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How to Work With a Child Who’s Consistently Negative

Do you have any consistently negative children in your ministry? Here’s how a few of our ministry experts would handle the situation.


How to Work With a Child Who’s Consistently Negative

Preschool Expert

Rebbecca Barnes headshot.

A preschooler who’s consistently negative is often hungry, tired, or sick. Talk to the child’s parents to look for a cause. For example, maybe late Saturday nights are causing grumpy, tired Sundays.

The good news: sometimes preschoolers can be so disagreeable that they won’t realize when you switch sides. One week, a four-year-old showed up with a negative attitude. She denied everything we offered. Finally, I brought her a book. “This book is terrible!” I told her, playfully. “I’ll leave it here if you want to see how awful it is, but you’re probably not interested.” I walked away to let reverse psychology do its work. When I came back, she smiled, and we set off to find more horrible activities.

Rebecca Barnes is Summit Kids Ministry Curriculum Director for Flatirons Community Church, with campuses in Lafayette, Genesee, and Denver, Colorado. 

Elementary Expert

Matt Guevara headshot

When negativity shows up in an elementary child, it’s often through a withdrawn attitude, sharp words, or an unwillingness to participate. However, even if an elementary child uses sharp words, be careful with your response. Responding in kind will be difficult for the child to understand and likely won’t change his or her behavior. Instead, encourage the child to consider how negative words or actions can impact the rest of the group. And remember that the “negativity issue” in elementary kids may be more of a self-control issue than a sincerely negative attitude. Encourage the child to take a deep breath before speaking or responding to directions. Continuously affirm God’s love, your care, and the group’s acceptance as you guide kids who seem to have negative attitudes.

Matt Guevara is a veteran children’s and family ministry leader. Currently, he serves as the executive director of INCM and he leads a family with four amazing kids.

Preteen Expert

Annette-Safstrom-headshot

When a preteen consistently approaches things from a negative angle, he or she may actually be wired as a problem solver. This means the preteen will always see the problem before seeing the possibility. Yes—it can be easy for preteens to get stuck at the problem-naming stage. But they’re developmentally able to move from the problem-identifying stage to the problem-solving stage with a little help. Point out that the preteen may be more sensitive to the negative side of things because of a possible giftedness to solve problems. Coach the preteen to develop his or her problem-solving skills. In doing this, you’ll encourage independence and development of God-given gifts.

Annette Safstrom has over 20 years of children’s ministry experience. Currently, she’s a children’s ministry coach and consultant with Ministry Architects.

For more great ideas like this in every issue, subscribe today to Children’s Ministry Magazine!


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How to Work With a Child Who’s ...

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