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  • Writer's pictureDavid Rausch

The instruction manual for dealing with difficult kids

"Uhg! This doesn't look anything like the picture on the box!" I've said this more than a few times. And it's my own fault. That's because I'm more likely to use the instruction manual to figure out where things went wrong than I am to get it right in the first place. "Wow! That's a beautiful chaise lounge!" "Why thank you. It's supposed to be a computer desk." Of course, I could save myself a whole lot of time and trouble if I just paused for a moment and read the manual before diving into the box of parts or trying to figure out how my new gadget works. Believe it or not, this same principal applies to kids. Sometimes kids don't look like the "picture on the box." You know the "picture" I'm talking about. The one where the kid sits with quiet attention for the duration of the lesson, speaking only when called on and treating everyone with predictable respect. That would be nice, but often times it's not reality. Reality is sometimes a kid with behavior issues. Reality is sometimes a kid who refuses to participate. Reality is sometimes a kid who participates too much, at the wrong times, and in the wrong ways. Don't get me wrong. It's not your fault. You didn't assemble them the wrong way. But you might be making things harder for yourself by trying to fix the issue without consulting their instruction manual. That's have something akin to an instruction manual. What is it? It's their parents. No one knows the kids in your ministry better than their parents. Period. If you spent every waking moment with their kids for the next year, the parents would still know them better. But when a kid is in need of a course correction, a lot of us try to fix the issue by ourselves. Then we get frustrated because our one-size-fits-all solution isn't working and we can't get them to look like the picture on the box. So before you get that far, try consulting the instruction manual. I've never met a parent who didn't appreciate being included in a problem when it's presented in a respectful way. Moreover, not only can the parents give you valuable insight and advice, they can partner with you by addressing the issue outside of church.

And who knows...maybe they can help you assemble your new computer desk too!

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