Discipline Q&A: Boys Who Play Rough

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Q: How do I deal with preteen boys who hit, shove, and
kick their friends — even though they seem to be
playing?

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A: First ask yourself, “Who’s this behavior
bothering?” If it’s only you as the teacher, let it go.

Preteen boys can be very physical, and aggressive touch may be
their “manliest” way of expressing friendship. If the behavior
isn’t hurting anyone, obnoxious, or disruptive, ignore it and
realize that your boys are communicating in their native tongue.
However, if the behavior is too rough or seems to target an
individual, try these ideas:

  • Talk about it. Take the boys aside after class
    and explain the issue. Tell them you’re glad they’re having fun
    with their friends, but when their behavior disrupts the class
    you’ll have to separate them.
  • Find a “minder.” Ask a classroom volunteer,
    preferably a male, to sit with or near the boys to help them stay
    focused.
  • Help them serve. Ask kids to help in class by
    distributing papers or setting up chairs. The physical activity and
    sense of purpose will help settle down kids and expend their extra
    energy.

Q: We have a lot of children and not enough volunteers.
How do we control the crowd?

A: Discipline problems often develop due to a
lack of adequate supervision. Recruiting enough volunteers is
important for providing a healthy and safe learning
environment.

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Begin by ramping up your recruiting efforts. For effective
recruiting ideas go to www.childrensministry.com/recruiting. Also,
check that your adult-to-child ratio is acceptable by age group
(younger kids require more adults).

When you’re short-staffed, handle large groups of kids by
forming multi-age teams of four to eight kids. Assign each child in
the interactive learning group a job such as Team Leader, Bible
Reader, Prayer Person, Materials Gatherer, or Cheerleader. Older
kids will serve as guides to younger children and help keep the
lesson on track when they have ownership. When everyone’s actively
involved, you’ll have fewer discipline issues.

Q: Why do kids completely disregard my directions when I
ask simple questions such as, “Would you like to join the group
now?”

A: The problem is you’re giving a choice rather
than giving a direction. “Would you like to…” opens the door for
a child to honestly answer, “No, I’d rather not.”

When giving directions, always use simple, direct requests.
Instead of phrasing your request as a question, say, “Please join
the group now,” conveying it’s not an optional activity. If a child
doesn’t respond immediately, repeat the instruction and add the
child’s name.

You can give kids a sense of control by allowing them choices.
Provide a limited number of acceptable options in these instances,
such as, “We’re ready to start — would you rather sit up front
with me or with your friends?” Be serious about your requests –
making exceptions for some kids will gradually erode your authority
in your classroom.


Gordon and Becki West are co-authors of The Discipline
Guide for Children’s Ministry (Group) and founders of KidZ KaN Make a
Difference and KidZ At Heart International (www.kidzatheart.org).

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