May 30, 2013

Why You Shouldn't Always Call the Parents

How quickly do you page or call a parent when a child is upset during the service?  Yes, the easy thing to do is pull the parent out of service and let them "deal with their child."  But that's not always the best thing to do.

In fact, I think it should be the last resort.  When a child is upset, try these steps first.

  • Bring the child out of the room and into a different environment like the hallway or a quieter room.
  • Give them special attention.
  • Place the child in a stroller and stroll them up and down the hallway.
  • Have something available that will soothe the child like bubbles, a fish tank, a special toy, etc.
  • The exception would be a baby who continues to cry for a longer period of time and cannot be calmed down.  One way to partner with parents is to ask at check-in how long to wait before paging them if their baby starts crying heavily.
  • Bring the child out of the room and into a different environment like the hallway or a quieter room.
  • Give the child individual attention. (with another adult present of course, never be alone with a child)
  • Talk to the child and find out why they are upset.
  • Place the child in a stroller and stroll them up and down the hallway.
  • Have something available that will soothe the child like bubbles, a fish tank, a special toy, etc.
  • Read a book with the child.  
  • Talk to the child and find out whey they are upset.
  • Work with the child to help them stay in the room and participate.
  • Place them with a caring leader who will give them individual attention.
  • If they cannot stay in the room, then bring them out of the room and again give them individual attention and care.  
  • Have something available that will calm them or re-direct their attention like a toy, game, book, activity, etc. 
  • Another option is to ask if they would like to help with a "job" outside the room like folding take home papers, collecting attendance sheets, etc. 
Let me share a story with you that brings these thoughts into real life.

This past weekend, a little boy was brought out of his classroom.  Why?  He was banging his head against the wall repeatedly.  When the teacher tried to help him, he ran to the corner, curled up, and began to cry. 

They brought him to the office area.  He wanted nothing to do with me.  He wouldn't talk with me.  In fact, he began kicking me and then turned and buried his face against the wall.  

I tried talking to him for 10 minutes...asking what was wrong...asking if he had a pet...asking if he had a favorite movie or response. 

Finally, I reached into the cabinet and pulled out a bottle of bubbles.  I blew a few bubbles and finally...he turned and looked at me.  I asked if he'd like to go out and blow bubbles for the kids as they walked into the chapel room.  He nodded yes.

Slowly, as he blew the bubbles, he began to open up.  I even got a smile out of him.  Once the kids got in the chapel room, I asked if he wanted to go in and sit with me in the back.  He agreed.  

As the kids begin to sing, I watched him begin to join in.  He even listened closely to the lesson and followed along with the motions the teacher asked the kids to make to act out the story.

After chapel time, the kids all went back to their classrooms.  I asked if he wanted to stay and play in the indoor park.  You see...that day...he didn't need to be in a classroom.  He just needed to play.  

More smiles.  And then some laughter.  I stayed with him for the rest of the service in the park and simply let him be a little boy who needed to have some fun. 

Service ended.  Mom came.  As we privately shared what he had been banging his head against the wall in the room...she broke down and begin to cry.  Through her tears, she shared that his father had just been sent to prison.  

I had felt in my heart there was a reason he was acting out...and now it was confirmed.

We prayed with mom and spoke words of encouragement into her life.  The little boy hugged us and we told him to come back next week...we need help blowing more bubbles. 

Yes, the easy thing would have been to call mom out of service and have her "take care" of him...but that was the last thing she needed...and the last thing the little boy needed.  

They just needed someone to listen...someone to care...someone to show patience...someone to show them they are loved.  

The next time you are about to page or call a parent out of service because you're stressed or frustrated...just pause...breathe a prayer...and reconsider.  

Sometimes the best thing you can do is NOT call the parents.


The most important thing is to have open lines of communication. We had a small line on the sign-in sheet to write anything down that the caretakers might need to know, but we also had volunteers in the hall to help with getting children to class and being a shoulder to cry on if that was what was needed. As one of the caretakers that worked with the 2s most weeks I needed help getting my kids to class too!
I also love the double sermon churches, where you can take the kids to class one hour and take them in to church with you at the other.

Great post Dale. I try to get others serving to understand that it isn't always a "behavior" issue, but something underlying that you can minister to, as you did in this case.

I pray more people have a heart for children like this and reach out to them instead of "pushing them aside" because they may be a little more difficult than others.

Good reminder and helpful, specific suggestions on alternate ways to handle a child that is need of some extra attention. I was touched by your story example and how the way you handled the situation provided some much needed assistance to both mom and son. The idea of communicating with parents at check-in is great as it allows you to understand their expectations and preferences around their children, so you can respond more individually and accordingly.

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