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Managing Disruptive Kids at a Church Event
By:Tamara Van Hooser

Many parents struggle to manage disruptive kids at a church event. Kids have built-in radars that pinpoint in detail the most inopportune, embarrassing moments to misbehave in public, making parents feel helpless to manage the behavior and deliver appropriate consequences. The most loving thing a parent can do, however, is to convey that he can handle childish outbursts without losing his cool.

Prevention

Talk to your kids before the event. Explain what is happening at the church event, the time line and expectations for behavior. Rehearse with your kids appropriate responses in problem situations and to adult authority.

Anticipate boredom. Take advantage of child care at the church event, if available. Otherwise, consider hiring a babysitter to watch the kids at home or at church.

Bring quiet activities to entertain kids in their seats if it is necessary to take them to a class, workshop or conference, wedding or funeral, baptism, dedication or special holiday service. Options include coloring pages and crayons, activity books or reading books.

Ask if there will be a kids' activity area at open-ended events such as receptions, potlucks and church picnics. If not, offer to organize one to entertain the kids while the adults mingle.

Intervention

Keep in mind that you will earn more respect for dealing effectively with your kids' disruptive behavior than if you allow an excess of permissiveness or embarrassment to disturb everyone's peace and enjoyment.

Touch your child gently and try "the look" or a slight head shake at the first sign of trouble brewing. Redirect her attention to the quiet activities you provided. Move him to another seat, separated by a responsible adult, if the disruption involves other kids.

Engage their brains, make them worry. Whisper the Love and Logic Institute's "Delayed Consequence" tactic, "How sad! I'm going to have to do something about this when we get home. Try not to worry about it." And grin.

Excuse yourself from the room if the behavior continues, taking the kids with you. Find a private location where you and the kids can work out the problem. Consult the "Love and Logic Playbook" and "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk" for advice on effective communication with children. Do not let the kids return to the event unless you are convinced that the behavior will not recur, even if it means sacrificing your own attendance.

Take the kids home if the behavior does not improve. Call someone to take them home or to another location to await consequences if you cannot leave. Arrange your emergency backup contact ahead of time and train them to be sure the kids are not having fun while waiting. The Love and Logic Institute recommends having the kids pay the babysitter themselves, in toys or cash.