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Discipline With Your Style

Adam Day

You may be clueless if you...

• Find yourself asking, "What boundaries? What rules?"

• Don't have the foggiest notion why kids need parameters.

• Question why kids don't come with the rules programmed in.

• Believe that rules are too cool for Sunday school.

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Kids aren't little adults.
They can't balance checkbooks, don't know what FICA is, and are still learning self-control. For the most part, they don't see abstract consequences as reality. So it really is all fun and games until somebody puts an eye out.

Kids need rules. Plain and simple. Kids actually thrive most when they know the rules and are expected to follow them. Boundaries offer a safe environment where kids can focus on learning. Classroom guidelines are critical to the success of your ministry.

Your job isn't Director of Chaos Management. You have the huge task of molding and developing kids to follow God. This is no small task, so don't take it lightly. It requires that you have a healthy, functioning class where kids feel emotionally and physically safe. Fun should still be a key ingredient, but there's a line between total chaos and controlled chaos.

do this

Get a grip on reality.
Letting kids run wild isn't doing them a favor and won't please their parents -- or your leader. If you don't see a need for classroom order or can't imagine requiring kids to follow rules, take stock of your current classroom situation. What's actually happening? How much more might kids learn in a more controlled environment? Settle down with some popcorn and watch a few episodes of "Super Nanny." Take notes on the before and after. Imagine how your classroom is now and how it could be. Which environment is more honoring to kids?

Get a mentor. Set up a time to observe a more seasoned teacher. Notice how the person guides kids' focus and transitions from activity to activity. How are rules enforced? What does a class session look like when guidelines are in place? Kids respond positively to structure and stability.

Challenge yourself. Create a plan and timetable to implement structure and guidelines. Include rule-setting, plans for consequences, and transition ideas between class segments.

Your individual discipline style will show through in your teaching, and that's the way it should be. God picked you because you bring something special to the kids you're working with. But keep your balance-somewhere near the middle of the discipline continuum. Too far in any one direction could spell discipline disaster. Strengthen your style, and you'll be a more effective teacher.

Adam Day is the children's pastor at Fairfield Christian Church in Lancaster, Ohio.

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