There you are, teaching about the love of God, and a child makes an offensive, awkward, or inappropriate comment.
What should you do?
Always be prepared and remember that not everything kids say is intentional—they might not even realize what they’re actually saying.
Here are some ideas for how to handle this situation:
Don’t pounce on something and make it a big deal—especially if no one else noticed.
If you can, just let it go.
Don’t Reward It
If the comment gets a laugh, the child is likely to do it again.
If you can ignore it, do so.
And if you can’t ignore it, deal with it as quickly and graciously as possible.
Don’t Shame the Child
Avoid responses like, “Why would you say something like that?”
It’s possible she was unaware that the comment was inappropriate or that it might hurt someone’s feelings.
Give a Gentle Reminder
Refer to the classroom rules you have posted and give attention to the behavior you want.
Consider comments like “Let’s all remember to be kind with our words.”
If the comment was directed at someone, support the wounded child or volunteer. Consider saying something like “Everyone in this room is different and wanted.”
This immediately gives back what the rude comment took away—so do this whenever you can.
Follow the Discipline Strategies of Your Ministry
If the comments continue, the child might need to be taken aside and given a warning or placed in a “time out” area.
As a last resort, the child may need to be removed—either by another leader or by a parent.
Redirect the Child’s Energy
If a child clearly enjoys talking in class, take advantage of his enthusiasm.
Have him shout out answers or repeat parts of the Scripture you’re teaching.
Deal with It Privately
If the inappropriate comment seemed intentional or was repeated, you’ll need to address it.
If parental involvement is called for, approach the issue with grace and reassure parents that their child is welcome.
Consider Taking It to Leadership
If the comment suggests an unsafe or abusive home environment, don’t ignore it.
Talk about the incident with your ministry leaders and pray for wisdom and guidance before you respond.
Know your responsibilities according to your church’s policies and state laws.
And, of course, pray for this child and her family.
Whatever you do, remember to always speak the truth in love and keep your ministry goals in mind. Make sure kids and parents feel welcome, so they can experience what’s most important—relationship with God.
Questions for Your Team to Think About:
- Has anyone in your ministry faced this situation? What did they do?
- What’s your ministry’s discipline strategy?