Is your lesson often derailed by a child who always gives a silly answer to make other kids laugh? Here’s some age-specific advice to help.
Q: What do I do about a child who always gives silly answers to make the other kids laugh?
“With preschoolers, saying something like ‘You’re so silly’ may give the child enough of the attention he or she wants and allow you to move on without having to reprimand the child. If silliness continues, clearly state that silly time is over, and give a couple of simple directives to reset behavior, such as having kids take a deep breath, wiggle their fingers, or touch their noses. Keep in mind that preschoolers have an extremely short attention span. If silliness steals too much group time, it may be better to just move on to the next activity. Keep things moving and fun, and you may squelch any silliness in the first place.”
Rebecca Barnes has 13 years of teaching and kids ministry experience, most recently as Summit Kids ministry curriculum director for Flatirons Community Church, with five campuses on the Front Range of Colorado.
“Don’t take yourself too seriously with elementary kids. This behavior can be frustrating when you’re trying to create a spiritual moment, but losing your cool won’t bring about your desired outcome either. Acknowledge the silly answer. You might even laugh at it to show the child he or she is heard. Then ask, ‘If you were to answer the question seriously…’ You might also anticipate silliness by playfully asking the child, ‘You probably have a unique answer…’ Remember your goal is to get kids involved in discussion. For some, that begins with some silliness. By treating the silly answer as part of the discussion rather than squashing it, we maintain trust and relationship with kids.”
Henry Zonio has over 25 years of experience as a children’s ministry leader in the U.S. and Canada. He is a sociologist with expertise in child development, religious education, and social inequalities.
“It’s not uncommon for preteens to try to get attention by making other kids laugh. While you want to maintain some order, you also want to acknowledge that each preteen comes in with unique needs. If you look past the silly behavior and find that a preteen might be looking for attention, you can find a positive way to respond to the silliness. Let the preteen know it isn’t the time to be silly, and then look for ways for him or her to get attention in positive ways. You might even ask preteens to come up with some of their own review questions or provide a time for kids to make up silly questions and answers.”
Annette Safstrom has over 20 years of children’s ministry experience. She’s a children’s ministry coach, consultant with Ministry Architects, and the co-author of Sustainable Children’s Ministry (InterVarsity Press).