Discipline Solutions: 3 Ways to Get Model Behavior From Kids


Expert advice on the best and most effective discipline solutions to use with kids.

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You love kids—that’s why you dedicate hours preparing for lessons and teaching them about God’s love. You’re committed to children’s ministry…but you could do without the discipline challenges you face almost every time you enter your room. You’re not alone—discipline is the biggest obstacle teachers face. Consider these statistics:


Children’s ministers everywhere ask for effective discipline solutions. In fact, we’ve heard from our thousands of readers that discipline is the #1 problem you face when working with kids.

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Children’s Ministry Magazine went on a search for discipline solutions in the top discipline models available. We checked out what classroom management theorists say about discipline. We discovered there are tons of effective discipline models out there—many of which have been successfully adopted in public schools. And one reason these discipline models are effective is they do what discipline is meant to do: train kids to meet higher standards of behavior. These models have endured because they give teachers the tools they need to eliminate discipline issues.

The discipline models here focus on training kids to manage themselves while addressing the root of discipline challenges, rather than simply reacting to poor behavior choices. Read on to get the low-down on how to implement the best discipline techniques in your classroom today.


Assertive Discipline

Marlene and Lee Canter

This model is great for classrooms that lack an overall sense of order, teachers who need a “nudge” embracing their role as the classroom leader, and just about any type of discipline challenge, from minor disruptions to overall chaos.

How It Works: The Assertive Discipline model is based on the concept that assertive teachers are more effective than wishy-washy, nonassertive, or hostile teachers. It holds that the teacher’s “job” is to maintain firm–but loving and humane–control of the classroom. Teachers have the right to teach, and kids have the right to learn. Classroom distractions and issues that impede these rights essentially cripple the learning process. This model puts the responsibility of classroom control on the teacher, saying the teacher must insist on high behavior stand- ards as part of his or her responsibility to maintain kids’ right to learn. Kids’ rights under this model include the right to:

  • have a teacher who helps them limit inappropriate behavior and provide positive support for appropriate behavior.
  • choose their behavior path with full disclosure of the consequences that’ll follow those choices.
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The Assertive Discipline model is one of the most commonly used discipline models in public schools.

Apply It: Borrow these pointers from the Assertive Discipline model for your classroom today.

  • Attitude—Eliminate your negative expectations about kids’ behavior. As the classroom leader, you can positively influence your kids’ behavior—regardless of the problems they bring to class.
  • Boundaries—Set limits and don’t sway from them. Enforce limits with consistent consequences. Ensure that kids are fully aware of the consequences of poor behavior choices.
  • Demeanor—Be assertive. Don’t waffle or become hostile toward kids. Stay firm and in control of your emotions.
  • Expectations—Be so specific in your expectations that any child from your class could instruct a newcomer on behavior expectations.
  • Confrontation—Don’t ignore inappropriate behavior. Stop it with a firm reminder of behavior expectations. Have a plan in place for how you’ll deal with disruptions.
  • Accountability—Correct children by name.Repetition—Use the “broken record” approach where you continue repeating your behavior expectation despite kids’ excuses for not complying.


Positive Classroom Discipline

Fredric Jones

This model works to transform discipline problems into positive learning experiences. Teachers who typically dread confronting kids or don’t enjoy the classroom management aspect of teaching find this model effective. Kids—especially groups that lack cohesiveness—benefit from this model because of its focus on the positive and on community-building.

How It Works: The Positive Classroom Discipline model is based on the principle that teachers are more effective when kids are motivated. Basically, when kids are engaged in learning and aren’t interrupted by distractions, lost teaching time is reduced and kids begin to thrive in the learning environment. This model offers three techniques for teachers to systematically maintain discipline control: effective body language, positive reinforcement, and efficient individual help. The teacher’s physical presence is the key to all these techniques because physical proximity to kids is used to maintain control.

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Apply It:

  • Presence—Use nonverbal body language to stop kids’ misbehavior rather than addressing issues in ways that use up your teaching time. Eye contact, signals and gestures, physical proximity, facial expressions, and posture can stop misbehavior and avoid verbal confrontation.
  • Teaching—Resist halting class for minor misbehavior. Use body language or call the child by name, but continue teaching.
  • Acknowledgment—Don’t disregard misbehavior–address it immediately, but avoid creating a disruption.
  • Escalation—If a child continues to make poor behavior choices, respond by moving physically closer to the child with each escalation.
  • Support—Positively interact with every child during class.Consequences—Have in place a series of consequences for misbehavior, including a backup system outside your classroom (another adult, ministry leader, or parents).
  • Appropriateness—Use appropriate responses for misbehavior—don’t overreact. Understand that all kids push limits—it’s natural human behavior. It’s how you respond to their pushing that’ll set the tone for your discipline approach.
  • Simplicity—Use few rules and make them very clear. Don’t create a rule unless you’ll enforce it every time it’s broken.
  • Clarity—Teach rules as carefully as you teach a lesson.
  • Respect—Remember that children like to be part of a well-managed classroom. Take your role seriously to maintain a learning- friendly environment.


Preventative Discipline

Jacob Kounin

This discipline model focuses on making positive maneuvers that ultimately avoid misbehavior. This is a great approach for teachers who see themselves as mentors and who cherish a calm classroom. Rowdy kids may take time to adjust to this approach, but most will instinctively cooperate with this management style.

How It Works: Kounin promotes a classroom-management system that requires the teacher to be aware of and involved in everything that’s happening in the class (Kounin refers to this as “withitness”). Teachers maintain kids’ attention as a group through smooth transitions, variety, and a sense of momentum. When a child must be corrected, the correction itself creates a “ripple effect” that modifies nearby kids’ behavior. The Preventative Discipline model focuses on managing group behavior through individual accountability. Teachers hold kids responsible for maintaining a positive learning environment. Teachers foster a sense of accomplishment and anticipation with kids by providing previews, positive experiences, and mapping where the class has been.

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Apply It: Use these tips to implement Kounin’s Preventative Discipline model in your classroom.

  • Awareness—an effort to know what’s happening in every part of your classroom. This means walking around the class, interacting with kids, and observing both spoken and unspoken signals from kids.
  • Workflow—Organize class time to streamline transitions, offer variety, and maintain a consistent momentum between activities and lessons. Establish a routine and let kids know what’s coming so transitions aren’t rocky.
  • Accountability—Hold kids accountable for learning. Ask review questions. Find out how kids are applying the lessons you’re teaching in their lives-not only in the group environment, but individually as well.
  • Energy—Keep your activities, environment, and lessons fresh. If you’re bored teaching the material, they’ll be bored learning it. Offer kids alternative ways to learn and get them involved. Focus on powerful beginnings and endings, and keep the meat of your lessons as concise as possible. Preview what’s coming, and take time to give kids positive feedback on all they’re learning and accomplishing.

These are just a few of the effective discipline models you can use to take control of your class. With practical discipline solutions such as these, you can guide your kids toward model behavior and refocus on what you love to do-teach kids about God’s love for them. cm

Jennifer Hooks is managing editor of Children’s Ministry Magazine.

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