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Discipline With Your Style

Adam Day

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Rules are good, but too many rules cast a shadow. When keeping control is your number one goal, that emphasis paints church and Christianity as a stuffy, staunch, and stressful lifestyle. For kids to feel ownership of their class and to build relationships with one another, they must have a level of freedom. That means you must relinquish a corresponding level of control.

Church is fun. If your classroom's fun factor has waned along with kids' enthusiasm, you're probably exerting too much control. Make an honest assessment -- is it time to loosen up and remember what it was like to be a child? Trade in those long lectures and constant corrections for hands-on manipulatives and laugh-inducing experiences.

Micromanagement isn't effective. Especially when it comes to helping kids sprout wings and grow. If your default is control, reign yourself in and remember that children don't need to be managed; they need to be nurtured.

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First control yourself.
Make an intentional effort to get kids excited and interested in your lesson and activities rather than depending on your tone or mannerisms for classroom control. If you feel yourself reverting to Control Freak status, keep a handle on that tendency and instead put your energy into breathing life into the lesson. If you can pull kids into the content of the lesson, you won't have to spend your time on discipline.

Study kids. Go to a children's venue -- a museum, zoo, playground, or recreation center, and watch kids as they learn. Most kids enjoy quickly moving from one concept to another and getting their hands on what they're learning. Notice, too, that they tend to be noisy and boisterous when truly engaged in learning. This is typical of the species.

Take a relational break. Take a leap and intentionally schedule time for your kids to interact with one another every week. Ten minutes of free play or talk time is a great way to let kids connect. Prayer time is also important to help children relate in a group setting.

You may be a Scaredy Cat if you...

• Are terrified of what'll happen if you dare to discipline.

• Are scared of parents.

• Are scared of kids (though you may be unlikely to admit it).

• Prefer to endure classroom chaos rather than ruffle feathers.

• Feel ill-equipped to go toe-to-toe with a misbehaving child.

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You have a purpose.
God placed you in kids' lives for a reason. You're ministering to these specific children not by fate, but by God's providence. It's your place-and your right-to make the most of every opportunity.

It's not a popularity contest. Don't be scared that kids won't like you if you discipline and hold high standards. Frankly, children today don't need a big brother or big sister or best friend; they need leaders in their lives who'll guide them with loving boundaries.

Kids will respond. Kids will respect authority, but like any new responsibility they need you to teach them how. Your responsibility as a spiritual influencer goes beyond passing on biblical knowledge to kids. They see your actions and will model their lives after what you say and do. If you're too scared to confront conflict, they'll view that as a normal response to conflict. But if they see you boldly -- yet lovingly -- address issues, they'll see that as normal and healthy.

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Don't be afraid.
God's Word tells us we don't have a spirit of fear in our lives, but a spirit of power and wisdom. (Check out Romans 8:15 and 1 Peter 3:14.) Strengthen your prayer time. Ask God for courage in your classroom.

Focus on your kids. First John 4:18 says, "Perfect love drives out fear." So set aside time to pray for your kids by name every day. A consistent pattern of prayer helps you focus on the kids and the issues that most need your attention.

Find out what's at the root of your fear -- and then do some weeding. If you're concerned that people might not like a bold new you, take small steps to let kids and parents know you're ready for a change. Focus on the positive aspects of a better-managed classroom: more learning, respect, and fulfillment for all. If, however, your fear is still crippling your classroom management, it's time to ask for honest coaching from your leader.

Set the stake. A great starting point for a former Scaredy Cat is to establish and post a few simple ground rules. Introduce the rules at the start of your next class -- and return to them whenever you need to. This will help you and your kids stay on track.

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