How to Handle Disrespect

In our February Tuesday Tip series, “Relate,” we’ve shared ideas for how to connect relationally with kids and handle difficult behaviors. One of the most challenging behavior issues that arises frequently with kids is disrespect. How do you respond when a kids shouts, “I don’t like you and I don’t want to be in this stupid group!” There’s no quick fix to handling disrespect, but here are a few helpful principles to guide you.
Girls playing outside
1. Stay calm no matter what. Always react to disrespect with respect. Respond to disrespect by managing your emotions and speaking with kindness. It’s best to be as devoid of emotion as possible when a student is disrespectful to you. Even when you feel hurt by their words, don’t take it personally. If you control your anger and stay calm, there is a better chance that the situation will be resolved quickly.

2. Avoid power struggles. It’s easy for a disrespectful student to take control of your small or large group time. Don’t allow that to happen by escalating the situation. Simply address the rule that was just violated. Then move on. You don’t have to have the last word. It’s okay to wait and give your consequence at a later time when emotions have calmed down and when others won’t be distracted by a lesson interruption.

3. Make it a teachable moment. You probably are well aware that there are a number of root causes underlying kids’ disrespectful attitudes that have little to do with how they feel about you. Your opportunity is to make it a teachable moment for the child. When everyone has calmed down, talk it out with them. Ask them to help you understand why they behaved that way. Listen. Ask, “What does God’s word says about this? Could we pray together?”

Kids eating snackLastly, here’s an article I shared with some team leaders earlier this fall. Ultimately, your love and patience over time will develop trust and deeper relationships with students, and in turn it will increase their desire to please and respect you.