Leading a small group can be energizing and inspiring! If you’re finding yourself consistently drained instead, look at the way you manage behavior and set expectations for kids: How can you share the grace and love of Christ in every interaction?
Watch this video and read below to learn five practical ways you can prevent and redirect challenging behaviors in LifeKids.
- Be proactive.
- Greet kids by name and spend time playing with them. When you invest time playing with a kid on their level, they trust you care for them and are more likely to follow your lead the rest of the hour.
- Be positive.
- Constantly use specific praise, kind words, and encouragement. You’ll build up sense of pride in kids when they make appropriate choices (and it will make them want to make appropriate choices more often).
- Celebrate! When a kid who typically struggles makes an appropriate choice, go out of your way to give them a silent thumbs-up or a high five, whisper some kind, encouraging words in their ear, or share their success with their parents at check-out time.
- Use redirection or distraction. When a kid is having a meltdown or is insistent on making an inappropriate choice, get them busy thinking about or doing something else.
- Redirect with a change of subject. Be silly by saying something like, “I love your shoes. Do you think I can fit my giant grown-up feet into them?” Or get them to talk about what they love to do: “What do you know about Minecraft or Fortnite?”
- Keep a neutral attitude.
- Think about the behavior. Is it just bothering you, or is it actually distracting other kids? If it’s just bothering you, do your best to ignore it. If it is actually a distraction to others, address it.
- When you’re feeling stressed or angry inside over a child’s behavior, be a S.T.A.R.: Smile, Take a deep breath, And Relax.
- Remain calm and loving. Children shut down and feel threatened by insulting language, threats, harsh glares, towering height, and aggressive body language. Focus on presenting yourself calmly, at eye level, and speak respectfully with them.
- Be clear and non-threatening.
- Make sure the directions you give kids make sense so they know what your expectations are. If your kids don’t seem to understand, rephrase the directions to help them out.
- Give directions and address challenging behaviors at eye level, sitting next to a kid instead of facing them, so they don’t feel cornered or trapped.
- Get help.
- Pray. When kids are defiant, distracting, or are making inappropriate choices, pray for help first. Ask God to give you supernatural peace as you lead the kids, and to give you wisdom and creativity in leading the kids to make more appropriate choices.
- If you’ve tried redirection and a child is still disruptive, ask for help. Another leader can take the child to the side and address the behavior in a positive way, giving both you and the kid a chance to have a break and reset.
- If you feel too much negative energy towards a child who is behaving inappropriately, ask for help. Sometimes it is difficult to stay calm and neutral when a kid is acting out. If you think you might snap, ask another leader or a coach to address the behavior for you.
- If you’re still thinking about a kid’s poor choices after the service, talk it over with another trusted leader. Make sure you get help to cool off so you aren’t carrying a grudge into the next week. Talk over your struggles with another leader, and brainstorm ideas on how to deal with it in the future.
- Ask parents for pointers. Partner with your coach to ask the parents if they have any tips or tricks for you to try.
- If your group is too big, say something. It’s true—the bigger the group, the harder it is to manage. Let your coach and campus staff know if you feel your group is too big, or ask a friend or family member to sign up to serve with you.
Note: Consistency is key. It can take 4-6 weeks for these tips and techniques to become more natural to you and for kids to respond positively to them. If it’s hard for you to consistently implement them, ask your coach or another leader to hold you accountable and support you in the changes you’re making.
Talk through these discussion questions with your fellow leaders and LifeKids team.
- Talk about a time when you left feeling energized and inspired after leading in LifeKids.
- What’s the number one challenging behavior that drains you when you’re leading in LifeKids?
- Which tips from the video do you think will help you the most?
- What advice would you give to another leader who is struggling with challenging behaviors in their small group?
- Share a story about another leader who had success in redirecting a kid who was making inappropriate choices.