Children's ministers share their secrets to
Are you frustrated with trying to maintain control in your
classroom? We asked children's ministers to share their secrets to
"I let kids know my expectations up front; I don't necessarily
let them know the consequences if they misbehave. I'm firm about it
and I give biblical reason to behave. I tell them that by pleasing
the teacher, they are pleasing God. It has worked each time.
"Just this past Sunday, I taught in a class where the
fourth-grade boys had been monsters. And they were fine. I think
kids will come up to the standard you expect. Kids want to please
"When I see a child not listening or paying attention, I go over
and touch [his or her shoulder]. Or I may look at them to get their
attention. I let them know they're included in what we're
doing...For example, I say, 'I'm glad you're here' or 'I love
"I'm talking about 3- to 5-year-olds here. But the technique is
the same for any age. I can think of a time when a girl was
talking. I went up to her and touched her. She quit talking and I
had her attention.
"If I'm talking about an abstract idea and I notice kids are
restless, I use examples that relate to their lives. Kids
immediately pay attention and identify with things on their level.
I ask questions to see if they understand and I emphasize only one
"The assertive discipline program has worked with us. We post
the rules in the classroom and reinforce them a lot, especially at
times when new kids visit. The rules: (1) raise hands to speak; (2)
keep hands and feet to self; (3) watch the teacher; and (4) listen
to the teacher.
"Each time a child misbehaves during a class, these are the
consequences-in order: (1) put name on board; (2) put check by
name; (3) send note to parent; and (4) send child to parent.
"Once you establish the rules and consequences in the classroom
and are consistent, it works. There has only been one time when we
had to take a child to his parents. He was more of a challenge to
discipline. But once he knew teachers would carry through with the
consequences, it made an impact on him. It didn't happen again. He
didn't even get any of the other three consequences.
"We award positive behavior with positive praise and
rewards-stickers, candy, points for teams to earn class parties.
Teachers make positive comments to kids who behave. Everyone who
doesn't get their name on the board gets a reward. When kids are on
teams and earning points, we find kids put pressure on teammates to
follow the rules."
"The best defense is to be well-prepared and enthusiastic about
teaching. Teachers need to use varied teaching methods to hold
kids' attention. And they have to interchange those methods each
time in class.
"If kids still have problems, we back up to see why. We group
girls and guys separately in various class settings. One man had a
discipline problem with his boys' class-third- to fifth-graders. I
observed he wasn't providing hands-on learning and was lecturing.
He [changed and] initiated simple rules-keep hands to yourself and
chairs on the floor. He has seen a remarkable difference and is
thinking about going back to school to be an elementary
"My basic rule in children's church is don't do anything that
prevents anyone from learning about Jesus. I've used overheads to
give rules for the next segment in children's church. But I only
used those at first. Kids help others now to follow rules. I don't
have many discipline problems in children's church. Once in a
while, I've asked parents to sit with their kids who have a
problem. I don't do that with new kids because I have to win
parents' trust first. I always communicate with the parents the
reason I ask them to sit with their kids."
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