Temporary and Together Kid Management: Otherwise Known As Coaching, Volunteering, or Running a Birthday Party

Mar 9, 2017

Every once in awhile, I take parents and kids who are visiting my home by surprise when I sit them down before a drop-off playdate and explain that the couch in the basement IS a jumping couch but the couch upstairs is NOT, how to treat the cat, and so on. Or maybe their jaws drop just a tiny bit when I show up as the Girl Scout troop leader with this on hand…

To me, all of this is much better than the alternative, which is me getting grumpy at children for not meeting my hidden expectations. But it got me thinking that non-teachers and well-meaning adults are really at a disadvantage on how to manage groups of children.  As teachers, we forget that we have been trained on (I hope!) and practiced these skills over and over. I’m also thinking of all the folks out there who manage birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese, the soccer coaches, the lifeguards, and the classroom volunteers.

Managing, and subsequently enjoying, children is HARD. But kids quickly sniff out adults who do not hold them accountable, and that, my friends, makes for one painful birthday party hosting experience.

So, here’s my quick list of tips for Together Kid Management . . .

  1. Review expectations up front. Use a chart, a checklist, or just say them. When I had a huge taco party at my house, I hung a list of toy clean up rules in the basement.
  2. Share the schedule or agenda for your event so people big and small know what to anticipate.
  3. Establish a signal for how you will get everyone’s attention. This is easy in Girl Scouts, but in some situations, you may need a bell or a special phrase.
  4. Wait for 100% of children’s attention before giving any instructions or speaking. This takes patience. Overuse positive narration, such as, “I love how you are sitting with your hands and feet to yourself, Ada.” It will FEEL weird to non-teachers, but it works.
  5. Get your scan on. This New Yorker article calls it “withitness.” Even as I was filing papers for my daughter’s first grade teacher, I was constantly scanning the room.
  6. Use proximity and don’t be afraid to quietly correct if something (or someone!) is going awry. This may look like my recent very, very quiet whispers of, “This is your last warning about running ahead of my group,” to my small group at the National Zoo field trip last week.

Teachers and former teachers: What would you add to this list? I’ll update the post!

P.S. This amazing book also has a few tips.

P.P.S This post may be a good one to forward to a non-teacher friend…