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Touch

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Physical touch can be used in a variety of ways — always being
careful to be appropriate, of course. This might include a firm but
gentle grip on the shoulder as you speak “wisdom” (okay,
discipline) into a child’s life. Or you might use an open hand on
the back to gently steer a child back to walking in the right
direction if he tries to veer off into the land of misbehavior.
High-fives, pats on the head, and side hugs can all be used to
build a relationship, which is the cornerstone of effective
instruction.

For example… as I led the music, a friend of my 8-year-old
son, Taylor, tried hard to distract him. Poking him in the side,
blowing on his face, and telling little boy jokes were having no
effect (I was really proud of my son), but I knew it was probably
only a matter of time until Taylor responded. So still playing and
singing, I meandered over to where the boys sat. As everyone
continued to sing (including me) I simply reached out and gently
squeezed my son’s friend on the shoulder. He hadn’t seen me coming,
and as he whipped his head around, I could tell I’d made my point.
Without embarrassing him, I communicated the importance of what we
were doing. He started paying attention, and within a few minutes
he joined in the upbeat singing and motions that all the other kids
were involved with.

Reasonable Expectations

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As you instruct, keep this in mind: Kids are kids and aren’t
capable of behaving in an “adult” manner. Our expectations of a
child’s behavior must be reasonable. A good rule of thumb is that
kids have about one minute of attention span for every year of
their age. When that time’s up, it’s time to move on to a new
activity. Active learning and reasonable behavior expectations are
important parts of the process.

For example… one of my preschool teachers told the department
coordinator she was frustrated with the boys in her class. She
mentioned that these 4- and 5-year-olds were just so rowdy and
energetic that she had a hard time controlling them. When the
coordinator observed this teacher’s class the following week, she
discovered a youth volunteer who initiated wrestling time with the
kids. Because of their age, these kids had a difficult time
settling down after that. My coordinator suggested that, instead of
wrestling, the youth volunteer could be more helpful by doing other
activities with the kids, such as using modeling clay to create a
scene from the story for the day. When this was done, the boys in
the class immediately calmed down, and the entire class time was
transformed.

Understanding

Closely connected with reasonable expectations is a clear
understanding of why kids might misbehave. There are lots of
reasons, but understanding some of the more common ones and
addressing them helps meet the needs a child might be expressing
through misbehavior. When you address these needs, discipline
usually is taken care of and you restore an environment conducive
to instruction. Check out the “Ain’t Misbehavin’ ” box for more
insight into why kids act the way they do at times.

For example… when 3-year-old Alyssa wasn’t eating after her
family prayed, her father told her rather sternly to begin. Minutes
passed. Alyssa only looked down at her lap. Becoming agitated, her
father demanded, “Alyssa, you get busy!” Alyssa’s lower lip
quivered. She looked up with tears in her eyes and blurted out,
“But I don’t have a spoon!” This father learned a lifelong lesson
to ask more questions for better understanding. That’s a good
lesson for us as well.

     

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