Let’s say you are about to give a message to a room full of middle school students as you usually do and as always they are a little rowdy. Before you begin you give them a chance to calm down and focus; however, a 1/3 of the way into the message they start murmuring a bit. You do your best to silence them by making eye contact, pausing to gain silence; however, they are still a little disruptive. And what makes the situation even more challenging is one student who starts shouting out answers to rhetorical questions, laughing at inappropriate times and is trying to make lite of everything you say. For some strange reason none of your volunteers are responsive, so it really comes down to you, “What do you do?”
If you were to tell me that your middle school students acted maturely every week, with no interruptions or incident I would call you a liar (but with love). Let’s face it middle schoolers are a wild beast, it’s like herding cats and as much as I love them they can be overwhelming at times. With that said they shouldn’t run your program. To avoid situations like these we adopted a 3 step rule (that we learned from Kurt Johnston) for handling disruptive teens.
Step 1 – Give Warning
Sometimes all you have to do is tell a kid to be quiet and that’s what they’ll do. But simply going shhhh isn’t going to work (and it’s so annoying). What we need to do is give a student the heads up that they’re being disruptive.
Step 2 – Relocate
If they continue to be disruptive we try moving them around. Often times they are conversing with a friend or being egged on by their peers. A change of scenery (by an adult) usually works best. If you just sit in the middle of the group you might cause more disruption. In the end it’s best to just move one.
Step 3 – Remove
Then there are those times where we get a student who is totally disruptive. So if you’ve already asked them to be quiet, if you’ve moved them to another part of the room; yet, they are still acting out, you need to take them out of the room.
No matter how many times you have to address a student it should follow up with a conversation after the program. Always remember, praise a teenager in public, critique them privately. If you find that you have to warn a student and relocate them it’s important to have a conversation with them afterward. However, if you have to remove them from the room, it’s best to have a conversation with them and their parent. That might mean asking them to take a break, giving them a stern warning, that’s up to you. But, whatever your policy, stay true to it (although there are times for exceptions). Lastly, make sure you empower your ministers to take action, or else they may just sit back and wait for you to handle the situation.
That’s our policy, is it perfect? No, but it works more times than not. Yours may be different.
What’s your policy for disruptive teens?
But back to my story at the beginning. Say you are giving a message, a teen is being disruptive and none of your ministers are handling the situation. What do you do?