Loving Discipline

Discipline is Spelled LOVE

A prospective teacher once told me the four R’s of discipline: Rules without Relationship Result in Rebellion. Rules may be necessary but building personal relationships is the most important aspect of discipline.  Before you can be effective in discipline efforts, kids need to know that you care about them and love them.

Dr. Ken Furman, internationally known behavior specialist, relates that kids do not have a discipline problem: they just have a skill they have not learned yet.  He relates that we do not expect students to walk into our Bible Studies knowing Scripture and its application well.  They have to be taught these skills. Behavior management is no different.  We can not expect kids to walk into our Bible Study classes being able to manage their behavior perfectly.  Teaching kids these skills takes time, patience, modeling, and most of all, love.

In her book 101 Answers, Annette Breaux uses a simple technique that works effectively with many children.  It is called the “Are You All Right?” Technique which is based on the simple premise that children who believe you care about them are much more likely to behave appropriately.  It works like this.  If a child is not behaving appropriately, simply pull the child away from the other children and ask, “Are you all right?” with a sincere look of concern—not aggravation on your face.  The child usually will answer, “Yes.”  You then say, “Well the reason I am asking is the way you were behaving was so unlike you. (Okay, so you are stretching the truth a little). Then you say, “I knew that something must be bothering you for you to be acting that way, so I just wanted to know if you were all right, and to let you know that if anything is bothering you, I’m here for you if you need to talk.”  That’s it. It’s that simple.

Principles that may be helpful:

Be Well Prepared

Have all materials readily available.  Involve the children in activities. Let them act out the story. Give them small jobs to do.  Help them feel important.

Don’t Escalate the Situation

If inappropriate behavior does happen, de-escalate, don’t escalate.  Whisper instead of yell.  Use humor. Change locations (move close to the child).  Talk to the child privately.  Use body language such as hand motions, eye contact, shaking or nodding head.  Call children by name.  Smile a lot.  Listen. Listen. Listen.

Attack the Problem and not the Child

Let the children save face.  A few generic phrases may be helpful such as: “Here’s the deal: I’ll pretend I didn’t see that, and you never do it again.”  “Can you solve that?  Or do you need me to help?”  “That’s inappropriate.” (Never say, “You are so mean.” “You are the worst behaved child I know.”) etc.

Give Children Choices

If discipline needs a consequence, give the child a choice. “Mary, I really want you to stay with us this morning, but in order to stay, you must…(identify the skill you want Mary to learn). The choice is up to you. Do you want to stay, or do you want to…(go to mother, go home, sit by your self, etc.?)  I hope you choose to stay. If you do choose to stay, you will need to behave appropriately. What do you choose to do?  If the student decides to go home, go to mother, sit alone, etc., indicate that the child is welcome next Sunday, (or when this activity is over).  There should be a time when the child can begin again without reference to previous infraction.

Reward Appropriate Behavior with Specific Praise

“Mary I like the way you are ready to listen.”  “Javier, thank you for picking the paper off the floor.”  “Jasmine, thank you for helping me get the handouts ready.”

Be Fair

Being fair does not mean everyone is treated the same.  Being fair means that you listen to each child’s side of the story before you make decisions.

Be Consistent

Do not allow students to be rowdy today and next time they get in trouble for same behavior.

Finally

Be enthusiastic, be patient, be sincere, and be loving in all you do with the children. Let them see Jesus in you as you interact with them.

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