6 Tips for Dealing with Discipline

behave yourself! - teacher1. Be consistent but handle each case individually.

By this I mean that it’s important to learn the circumstances of the situation as you discipline. Despite how you might feel in the heat of the moment, most children aren’t acting out just to make your day more difficult! Children are responsible for their actions and need to accept the consequences, but it is your job to find out what lead to the outburst. Discipline is not about punishment; it’s about discipleship. The child may have heavy things going on at home or be dealing with difficult situations at school. Take the time to talk with the child and give them ways of dealing with their feelings that are acceptable.

2. Always handle discipline in private.

Don’t embarrass the child by reprimanding them in front of the other kids.

This doesn’t mean being alone with the child. It means showing respect by speaking with the child off to the side and not in front of the other kids.

3. Discipline out of love, not anger.

If you are angry, give yourself a time out before you deal with the issue. Discipline that is handled in the heat of the moment when you are not in control of your emotions is not true discipline. If you are angry, you are not in a position to offer a child effective discipline. Remember, it’s not punishment, but discipline.

When you discipline out of love, rather than anger, you are training in a way that will mold character, behavior, and values.

4. Make sure the child understands why they are being disciplined.

Most children know exactly what they did! However, there are times when kids don’t know what they did that was wrong. They may be so focused on one thing that they do not realize that their actions resulted in hurt bodies or hurt feelings. When you discipline a child, ask them if they can tell what they did that was wrong. Remember, you are training to mold character and behavior.

5. Give kids a chance to make things right.

Part of the discipline process should be the opportunity to apologize. If a child has hurt another child, they should be encouraged to apologize. If a child has stolen an item they should be encouraged to return it. Whenever possible, give kids the chance to apologize and make things right. In your discussion, talk about how and when they might make things right with the person they have wronged.

6. Always welcome them back to the group.

Children need to know that we love them and care for them no matter what. This doesn’t mean that we ignore issues that arise. It means that we deal with them and then move on. Welcome the child who has been disciplined back to the group.

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Classroom Management – Reasonable Consequences

A consequence is the effect, result, or outcome of something occurring earlier. Good classroom management regularly uses reasonable consequences.

When a teacher makes use of reasonable consequences in her classroom, she is teaching her kids to be accountable for their actions.

“The purpose of a consequence is to retrain the brain and transform the heart.” (Jody Copehart)

I love this quote! I think Jody said it very well. The reason we use consequences in our classrooms is to retrain how our kids think , feel, and behave.

It’s important to make sure that the consequences for actions in our classes are reasonable. Remember, we are lovingly training our kids to love God and to love people. Kids pick up quickly on actions they consider unfair. A reasonable consequence would never be considered unfair. They may not like it, but they can’t call it unfair.

For example, during snack time a child spills their juice. An unreasonable consequence would be to tell the child that they cannot have snack for the next month. Kids would consider that unfair (and rightly so!)  A reasonable consequence would be for that child to clean up the mess. That consequence is logical. They had a spill so they clean it up. Logical and reasonable.

Keep in mind that reasonable consequences are not just for misbehavior. That is why I am talking about them during this series on classroom management and not during a series about discipline. Reasonable consequences are about teaching kids the result of choices. Sometimes these are related to unacceptable behavior and sometimes simply poor choices.

Here are some other examples of reasonable consequences:

  1. If a child plays with a toy, they are responsible for putting it away.
  2. If a child spills their apple juice, they clean it up.
  3. If a child spills a friend’s apple juice, they apologize, clean it up, and make sure their friend gets another drink.
  4. If a child uses rude or inappropriate speech during class, they need to find a nice way to say the same thing.
  5. If a child hurts someone, they need to do something kind for them.
  6. If 2 children are talking to each other instead of listening to the story/lesson, they need to move so they are not sitting together anymore.

Let me encourage you as a Sunday School teacher to start using reasonable consequences in your classroom. Teach your kids that they are responsible for their behavior and the results of their behavior.

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Classroom Management – Expectations

Classroom Management - ExpectationsLet kids know what your expectations are. Teachers should never assume that children understand what is expected of them in classroom situations.

Let’s talk about reasonable expectations and how to let kids know what is expected of them.

It’s important for teachers to remember that children need to be taught how to behave in the classroom. They will not automatically know. So talk with your students about what you expect during class. This is important for all ages, but especially young children who do not yet attend school and therefore do not have experience to draw on.

First, ensure that your classroom expectations are reasonable.

Here you need to consider the age and developmental stage of your students.

5 years olds do not have the attention span to sit still through a 30 minute story. It would be an unreasonable expectation. However, 5 year olds can sit for a 10-15 minute story that is engaging, age-appropriate, and interactive.

If you are not sure what your students can do developmentally, there are lots of resources out there that will give you good information about age-level characteristics.

Second, tell your kids what is expected of them for general classroom behavior and for specific classroom situations.

General classroom behavior includes how students should address you, knowing the rules and that students are expected to follow them, how students should treat you and each other.

But it is also important to let students know what your expectations are in specific situations. For example, if a student has a question at any time, they should raise their hand and wait for you to call on them.

Specific situations include story or lesson time, application time, games and activity time, craft time, group projects, dismissal time.

Here are some examples of reasonable expectations:

“Any questions asked will be about the lesson topic.”

“If you have a question, raise your hand and wait for me to call on you.”

“I expect everyone to participate during lesson time.”

“After playtime, I expect everyone to help clean up.”

“Before we eat snack, everyone washes their hands.”

“During application time, we will respect what each other has to say.”

Rules and expectations are similar. Rules should be clearly stated, ideally posted, and repeated often. The expectation, then, would be that students will obey the rules.

Not all expectations are directly related to rules however. Some expectations are about how we handle snack time or bathroom breaks. They are more about how things are done in this classroom.

Don’t make the assumption that children will know how to behave or participate in your classroom. Let your kids know what your expectations are. And then watch them rise to the challenge!

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