Dealing with ‘THAT’ kid

December 1, 2014

Johnny sit down. Johnny stop yelling. Johnny stop pulling her hair. Johnny sit down. No you may not see how far that Bible can fly. Get your finger out of Ashley’s ear. Johnny sit down! Save your fart noises til after class. Johnny, we don’t say those words in church. Now why did you hit Brian? Johnny!…..Sit…….Down!!

Sound like a typical Wednesday youth program class? Maybe with just a change of name and charges? This topic is something that weighs heavily on my mind after recent discussions from youth workers. For reference; if you want to encounter some of the most thought-provoking issues in youth ministry today, ask a BFI Director. I cannot recall who wrote it but my favorite quote on this topic is “Those who are the most disruptive are usually the ones who need a larger amount of love and grace”.

First things first, let’s get rid of the labels. The image for this post does not denigrate the fact mental illnesses are real and destructive at times. What it does is display our more recent inclination to group certain people or behaviors in a manageable label. That makes it easier to name and ultimately deal with. In my opinion, this is wrong. That’s not Johnny, the ADHD child…it’s Johnny. A child who seeks attention will usually take whatever form of attention they can get from you. So seek to curb correcting incorrect behavior & use consequences as a last resort.

Next, we too often give attention to the very behavior we are trying to correct by not honoring what should be done. Maximize the amount of positive attention for appropriate behavior while minimizing the attention for negative behavior. Instead of harping on mistakes, give a voice to those things we quietly take for granted. ‘Thank you Brian for lining up so fast.’ ‘Thank you Ashley for raising your hand.’ Immediately look for those who follow instructions after you give them and publicly praise them. If you are in contact with parents; ALWAYS look for things to praise about your students to their parents.

Here are a few practical ideas:

Group Sticker Board: You’ve seen the school favorite with each kid’s name and stickers attached after good behavior. I propose a similar strategy but for the whole group. Have one big board for the class and every time you recognize/praise good behavior put a sticker up. After so many stickers have a surprise for the class. (Soccer day, ice cream sundaes) This can be a small something done every class or something they build up to by the end of a semester or year.

Written Praise For this one, I’m taking a discipline and turning it positive. If you have a whiteboard or chalkboard handy this one will help keep children on task as well. Instead of keeping a list on names who misbehaved on the board make an all-star list and without saying anything, during a task, just write names of children who are ‘on task’. It means something more to see their little names written up on the board and it is an easier reminder to praise them for their parents.

You may be the only example in a kid’s life that expects a certain level of good behavior from them and as such will show them a level of love they might not receive elsewhere. Bottom line is: Love your kids, show patience & be creative. Lastly, please recognize that this won’t be a stopper in the drain of bad behavior. It’s going to take work…and time…and patience…a lot of patience.  I’m not a certified educator and there are massive amounts of ideas out there better than mine so please share. If you do something that works for you, let us all share in that knowledge so we may become the best we can.


7 Responses to Dealing with ‘THAT’ kid
  1. Thank you! This is a really good point that needs to be made more often. Love the two ideas at the end of the article.. I truly believe in Positive Reinforcement. It’s something a lot of us need to work on, but is so effective. I’ve had to remove kids from programs and it’s heartbreaking. Knowing they need to be there, but exhausting all your resources and leaders, makes it hard at times.

    • Tiffany, always the encourager. Thank you! I know it is not a new idea for anyone who has been dealing with kids for a while but sometimes reminders can be handy. At the end of the day if we exercise patience and trust that God is using our efforts then that is all we can ask for. Keep doing your best to lift young people up. Thanks for the comment.

  2. I developed a “praise board” of sorts and it has worked really well. Each kid has a little Lego junior soldier with their name on it. And everyone had the opportunity to EARN points. Every 10 points they move up to the next space(it looks kinda like a monopoly board. We don’t take away points. Just award them for the good behaviors, attendance, bring friends and bibles, memory verse, etc. The teachers and helpers all have points they hand out and the kids place them in their stocking at the end of the day and each week I count them up and move their junior soldier figure on down. It’s been a huge help. The kids know the rules, but like the article said, we might be the only ones who care to put them into action. Giving them a reason to decide on their on accord to follow them has been a huge stress reliever. I can send any one that would like it the figures/points. Just send me a message on Facebook with your email.

    • Great idea Victor! What does the lego system work towards? Have they turned it into a competition yet where the highest points has bragging rights? In my elementary class, that is always how it turned which sounds like it might not be a good thing but when I ended up having a group trying to behave better than one another we got so much more accomplished. (The children also were usually excited to come to class and see if they could be real good) Other teachers told me how impressed they were that I could gather attention and have the youngest kids stay quiet in assembly. Keep the ideas coming Victor, great job! Also, thank you for the comment!

    • Hi Victor, I’d like to take look at the figures/points please. That sounds exciting and like something I could use. Could you please send them to me. please find Cristina Drozdovschi in the lotus notes

  3. Yeah! At some point the points end so once they pass that mark they are in the VIP club which has tons of perks. The one they love the most in going to lunch with me and lieutenant. But they work towards little things. Candy. Small toys. A soda. We got coupons for free ice cream from mcdonalds. Things like that. At some levels we have entries for a grand prize which will be drawn once a quarter. The kids are so funny because they remember and will say “my name is is there 4 times” it’s hilarious. I think the next step would be to some sort of group points by Sunday school class and as badge class(guards,adventure corps, etc) to encourage that better behavior as a class so that every one in the class is held accountable and every one in the class gets to celebrate a victory.

  4. Thanks Jesse for reminding us of the power of positive reinforcement that we often forget about in our efforts to deal with the behavior problems. Enjoy the practical advice. We will remember this with our adventure corps group!


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