Hands on top. Everybody Stop! – Crowd Control Tips for Group Leaders

You’re in the middle of the lesson and from the back of the room you hear a loud burp. The room erupts with laughter and chatter. Suddenly you have lost the attention of the class and the focus of the kids is now on the child that burped. What do you do?

Crowd control is a skill that everyone who works with kids needs to develop. Whether running games, teaching a Sunday School class, or leading a small group, as the leader you need to have control of the group.

There is a difference between crowd control and individual misbehavior.

When kids are chatting and messing around – that’s crowd control. Use crowd control techniques to get everybody back on track.

When a child is not keeping his hands to himself and distracting other kids – that’s individual misbehavior.

Crowd Control Tips

Use an Attention-Getting Technique

I am the games leader for kids in kindergarten to grade two at our mid-week club program. The first week of clubs we were in the gym playing. I didn’t tell the kids what to expect or what it meant. I just said it – in the middle of a game. The gym was loud and the kids were running around and I said, “Hands on top. Everybody stop.” I put my hands on my head. The kids stopped and put their hands on their heads and looked at me. Amazing!

There are many different ways to get kids’ attention. You can dim the lights; blow a whistle; use a call and response; clap a sequence that the kids have to copy. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you pick one and use it consistently for that situation. So, for game time, when I need the kid’s attention, I say, “Hands on top. Everybody stop.”

Positive Reinforcement

Crowd control is all about teaching kids how to behave in group situations. One great way to do this is to reward those who are behaving well.

If you notice kids doing what they are supposed to be doing, let them know it! Thank them for behaving well. Reinforce positive behavior rather than negative behavior.

Verbal affirmation is great. Every once in a while, reward the group with candy or a fun activity. Mix it up and have fun with it.

6 Tips for Dealing with Discipline

behave yourself! - teacher1. Be consistent but handle each case individually.

By this I mean that it’s important to learn the circumstances of the situation as you discipline. Despite how you might feel in the heat of the moment, most children aren’t acting out just to make your day more difficult! Children are responsible for their actions and need to accept the consequences, but it is your job to find out what lead to the outburst. Discipline is not about punishment; it’s about discipleship. The child may have heavy things going on at home or be dealing with difficult situations at school. Take the time to talk with the child and give them ways of dealing with their feelings that are acceptable.

2. Always handle discipline in private.

Don’t embarrass the child by reprimanding them in front of the other kids.

This doesn’t mean being alone with the child. It means showing respect by speaking with the child off to the side and not in front of the other kids.

3. Discipline out of love, not anger.

If you are angry, give yourself a time out before you deal with the issue. Discipline that is handled in the heat of the moment when you are not in control of your emotions is not true discipline. If you are angry, you are not in a position to offer a child effective discipline. Remember, it’s not punishment, but discipline.

When you discipline out of love, rather than anger, you are training in a way that will mold character, behavior, and values.

4. Make sure the child understands why they are being disciplined.

Most children know exactly what they did! However, there are times when kids don’t know what they did that was wrong. They may be so focused on one thing that they do not realize that their actions resulted in hurt bodies or hurt feelings. When you discipline a child, ask them if they can tell what they did that was wrong. Remember, you are training to mold character and behavior.

5. Give kids a chance to make things right.

Part of the discipline process should be the opportunity to apologize. If a child has hurt another child, they should be encouraged to apologize. If a child has stolen an item they should be encouraged to return it. Whenever possible, give kids the chance to apologize and make things right. In your discussion, talk about how and when they might make things right with the person they have wronged.

6. Always welcome them back to the group.

Children need to know that we love them and care for them no matter what. This doesn’t mean that we ignore issues that arise. It means that we deal with them and then move on. Welcome the child who has been disciplined back to the group.

Classroom Management – Reasonable Consequences

A consequence is the effect, result, or outcome of something occurring earlier. Good classroom management regularly uses reasonable consequences.

When a teacher makes use of reasonable consequences in her classroom, she is teaching her kids to be accountable for their actions.

“The purpose of a consequence is to retrain the brain and transform the heart.” (Jody Copehart)

I love this quote! I think Jody said it very well. The reason we use consequences in our classrooms is to retrain how our kids think , feel, and behave.

It’s important to make sure that the consequences for actions in our classes are reasonable. Remember, we are lovingly training our kids to love God and to love people. Kids pick up quickly on actions they consider unfair. A reasonable consequence would never be considered unfair. They may not like it, but they can’t call it unfair.

For example, during snack time a child spills their juice. An unreasonable consequence would be to tell the child that they cannot have snack for the next month. Kids would consider that unfair (and rightly so!)  A reasonable consequence would be for that child to clean up the mess. That consequence is logical. They had a spill so they clean it up. Logical and reasonable.

Keep in mind that reasonable consequences are not just for misbehavior. That is why I am talking about them during this series on classroom management and not during a series about discipline. Reasonable consequences are about teaching kids the result of choices. Sometimes these are related to unacceptable behavior and sometimes simply poor choices.

Here are some other examples of reasonable consequences:

  1. If a child plays with a toy, they are responsible for putting it away.
  2. If a child spills their apple juice, they clean it up.
  3. If a child spills a friend’s apple juice, they apologize, clean it up, and make sure their friend gets another drink.
  4. If a child uses rude or inappropriate speech during class, they need to find a nice way to say the same thing.
  5. If a child hurts someone, they need to do something kind for them.
  6. If 2 children are talking to each other instead of listening to the story/lesson, they need to move so they are not sitting together anymore.

Let me encourage you as a Sunday School teacher to start using reasonable consequences in your classroom. Teach your kids that they are responsible for their behavior and the results of their behavior.

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