How to … deal with the un-cooperative child

Tirzah L Jones

Dealing with children/young people who find it hard to sit, listen and to obey the rules is a common problem most youth workers/Sunday school teachers face.

I am not attempting here to deal with the more complex issues surrounding those children who have specific learning difficulties. I am considering the average fidgety, chatty child!

There is no simple answer that can be given in a short article like this, however, there are a few things we can do to minimise the disruption caused.

  1. Talk as a team, make sure that all the team know what to do and when so that everyone works o the same set of rules. Make sure that all your decisions are within the boundaries of your child protection policy.
  2. Know your group! Make sure you strategically sit children together or apart as the case maybe. Some children are just better not sat next to certain ‘other ones’, you will learn this by trial and error.
  3. Check all the children can see you and you can see the children. If they can’t see they will get bored. Positioning smaller ones at the front and so on.
  4. Make sure you can be heard.
  5. Check for distractions, can they see straight through into another room, where there is another group or meeting? Are they looking over a football field with an exciting game going on?
  6. Have a few rules and suitable disciplinary measures, you can enforce. Make sure all the leaders follow the same rules and apply the same disciplinary measures, be consistent in both rewards and punishments.
  7. Be confident – don’t forget you are in charge not the children.
  8. Set a good example – make sure all the leaders are sat in amongst the children listening not chatting around the edges. If the leaders give the impression the talk is not important the children will follow suit.
  9. Cultivate an atmosphere of respect, and obedience. Leaders should keep any disagreements with each other out of earshot of the children.
  10. Do not show favouritism, treat all the children the same, even the disruptive ones!
  11. Sometimes it’s appropriate to remove a child from the group. Make sure a leader accompanies them and also that you speak to them afterwards.
  12. Never humiliate a child, sometimes a quick word or look during the session will suffice. A longer reprimand should be dealt with on a one to one basis.
  13. If un–cooperative behaviour persists you may need to speak to the parents.
  14. As a last resort you may have to ask the child not to attend club for a few weeks. Only do this if it is preventing other children from learning and always speak to the parents to explain.
  15. Never make threats you can’t carry out.