Uh oh! Consequences for Inappropriate Behavior

children's ministry classroom discipline

In this series I have been discussing classroom discipline. In the last post I discussed creating reasonable expectations for Sunday School behavior. In this post, I will discuss reasonable consequences to set for inappropriate behavior.

 

 

 

Once expectations are set, consequences need to be agreed upon for inappropriate behavior. It’s important that all teachers agree on the basic consequences to be used for disobedience. Although each classroom will have specific age-appropriate consequences, the general outcomes should be the same.

Here is an example of general consequences.

“TACK Staff will first speak to the child and issue a warning. If the child chooses to continue the unacceptable behavior, they may be denied a privilege or isolated from the group for a time. If necessary, TACK staff will take the child to his/her parents.”

It is important to note that behavioral expectations and the consequences that go with inappropriate behavior need to be clearly outlined for parents and the children in your Sunday School.

This behavioral guidelines & principles document is one way of outlining expectations and consequences. Teachers need to make sure their students understand what is expected of them and what the consequences will be for breaking the rules. In an upcoming post I will talk about creating specific classroom rules.

So, all teachers need to agree on expectations and the consequences for breaking those expectations. These consequences need to be clearly outlined and followed consistently.

It is important the teachers are consistent in following the agreed upon expectations and consequences. Children feel safe when given boundaries and when they know what to expect.

Once general consequences are agreed upon, teachers can make specific consequences for their classrooms. Consequences in a preschool room are going to look a little different than consequences in an older elementary classroom.

For toddler classes, inappropriate behavior can usually be redirected. It’s important for teachers to explain to children how we behave and treat others. Consequences usually consist of removing a child from a situation or taking an object away from a child. For example, if toddlers are playing and one steals a toy from another, the teacher should get down to the child’s level and say, “In this room we treat others kindly. Taking a toy away from Jonny is not being kind.” Then give the toy back to Jonny and encourage the toddler to say sorry.

For preschool classes, the consequence for inappropriate behavior could be a time-out. The time-out should only be for a couple of minutes. The point is to separate the child and give them a chance to calm down, if necessary. Always talk with the child afterwards and make sure they understood why they were given a time out. Encourage the child to rejoin the group.

For elementary classes, consequences could be denying a privilege or separation from the group for a short time. Children this age enjoy being with their friends, so knowing they could be separated from them even for a short time is usually affective!

Whatever consequences you choose, let the kids know what they are and be consistent in your use of them.

A quick note about natural consequences: I believe consequences need to make sense. So for children misbehaving in class by talking with their neighbor and disturbing the rest of the class, the consequence that makes sense is to separate those children. Have one child move to another seat.  If a child hits another child or says something mean to another child, they should be encouraged to make it right.
Sometimes things happen that aren’t really inappropriate behavior, but need to be dealt with all the same. For example, if a child spills their apple juice they should be encouraged to clean it up.

Consequences are an important part of the discipline process. Remember, it’s about making disciples. Disciples love Jesus, follow Jesus, and obey Jesus. We need to be encouraging our kids to grow by expecting appropriate behavior & giving loving and consistent consequences for inappropriate behavior.

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It’s All About Respect! Creating Reasonable Expectations for Sunday School Behavior

Childen's Ministry Sunday School BehaviorIn the first post I talked about classroom discipline. This is a topic that many teachers dread and I encouraged teachers to see discipline in a new light. It’s about making disciples!

In this post, it’s all about respect! With the understanding that the goal of discipline is discipleship, the next step is to create reasonable expectations for children’s behavior in Sunday School.

It is important to be realistic about your expectations. Each child that arrives Sunday morning has come from a different situation and circumstances. Remember to consider each child and their limits and try to ensure that their needs are met as much as possible.

With that in mind, it is okay to have high standards for behavior. Build specific classroom rules based on the following 4 goals for your children.

1. Respect for God’s Word

Expect children to show respect to God’s Word as the final authority. This includes respecting God and treating Him as worthy of the highest praise. Using God’s name without respect will not be tolerated.

2. Respect for Adults

Expect children to honor their teachers and all adults with respectful speech and behavior. Sassing or defying instruction are examples of disrespectful behavior.

3. Respect for Others

Jesus told us to treat others the way we would like to be treated (Mt. 7:12). Children should be encouraged to treat each other with kindness and humility. Children should be encouraged to think before they speak and to find encouraging words to speak to each other. Mean, crude, or hurtful speech or actions are therefore not acceptable.

4. Respect for Themselves

Encourage children not to act in ways that will put their bodies or their faith at risk.

 

Children will not follow these expectations all the time. That is because they are children and they are growing. They are learning the behaviors expected of them. It is part of our job as teachers to remind them of these expectations, give them specific examples of what this expected behavior looks like and to discipline them when they disobey.

Here is an example of a behavioral guidelines & principles brochure I created for a church where I was serving as Director of Children’s Ministry. It clearly outlines our expectations for children’s behavior.

In the next post I will talk about consequences. Having clear expectations is important. Having clear consequences for disobeying is also important.

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Discipleship & Classroom Discipline

behavior managementIf you asked a group of Sunday School teachers the one thing they would like help with, the answer will more than likely be classroom discipline. It’s a difficult subject and a lot of teachers don’t feel confident in this area.

This series of posts will give you tools for building a philosophy of classroom discipline and creating classroom rules that encourage discipleship! As an extra bonus, I will share a classroom motivating technique that I have used in elementary aged classes.

First, it is helpful for teachers to understand that we don’t discipline for discipline’s sake.

We discipline for the sake of making disciples. If the goal of Sunday School is discipleship (and I believe that it should be), then loving discipline has to be a part of the process.

Jesus said to His disciples, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”(John 14:15)

A chapter later He said again, “You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:14)

A disciple of Jesus is one who obeys what He says. If our goal in Sunday School is discipleship then we need to teach and encourage obedience.
“Discipline” comes from the root word “disciple,” which means “training that molds character, behavior and values.” (Sorry, I can’t remember where I got this definition from!)

Discipline then is about shaping disciples of Jesus by molding children’s behavior. It should be seen in a positive light.

It is encouraging for teachers to see that discipline is more than just making kids obey the rules. There is a larger goal and one that teachers can truly get behind.

Let’s make disciples!

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Book Review – Everyday Talk by John A. Younts

Words matter. The things we say in unguarded moments, the words we say in love, in frustration, at the breakfast table, and before bed reveal our attitudes, our worldview, our theology, our beliefs. This is everyday talk.

Everyday Talk is a parenting book about talking freely and naturally about God with your children. It was written to encourage parents to recognize the influence their everyday talk has on their children and to accept the responsibility they have to use that influence to tell their children about God and His ways.

“Along the path of everyday life, take the opportunity that God gives you to instruct your children.” (pg. 118)

The author uses Deuteronomy 6:4-7 as the key Scripture passage for his book.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

The author states in the first chapter,

“The principle of Deuteronomy 6 is that your everyday comments are the ones that teach your children most profoundly about your view of God. Your interaction with God in everyday, ordinary, non-church life is the most powerful tool of influence that you have with your children. It communicates what you really believe.” (pgs 16-17)

This book is full of Biblical, practical advice for parents who want to talk to their kids about God. Each chapter has some questions at the end that encourage parents to think about the content of that chapter as it relates specifically to their kids, and practical ideas to implement the main idea of that chapter.

There are chapters on sharing the gospel with your kids; listening to your kids; giving directions; preparing your children to leave home; and talking with your children about the deceptiveness of the world, sex, and music.

An on-going issue for parents is discipline and obedience. In chapter 6, called “Big Sins, Little Sins” the author discusses the importance of consistent discipline. He talks about the tendency we have of categorizing sin. There are things we consider big sins and things we consider little sins. It is tempting to let little sins slide, but when we do, our children are being taught that obedience is not a requirement. Discipline for “big sin” and overlooking “little sins” teaches children to obey only when it seems necessary to them; it’s okay to disobey if they don’t get caught. (pg. 72)

The issue of obedience doesn’t end with parents. Ultimately we are to love and obey God.

“You cannot discipline properly until you see yourself as God’s agent to your kids…Your focus in discipline is to hold your children accountable to God.” (pg. 67)

“God wants to be loved & obeyed at all times, not just when the consequences seem great to us. You must discipline your children every time they are disobedient.” (pg. 69)

Consistent discipline is important because it gets to the heart of the issue. It helps our children understand they we obey because it is honoring to God, not simply to avoid the consequences of disobedience. Parents need to look at what is influencing their actions when they discipline and children need to look at what is influencing their actions when they choose to obey or disobey. It is the consequences or is it the best way to love God.

“Hold out for (your children) the goal of a heart that loves Christ more than the pleasures and good consequences of this life. Ask God to help your everyday talk to reflect love of God more than love of good consequences.” (pg. 77)

 

“The message of this book is that the most profound teaching your child receives is the everyday talk from your mouth.” (pg. 95) This book is an encouraging, practical, conversational appeal to parents.

“Parents, your children should hear God’s truth from your lips…They must hear God’s truth in your everyday talk. You must look out the window to your world and talk to your children about the truth of God in relation to what you see.” (pg. 120)

Children’s ministry volunteers: If parents in your ministry are looking for a practical book on Biblical parenting and talking naturally with their children about God, I recommend Everyday Talk.

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Classroom Discipline – Sometimes the Right Thing is the Opposite

behavior managementIt is very important to have established rules and expectations of behavior in Sunday School. But sometimes the right way to respond to inappropriate behavior is to do the opposite of what is expected.

In one preschool class I taught there was a 5 year old boy. He came from a single parent home. His mother had no interest in church at all. His grandparents brought him and his brother whenever they could. This boy was the epitome of getting attention with bad behavior. He broke all the rules and delighted in making his teachers angry.

I am a firm believer in awarding good behavior and ignoring bad behavior (especially as regards acting out to get attention.) One Sunday morning, this boy was acting out and it had been going on for a while. My initial reaction was to ignore the behavior. I didn’t want to reward him with attention for that kind of behavior.

But, then God gave me a better idea. Instead of ignoring him, I caught him and held on. I sat with him and talked to him. Initially he didn’t want me to talk to him or to touch him. But I spoke gently telling him that I was really glad he was in my class and that Jesus loved him. And I kept my hand on his shoulder. I wanted him to know that he had my attention – I liked him, I liked talking to him and more importantly Jesus loved him.

Eventually I could sense an ease in the tension and he began to open up a little about his home life. I spent about 10 minutes one-on-one with him that morning. His behavior is still not perfect and he still acts out sometimes, but I believe that he now understands that I’m on his side and he doesn’t need to misbehave to get my attention. It was a wonderful opportunity to let that little one know that Jesus loves Him and that Sunday School is a safe place where children are accepted and loved.

Sometimes the right thing to do is the opposite of what you were taught or expected to do in behavioral situations. Be open to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

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