Need Ideas for Disciplining Kids in Sunday School Class

Updated on March 14, 2008
M.D. asks from Fort Worth, TX
7 answers

Hey all you mamas who teach Sunday school (or work in daycares or similar environments) - how do you teach respect and discipline kids in this situation? My husband and I have been teaching Sunday school class (ages 3-6) for about 8 months and we recently had a new family join our church. They have two sons and a daughter in our class. The older boy is "moving up" this week, but we will still have the younger two, a boy about four and a little girl who is not yet three, but she is potty trained and basically "too smart and manipulative for the nursery" (our children's pastor's words, not mine). They seem to have absolutely no respect for authority. I know that part of this is their ages, and I don't know whether their mother stays home or if they are in daycare. I don't know what to do with them. My husband is more assertive and the better public speaker, so he teaches the lesson while I help with keeping the children on task, cleanup, pottybreaks, and basically preventing them from killing each other. =) These two siblings are very combative, when you try to redirect them, they threaten to hit, the little boy always asks "Why?" when I tell him we don't do certain things. If you try to get them to switch stations (we have a Playdoh station, puzzles, crafts, and games), you sometimes have to physically pick them up and take them somewhere, which I don't feel entirely comfortable doing. Should I go and get their parents for every little infraction? Maybe if I did that, they would see what a disruption their kids are being and lay down the law? I did go get the dad this morning because the two boys were wrestling and wouldn't obey myself, my husband or the teenage helper. He came and talked to them and it basically solved nothing. I need ideas for dealing with them, as well as how to approach their parents. This is a very delicate situation, we definitely don't want to offend new members of our church, and the fastest way to do that is thru criticizing someone's child. Any advice, mamas, please??? Also, anyone who teaches Sunday school, do you send home any type of progress report? I know that if I wasn't up there teaching every week and seeing how my daughter is behaving (or not) I would want to know if she was giving the teacher difficulty. I think that these parents need to know if their kids are not acting Christ-like towards authority, I just don't know how to go about doing so...

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So What Happened?

Thanks so much for all the advice and encouragement I received. I put a lot of it into place this Sunday and we had a much smoother time. I had to go get the dad, but I made sure to correct with love and everything went well. I also enlisted my husband's help in being the disciplinarian as well and that helped a great deal. (Although he said that he noticed a lot more problems than usual - due to him being in "the trenches" so to speak =). Blessings to you all who took time out of your day to write to me.

More Answers



answers from Dallas on

I know where you are coming from. I have taught Sunday School for 11 years. We have a Preschool and a Children's Minister, they are the one's that should be dealing with the kids and the parents. Find out if you have any resources available, in your Church, for you to figure out how to deal with a difficult child. Our preschool minister is great, if you want her number let me know.
Just hang in there, you are doing a wonderful thing by volunteering your time to teach these kiddos about God.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I have taught the 17 year old class, the 3 year old class, and am currently teaching the 6-7 year olds.

We never had any kind of preogress report, but I would call the parents and speak with them if needed.

In our church, if we have a hard time with the child, we get the parent. They either have to take the child, or stay with them for a time in order to regain control again.

I've only had to do this maybe once or twice, but my classes are easier to handle since they are 1 age group as opposed to a vast age range.

In the children's case you are watching, it sounds as though the parent's aren't much help anyways, so the behavior issue may start from a lack of follow through disipline at home.

To tactfully bring this up with the parents, you must remain objective about their behaviour... for instance, instead of saying "they act angry and frustrated"... say "they tend to yell at the children and throw themselves on the floor and wrestle during the lesson".

Say something to the effect of, "We are so glad your children have come to join our class. They have such wonderful qualities in _____ areas. Yet, they are having touble with some of these issues:______. I understand some children have a hard time adjusting to new teachers and classmates, so is there anything we can further do to make your children feel comfortable in our class?

As far as discipline goes, speak to your Sunday School coordinator, as they usually have rules for this. Trying a time-out redirecting their behaviour, or asking for another assistant may be neccessary.

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answers from Dallas on

This is a very tough situation. I have tought Sunday School for about 7 years or so now (ages 2-12). I have often had children who just could not stay on task. I always explain the way we do things, and if the situation is getting out of control, I firmly (but lovingly) let the children know that they can either listen and follow directions or they can sit in "big church" with mommy and daddy. Even at 3 or 4 they understand. They know they would be bored in "big church" so they don't want to leave. It usually only takes about 2 or 3 weeks before my children understand the routine and that I have limits. If they behavior is not distrupting the lesson, I let it go. For example I have an older boy who always puts his head down on the table. He always listens, but doesn't participate much. I don't mind that. I also have very young ones who cannot sit still that long so I let them do something hands on like draw or build quietly with legos. It is very hard to engage ALL children when you have such a diverse age group.

As a parent, I would like to know if my child was being disrespectful, but I don't feel that a "progress report" is the way to go about it. I usually talk to the parents one-on-one, but I know all of the parents very well so I am very comfortable doing this. If I had a new child and was unfamilair with the home-life, etc I would speak to my pastor about the situation and see if he could offer suggestions or if he could speak with the parents.

Bless you for extending God's love to little ears. I hope this helps.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Hard situation to be in. I am still learning new methods of teaching. I have a Day Care. The children are misbehaving because the parents are not teaching them and that is why the talk did nothing. For an hour you can not teach what they need to be taught all day long. I would separate them at different tables. If a child hits then they do not deserve the right to be with the other children. They have to learn real early to manage and control their behavior. I teach all day how to be polite and how to be respectful of each other. I keep saying all day long is this pleasing to God? Do you like being hit? the Golden Rule over and over. My children hit each other and I had a customer see it and she had a fit. She had a huge son and tiny daughter. But I could never keep them from that behavior but I could intercept. We have consequences for our behavior and being alone is one if no one likes us. Keep up the great job. Pray about it and let Jesus be your guide I am sure the answers will come. It is all brainstorming and trying different things. Does the Pastor allow you to have those children removed when they do not behave? I know that I have two boys that will not nap until I separate them. Maybe they need to be in different classes. My one child 3 yrs old was hitting her 2 yr old brother but there were bigger issues of abuse. It started one day not the norm and over time unfolded the abuse. Also maybe that hitting is a sign the parents are doing that to them. Keep a look out on their bodies for bruises. G. W

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Hi Martha,

I had a very challenging class last year also....4,5 & 6 yr olds. The class itself was kind of small 10-15 kids, but we had 4 boys that were almost completely uncontrollable. The other teacher and I just kind of suffered thru it, doing the best we could.

A couple of times, we did have parent helpers come in. It was obvious that they were shocked by some of the behavior. After that, they were always very vocal with us and their own child about what behavior was acceptable.

My suggestion to you: take a moment to talk to the parents of these children. Tell them that their kiddos are having a hard time participating and that it would be a huge help to you if they (the parents) would come for a couple of Sunday's and help out in the classroom. Hopefully, it will open their eyes a bit.

:-) H.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I would make the parents very aware of the behavior.
BUT do it with style! Maybe they are non chrisian and they dont know how to handle this anymore.
Now the kids need to be constantly apart! I know that might be hard but just try to focus on the kids not there problems!
And tell the kids today we are going to work on one specific behavior. "keeping our hands to ourselves"
Also point out what Jesus expects them to do "be kind to one another"
Then tell the parents how good they did!
I have a very rowdy 4 year old myself... Good luck and dont give up.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I have taught sunday school and children`s church for almost 20 yrs. ALL different ages. one thing I found to be helpful is to involve the child as a "helper" to hold something for you, help with something small. they feel needed and important and more willing to cooperate. it has worked well on several occasions, but your class is young. do you use flannel graph? you can have them help set up, or make a star chart for behavior, they can put up their own stars each week. try and be creative with it. hope this will open you to some ideas of your own. God bless!