For an hour every Sunday, I hang out with 3rd graders and their AWESOME small group leaders. I bounce around between five small groups totaling about 50 kids. I’m there to help the groups in any way I can: getting them supplies, filling out rosters, helping with unruly kids, etc.
Myself and the leaders…we don’t exactly run a “tight ship.” In fact we run a rather….err…crazy ship. We don’t expect kids to sit in perfect circles for an hour. There is a lot of sprawling on the ground, getting up and down a million times (especially the boys), running, wiggling, heck sometimes there’s breakdancing.
We understand that anytime you have that many 3rd graders together, the goal is controlled chaos with small moments (like, counted in seconds and minutes) of calm and discussion.
But occasionally a kiddo’s behavior will move beyond “normal third grade activity and commotion” into true disruption. If a kid is picking on someone relentlessly, or the only one refusing to let the group have a moment of discussion, or is just being over the top with inappropriate behaviors, then I have to talk about those behaviors with their parent.
Listen, it’s never easy to talk to a parent about what their kid does wrong. I only do it in extreme cases, and I’m always quick to also share that we LOVE their child, we’re THRILLED they are at church, and we want them to come back. But the fact remains…I’m still telling a parent about their child’s misbehavior, which can be an awkward and hard conversation.
Know what makes that conversation even harder? If it’s the very first one I’ve had with that parent.
It’s difficult, and maybe even wrong, for the first time you engage with a parent to be when you are unhappy with their kid. You’ve got to do some work ahead of time, so that when and if those conversations need to happen, that parent will already be assured that you are invested in their child.
How do you make those conversations happen? Here are some ideas:
Be sure you are at the door smiling at parents at arrival time. Say hello to kids, and call them by name.
When you see a kid in the church lobby with a parent, approach them and engage in conversation.
Send postcards and birthday cards to kids in your group.
Share the smallest of wins with parents:
“He was so engaged today!”
“He gave a great example in discussion time.”
“He rocked at our game today!”
“He is always so respectful.”
“I love how he’s a great friend!”
“He prayed for our group today during prayer time!”
Work hard to find ways to talk to parents about the GREAT things that you love about their kid. Even the toughest and rowdiest of kids have value and worth, and those are often the parents who need to hear it the most.
And when you do have to say “He had a bit of trouble in small group today. We talked a lot about being respectful and not disrupting prayer time”, it won’t be the first thing that parent has heard from you. They’ll know that you don’t just think of their kid as “disrespectful and disruptive”, because you’ll have already told them otherwise!