Big Picture

Tips & Tricks

Discipline that Molds Lives

—Nancy Thomason

Based on my experience as a public school teacher I’d like to offer you four major tools to build good discipline in your club or classroom.

1. Treat Each Child as an Individual

I’ve asked many children what their Sunday school teacher’s name is and often they don’t know. We should know each of our student’s names and they should know ours. One basic way to learn about each child at the beginning of your year together is to have name tags you can read easily. It’s tough to build a relationship or to get a point across if you don’t know the name of each child. Have those name tags ready!

2. Positive Discipline Works

Complimenting children who are doing what you expect is far more effective than the negative counterpart. Incorporating the previous point you might say: “Wow! Look at the way Jonathan is following the lesson in his Bible. Way to go, Jonathan!” “Andrew and Aaron are working hard on their activity sheet.” Always tell a child what to do instead of what not to do: “Tina, you may use the glue when Jason is finished.” “Be a good listener, Jacob.” “Tyler, please keep your feet quiet.” Negative recognition only enforces bad behavior and exhausts the teacher!

3. Consistency Is Required

To maintain order and dignity it is necessary to follow through with any stated consequence. Say only what you can and will back up. As I began reading a story to my class of second graders I glanced at Ron who had his shoes on the empty chair in front of him. Rather than ignoring him I said, “Ron, please put your feet down.”

That simple request led to 20 minutes of a nonphysical tug-of-war. I did not continue reading but had to out wait him. Had I not mentioned the behavior he probably would have put his feet down sooner but I needed to follow through in order to establish my authority. Perhaps you’ve heard that it’s better for a child to have consistently bad parents rather than inconsistent good ones. I have seen the hopelessness in children who do not know what to expect. As we lead children to the Lord they can know the God who does what He says He will do. We should emulate Him.

4. Lower Your Voice

Do you dare to put a tape recorder in your room the next time you teach? No, not to hear the children but to hear yourself. There is a tendency to try to talk over the murmur of your students. As their volume increases so does yours. One of the most effective means of silencing two or more children who are whispering to each other as I’m teaching is for me to stop talking and simply look at the offenders. As they stop talking I quietly say, “Thank you” and proceed with the lesson.

If the same child is talking repeatedly I may have him apologize to the group for interrupting so often. The Lord gives us rules that work. Proverbs 15:1 says “A soft answer turns away wrath. . . .” Reexamine your voice level this week. Care for your students, love them and understand that a positive approach is the best way to mold lives.

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