jesus to give you the patience, love, understanding, gentleness, truth, and courage that He has. We don’t always know the best way to handle situations… but when we ask the Holy Spirit to intervene, we can let God change our hearts and minds. God can give us the wisdom we need when we lack insight. He can also give us the forgiveness we need when we don’t handle things perfectly. When our hearts are open, we can learn from our mistakes and grow into better teachers every day!
Classroom Management Don’ts
- Don’t Overreact.
Don’t be an overreactor. When you get amped up…it amps up the kids. If there is a fire drill, remain calm and remind kids how to line up and walk in a single file. When there is a spill, remain calm, help the child clean it up, and move on to the next activity. When we overreact and make a big deal out of everything, children will feed off of this energy. Sometimes this even causes panic or overexcitement in the classroom which can lead to disorder.
- Don’t Nitpick.
Children aren’t perfect. It is important to correct poor behavior, but it is not good to nitpick and overdo it. If you constantly correct their behaviors and become too controlling, they will see this as a way to get more attention, and their behaviors will worsen instead of getting better. Allow kids room to breathe and be themselves so long as it’s not becoming inappropriate or out of hand. This might be similar to what some people like to refer to as a “helicopter parent”. Try not to become a “helicopter teacher”.
- Don’t Allow Kids to Takeover the Classroom.
You are the teacher and the kids are not. Don’t forget what your role is and who is in charge of the classroom. When a kid takes over and has the attention of their classmates more than you, you are in trouble. Ways to prevent this from happening are by being organized, clear about your expectations, and confident in what you are teaching.
- Don’t Yell.
When you raise your voice or attempt to scare the children, this is a sign that things are out of control. It sends a message to the kids that you are out of control and so is the classroom. To keep the respect of the children, use a firm, kind, direct, and clear voice.
- Don’t be Unprepared
Don’t kid yourself and think that you can just “wing it” and not really prepare for the lesson. Filling the time with crossword puzzles and coloring pages will not be enough to keep children engaged. When kids are bored, they will let you know by misbehaving.
- Don’t Forget to Put Safety First.
Don’t give in and just let kids do whatever they want. That is not safe. Without some sort of structure in your classroom, there is more potential for safety issues. Be clear about your rules and follow through with them.
- Don’t Forget Your Schedule.
When there is no order or schedule, things can get out of hand. Kids thrive with structure. They are more likely to misbehave when they don’t know what is next or if they are waiting around a lot. Keep a structured schedule and things will go much more smoothly.
- Don’t be Late.
When you are late and kids are waiting for you, there are a lot more opportunities for kids to make poor choices. Be there and be ready!
- Don’t Have Favorites.
Children can easily detect favoritism. When this happens kids will sometimes act out because of hurt feelings. Be careful to show kindness equally.
- Don’t Ignore Signs.
If a child is displaying negative behaviors consistently, don’t ignore the signs. Follow up with their parents and get to the bottom of what is causing it. Sometimes it can even be health-related.
- Don’t Give Up.
Don’t give up because you weren’t the “perfect” teacher or because you had a particularly difficult situation to deal with today. Take a deep breath, get support from fellow teachers, and get clarity from God’s word because He offers grace for the child and the teacher.