Wednesday, February 17, 2016

# church # Primary

How to Deal with a Difficult Child in Primary

We’ve had THOSE Sundays when there’s a child or two (or three or four) in Primary that just make everything a little more difficult. Johnny is asking random questions without raising his hand; Susie is saying the opposite of what you’re saying; Daisy isn’t sitting in her chair; and Charlie and Tommy can’t stop bugging each other. So, how to you get them to stop? They’re most likely bored, want attention, or just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. So, how can you reach THE ONE? Or two? Here are some do’s and don’ts that might help:

  • Don’t ignore the problem if it is reoccurring. It will let others know that it’s okay to join in.
  • Don’t use sarcasm or humor to embarrass the child or control the child. (Ex. “Laman and Lemuel murmured a lot, just like Johnny does to me.”)
  • Don’t compare the child to another. (Ex. “Charlie isn’t being reverent.” Or “Amanda is sitting so nicely, unlike Susie.”) 

  • Talk to the child privately (after church, on another day). Talk to the parents. This will let the child know that you respect them and won’t call them out in front of their peers. It will also let them know that you notice their behavior. Be kind. Talk with a soft voice and look at the child with soft eyes.
  • Praise the child when they behave well. Point out talents and strengths the child has. (“I see Daisy sitting so nicely with her arms folded and ready for our activity. Thank you, Daisy.” Or, “I love this painting of the Savior. Do you know who else is a really good artist in our Primary? That’s right! It’s Johnny.”)
  • Be inclusive or generalize when giving instructions. (Ex. Are we ready to begin? It looks like there’s still a bit of chatter. Let’s see if we can all get in our ‘reverent position’. There are a few that still aren’t quite ready. Let’s review the reverent position. Arms folded, feet together, sitting up, eyes on me, and mouth is closed. Good. Looks like we’re all ready.”)
  • Look inward. Is MY lesson boring? Is MY lesson too roudy? Am I talking too much? (see below “Change your plans”)
  • Get help from others. Ask the Primary Presidency or teachers to help you. You’re in the middle of Singing Time and you can’t pull Susie out to the hallway for a heart-to-heart. Ask the other leaders to help you. (Ex. Sister Markham, could Charlie get a heart-to-heart with you for a minute?)

  • Move closer to the child. (This will be easier if you have the room set up where you can reach the children better. I have noticed that long rows are hard to walk around. If you have an aisle down the middle, it makes it a little easier but I know it’s not always possible.)
  • Use a gentle touch on the shoulder. You don’t have to say anything, just keep going with what you’re saying/singing but a touch will let the child know that you notice him/her.
  • Invite the child to participate. Ask him/her to help you hold something. Ask him/her to act something out for you. Role play. Ask him/her to draw names for the activity.
  • Ask him/her to help you clean up afterward. (“Rosie, could be my helper and erase the board for me? I know you would do a really good job.”) Kids love to feel important and love responsibility.
  • Get out your “magic quiet bubbles” or “silent spray”. Bring in an empty bubbles bottle or spray bottle. Label it “Quiet Bubbles” or “Silent Spray” or whatever you want. When it gets too noisy and “the one” won’t stop, use a little humor and blow “bubbles” or spray your “spray” on the child. It’s not the kind of humor that is meant to hurt or make fun of a child. It’s humor that is done with love. (Ex. I hear some chatter. I think I need to get my magic Silent Spray out. Let’s see if that works. (spray, spray) I think that does it. Oh, I hear something in this corner. (spray, spray) Awesome. We’re ready to begin.”)
  • Listen. Most times, the child wants to be heard and validated. If the comment or question that the child asks is off-topic, try something like “That’s an interesting thought but that might take us away from our lesson today.” Or “Hmm…I haven’t thought about that. If you’d like to talk more about it, let’s talk after Primary.”
  • Change your plans. Think on your toes and switch up your activity to provide a different type of engagement.
  • Serve the child. True story: One week “Jason” was just grumpy and was talking out of turn and got in trouble during Sharing Time. He was not happy and it made me sad that he was going to sit through Singing Time upset and quiet. He looked like he wanted to cry. I noticed his shoe was untied. I bent down and quietly said, “Hey Jason. I’m so glad you’re here today. I noticed your shoe was untied. Let me tie that for you. I want you to know that you’re a great kid.” He was a little shocked but didn’t say anything. He didn’t sing but next week he was happy and wanted to help ME! I was so happy. We’re pretty good buds now.  Write an encouraging note to the child. Drop off a treat. Tell the child that you love him/her.
  • Gold Coins. I have a bag of plastic gold coins that say “Token of Appreciation” and “You were caught being good”. There are others available from Oriental Trading that say “You really shine”. I love these. My kids love these. I use these for those that make an extra effort in Singing Time or those who help me clean up after Primary. I have 2 girls that help me every week. The boy in the story above received a gold coin one Sunday and it made his day! This is a simple gesture to encourage the children and let them know that I notice them and the good things they do. I hand them out at the end of Primary when I can tell them one-on-one how much they are appreciated. Sometimes I have to send the coin in a note if I can’t pull them aside.
I hope this is helpful. If you have other ideas or advice I'd love to hear them! Let's continue to share the love and help each other become better.

Next time I'll discuss HOW to have a heart-to-heart with "the one".

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