Children’s Church: 2 Ways To Handle Bad Behavior

So, you’re teaching your children’s church class, and you get a child who raises the question for the edification and enjoyment of his classmates: “If God can do anything, can He create a rock so big that He Himself cannot lift it?”

Or you get a student with ADHD who can’t stay in his chair. Or you get the unwilling participant, thrust children’s church by an insistent mom or dad, and he only wants to sit by the door and pout.

Making Your Lesson Plans Age-Appropriate Helps Keep Kids Focused And Avoid Bad BehaviorThis is part of children’s church and Sunday school, but it doesn’t need to become part of your self esteem as a teacher. We’ll talk about how to prevent kids from acting up, but first let’s look at why kids act up.

Generally, kids misbehave for reasons that have nothing to do with you. Accept that truth. It’s always our tendency to put ourselves at the center of the universe and announce to ourselves, “I must not be a very good teacher or so-and-so would not get my goat once a month.” As you get to know these students and watch them interact with their parents, you will begin to see otherwise.

Sometimes children act up when they are stressed. Maybe one parent forces Sunday school and another is lethargic or even downright antagonizing about children’s church, creating confusion that’s brought from home. Other children have behavior challenges that have them in special classes in school. You don’t have that luxury. You have only your little bit of training and your good gut instincts to guide you, which doesn’t always mean children will be angels. The most important thing is not to heap doubt and guilt onto yourself.

The more you learn about keeping order and preventing disruptions in your children’s church, and the more you understand about the children you teach, the more your confidence will grow.

The saying is true: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Here are some ways to keep your children’s church or Sunday school class on track and prevent disruptive behavior.

5 Essential Children’s Church Rules

First, keep a list of rules in plain sight. Nearly every successful Sunday school classroom has some version of these rules:

1.Raise your hand and wait your turn; do not interrupt a teacher.

2.Listen and wait your turn; do not interrupt another student.

3. Leave the belongings of others alone; do not touch what belongs to another student without asking permission.

4. Ask permission before leaving the room; a teacher who says you can’t leave has good reason to say that;

5. Keep cell phones and electronic gadgets in jacket pockets turned off; no electronics allowed in class time.

An important fact about rules and boundaries: They are actually comforting to children. Some Sunday school teachers feel that they will be “downers” or will put a dark cloud over their children’s church classes if they introduce rules. But specialists note that children are happiest when they understand the expectations upon them and when those expectations are realistic.

Adjusting Your Lesson Plans

Second, prepare your lessons understanding what children are capable of according to their ages. Different levels of understanding require different approaches with teaching. Getting to know the world from the eyes of children of different ages is vital.

Here is some information about children’s attention spans as well as how many adults should be among them to create good ratios for learning:

Ages 2 – 3

  • Average attention span: 2-4 minutes
  • Needed teacher/attendee ratio: 1 teacher per 3-5 children

Ages 4 – 5

  • Average attention span: 5-10 minutes
  • Needed teacher/attendee ratio: 1 teacher per 5-6 children

Ages 6 – 8

  • Average attention span: 10 – 15 minutes
  • Needed teacher/attendee ratio: 1 teacher per 7-8 children

Ages 9 – 12

  • Average attention span: 20 minutes
  • Needed teacher/attendee ratio: 1 teacher per 8-10 children

As shown, attention spans broaden as the years increase, and the need for extra help diminishes. Try to keep the student-teacher ratio manageable and think in terms of attention spans while planning lessons.

A little about how children think

Other important issues also apply, including facts such as preschoolers not understanding symbolism. A favorite Sunday school story concerns the four-year-old who sang with the group, “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam.” Halfway through the lesson, the child started crying and said, “But I don’t want to be a toaster!”

Preschoolers have great imaginations and understand the love of Jesus, but not of Him being the “bread of life.” Elementary school children love putting on dramas and have not had enough school yet to be tired of memorization. They love to learn bible verses.

Starting around age nine, children can understand symbolism. They also can understand terminology such as B.C. and A.D. and can work with maps.

In preparing your children’s church lessons, any knowledge you can acquire about children’s age groups and what they can and can’t do will be helpful to you. You won’t find minds wandering and bodies fidgeting either because you’re speaking over their heads or treating a 10-year-old like a six year-old.


Agree? Disagree? I’d love to know what you think! Leave a comment in the box below and share your thoughts on this children’s church topic! And if you’d like to see more ideas and tips for teaching Sunday school, be sure to check out my Sunday school lesson plans page.  Don’t forget to Follow me on Twitter!


  • Angie Cox

    Reply Reply June 1, 2015

    I like the suggestions that I have gleamed from the experts , who don’t know that they have mastered. It’s so rewarding……

  • Elizabeth Sprecher

    Reply Reply March 31, 2015

    i love these ideas… im saddend because our church just suddenly said
    kids can not bring even a comfort toy with them … my son is autistic and this frustrates me. i like the not touching with out permission or even a rule of not causing a distraction instead but they wont even concider my concerns as being valid…

  • Amabel

    Reply Reply January 3, 2012

    oops sorry i mean “church” not school :)

  • Amabel

    Reply Reply January 3, 2012

    thanks so much for these great ideas… I will be start teaching kids in school this saturday…im so excited though…. fingers crossed… to God be the glory… Godbless :)

  • Stephanie

    Reply Reply November 6, 2011

    Natasha, great idea with the balloons! Be careful when new students enter your class though! My middle child would be in a state of absolute panic if he thought you might possibly pop a balloon… even by accident! There are a lot of reasons for noise sensitivity, so I’d just suggest you keep that in mind as the class dynamics change over time!

  • natasha

    Reply Reply July 19, 2011

    I very much agree with this. I use what I call the “balloon method”. I hang up 3 blue balloons, and 3 red balloons. The blue for the boys, and the red for the girls. If the kids aren’t listening, being too loud, or running around.. I pop a balloon! Its loud enough to get their attention. I then say “Two more and you don’t get game time”. Ever since I started using this method the kids have realised who’s incharge, and I haven’t had to pop more than one balloon in a while!

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