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Top 10 Discipline Tips for Your Children’s Ministry

You spent hours reviewing your Sunday school lesson, cutting out craft materials, and preparing a snack. You’re confident nothing can go wrong. As you prepare to open in prayer, though, the discipline problems begin. Billy launches a pencil across the room, striking Sarah who bursts into tears. Then Maria starts complaining that she’s bored. Restlessness spreads through the room like wildfire.


How can you refocus your class’ attention? More importantly, how can you prevent discipline scenarios like these from recurring every week? The following Top 10 list contains quick and easy bits of classroom management wisdom from experienced teachers.

1. Communicate expectations for learning and behavior.

This might include expecting children to participate in class. When children know you expect them to respond, they pay closer attention. You may also want to distribute a newsletter, informing parents of your expectations and what their children are learning. Parents appreciate the opportunity to reinforce Sunday school lessons throughout the week.

2. Establish and communicate classroom procedures.

Children want to know how the class will be structured. You don’t need a list of discipline rules, but you may want to post a schedule, such as: (1) Prayer, (2) Bible Story, (3) Craft, (4) Game, (5) Prayer. You could also post a Scripture that’ll give your class focus.

3. Specify what you consider class disruptions and the consequences for them.

Enforce consequences for disruptive behavior promptly, consistently, and equitably. Know what consequences your children’s ministry leadership recommends for disruptive behavior. Talk to parents about their child’s behavior-good or bad. If you’re uncomfortable speaking to parents about concerns or if you receive a negative response, ask your children’s ministry leader for assistance.

4. Positively prompt children’s behavior.

Instead of saying, “Don’t touch Jesse,” phrase your request positively: “Please put your hands on the table in front of you so I know you’re ready to listen.” Children respond better to positive statements. You may want to stand near a disruptive child. Often close physical proximity causes a child to “check” his or her behavior, and you won’t draw as much attention to the student.

5. Build a community in your classroom.

Get to know the children in your class as individuals; take an interest in them. Pray for them during the week and let them know how you prayed for them. Call them if they’ve been absent. Incorporate activities in your class that allow children to get to know one another.

6. Maintain a brisk pace of instruction and smooth transitions between activities.

Children become more restless during long pauses. To decrease misbehavior, actively engage children in learning.

7. Do something unexpected occasionally.

Children remember things that have an element of surprise to

8. Create opportunities for your class to experience success.

Provide children with feedback and reinforcement. Observe and comment on children’s behaviors, particularly behaviors you value. Giving positive comments to children who are known for discipline problems can change their behavior.

9. Use quick, nonverbal techniques for gaining your class’ attention.

When the class gets noisy, use a special clap, raise your hand, or turn the lights on and off to calm the noise.

10. Have fun!

Your attitude is contagious. Having a positive attitude will make your classroom a place children want to be.

Karen Mitchell
Woodland Park, Colorado

For more great ideas like this in every issue, subscribe today to Children’s Ministry Magazine!


4 thoughts on “Top 10 Discipline Tips for Your Children’s Ministry

  1. These are valuable tips. I really believe #1 is foundational to all the rest, and yet it also seems to be the one many teachers are most likely to neglect. If we do not set up expectations right from the start, we are really setting up the wrong expectations.

    With a child who repeatedly struggles to behave appropriately in class, the physical proximity suggestion can be extremely powerful. Sometimes children are just extremely hungry to know someone cares about them, and the teacher’s loving presence can communicate that. Sometimes having an “outside” mentor come in — a deacon or deaconess, for example — to kind of hang out by the child’s side can be just the thing they need to understand what is expected and be encouraged to participate appropriately.

    Thank you for this list; I will pass the link along. 🙂

  2. Christine Yount Jones

    Sheila,
    I love your comment: “if we do not set up expectations right from the start, we are really setting up the wrong expectations.” Either way–kids learn our expectations; it’s better to be clear about the right ones.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Christine

  3. Evelyn Nsame

    children like attention, if that thing happen, that meams you have to focus on them before stard your class.
    you have to solve every case so that, they will be concentrated. I like also your 10 discipline tips.

  4. I got a very good tip from another Sunday School teacher, and from that time on I always use this method in my lessons:

    I split into two groups. Each group has 4 ballons on the wall. They need to take care of these balloons. If one child in the group disturbs the lesson, I will pop one balloon. At last one balloon need to be there until the end of the lesson. At the end, if there are still at least one balloon on their side, they get a reward for “taking care of the balloons”, like a sticker on their hand, a stamp in their book, a candy eg. Automatically they try their best to behave well. I never had the situation that all balloons are gone 🙂 Please try this method in your Sunday School 🙂 God bless!

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