It was Sunday Night, and my daughter’s teacher had a note for the parents. “Help, or else.” When nobody else volunteered, I said I’d do it. I had no idea what I was in for. There were 25 children ages 3 and 4 in there, with one sweet lady. Needless to say, she needed my help… and a platoon of soldiers, too.
The evening played out like a nightmare. Two boys in the room were ADHD and were coming down off their meds, running around the room yelling and actually climbing on the chalkboards. I grabbed “Thing One” to stop him from running. “Thing Two” came over and started kicking my ankles, so I grabbed him, too, while my daughter and several other girls ran around the room with ear-piercing squeals.
The kids finally settled down when the teacher broke out the lesson book and a flannel graph. That held their attention for ten minutes. Then we moved on to a few games, snacks, a puppet show, a craft, and then it was time to go.
By the end of the evening, I was completely exhausted, however, and shell-shocked from the kids. The next week was exactly the same. My service in the class was short-lived. They found another parent to replace me, but there were several lessons the kids in there probably wish I had learned from the experience:
Have Sufficient Leadership for Me
There needs to be an appropriate number of leaders for the kids. This is hard for churches to hear, because finding volunteers is difficult in childcare, but at least two should be mandatory for Child Protection, and a good ratio in the lower grades is one leader for every 4-5 kids. You could use your older High School students to bolster the ranks, as long as you have adults in the room. Many students want to help and serve.
Talk to My Mom and Dad
If I had talked to the parents checking the kids in, learned more about the kids in my care, I might have known about the broken homes, the acting out, the meds they were on, etc. It would have helped me understand the needs of the kids, and love them more, rather than referring to them as ‘Thing One and Thing Two’. And, I should have told the parents how their kids were acting.
Tell Me What to Expect
As a leader, I should have learned the schedule, the discipline rules, and the rewards and consequences. This is true for the kids, too. Post a behavior chart with stickers. Have a consistent schedule. They feel more comfortable when they know what’s going to happen.
Keep My Attention
Kids have an attention span in minutes of their age plus five. So, a five-year old can stay focused for about 10 minutes. That’s the national average. For ADHD, it’s more like their age minus five minutes. It’s difficult to get and hold their attention, because of their distractibility. Schedule multiple short activities, and move from one to another in a controlled manner.
Keep Your Cool
Kids get scared when a leader loses it. They want to know they are in a safe place. You have authority because God says so. You don’t need to yell. Pray, and ask God for help. Pray with the kids. It’s God’s ministry and His kids. You just need to be His hands and feet, and let Him lead.