You are fully equipped for classroom discipline with the discipline tools you already have — you just don’t know it yet…
You were gung-ho to instruct children in the things of God!
Chances are, though, after a few classes your gung-ho was gung-gone and you were in search of a crash course in classroom management — a discipline boot camp, a cure-all book, or the Ronco 3-in-1 discipline machine. Are there such things?
Not exactly, but the truth is you don’t need any crash course as much as you just need to take a good look inside. You already have discipline tools at your fingertips — you just may not know it yet. These tools require no props, no equipment, and no preparation (just a little practice). By using what you already have, you’ll be more effective at classroom management and you’ll truly I.N.S.T.R.U.C.T. kids.
Enthusiasm as a discipline tool? You bet! As the class leader, you set the tone. How do you think kids respond when you aren’t excited about what you’re teaching? Of course they won’t be excited either. Why should they be? But your enthusiasm is contagious, and it can be a deterrent to misbehavior right from the start and curtail distractions if they creep in.
For example…A boy gets a little restless in class and starts to misbehave. As you notice this, you initiate a change of activity with an extra dose of enthusiasm. Thus you redirect and reignite the child’s interest in what’s happening. Discipline takes place without any confrontation, and that leads to instruction.
Natural consequences can bring kids into step real fast. A natural consequence makes sense; it’s logical and connected to the misbehavior. If a child spills something by running in class, the natural consequence is the child cleans it up. An unnatural consequence would be that the child has to stand in the hall — it’s not connected to the offense. If two children would rather talk than pay attention, separate them for the rest of the class. (Only don’t allow the natural consequence to last longer than one class; that would be unnatural and unfair.)
For example…You’ve let everyone know that the class can have extra game time only when the lesson is complete, but Mary doesn’t keep this in mind. Getting a privilege is a natural consequence of using time wisely, and using time unwisely results in a lost privilege. By the way, a quick reminder to the class in general will usually lead to other kids reminding Mary of what she might be costing the class.
As the sermon begins, you lean over to make a comment to your friend. Just as you begin to speak, the noise stops, and you make your comment to…everyone! You’ve had it happen before, haven’t you? And how did you feel? Slightly embarrassed? A little silly? Silence seems to highlight activity that really isn’t appropriate for the time, doesn’t it?
Now, embarrassing a child isn’t our goal, but simply being silent can go a long way toward bringing kids back into line. Sometimes when I teach kids (which I try to do with a lot of enthusiasm), I simply stop talking. Kids realize something isn’t right, and they pay special attention — even the ones who haven’t been paying attention. When they all focus on what they should be focused on, I simply begin instructing again.
For example… last Wednesday when I saw a boy trying to hide a handful of candy, I walked over and privately asked him what he had in his hand. Then I patiently waited. He looked at me and said, “Nothing,” to which I simply smiled and kept silent. As he thought about what was going on and realized I wasn’t going to accept that answer, he finally told me he had “borrowed” the candy from a room he wasn’t supposed to be in. I asked if he believed that was his candy to take, and he answered, “I don’t know.” Again, silence. He did know, and I wanted to give him a chance to think about what he was telling me. After a minute or two, he simply held out the candy for me to take and said, “No…and I’m sorry.” A quick high-five and a reassuring “Jesus is smiling because you did the right thing,” and we were on our way. Silence can be used to instruct very well.