If 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!
It 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.