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When You See Red

Barbara Beach

Problems are bound to occur in the classroom even after a good classroom meeting. And when they do, don't forget your goal of working with kids to help them learn self-discipline. Form a partnership with children using these ideas:

Give choices. Make difficult problems easier to solve by offering children at least two appropriate and acceptable choices. With young children, say, "Would you like to draw a butterfly or a bird?" With older kids, give a choice such as "Would you like to pantomime one of the Bible parables? You choose the parable."

Follow through. Avoid lecturing to solve a problem. Stick to the issue using 10 words or less. Or use a pantomime gesture or one word. For example, if Amy won't help clean the room, ask, "What do you need to do before you go home?" Then point to the scraps on the floor or say, "Clean." If she wants to leave before she completes the job, lead her back to the scraps until she finishes it.

Redirect behavior. Ask questions to change a behavior. When the class is too noisy, ask, "How many of you think the class is too noisy for you to concentrate? How many do not?" The question usually causes kids to think about what needs to be done about their behavior.

Do nothing. Instead of trying to respond to each problem, see what happens. For example, some children may interrupt too much. You may discover children stop interrupting or other kids ask them to stop as you allow for natural consequences.

Respect kids' right to control their behavior. Even God lets us decide what's best for ourselves. Make kids feel respectful by showing respect. Treat kids like they're your peers.

Say no with dignity. It's a problem if all you ever say is no. But when you do say no, avoid lengthy explanations.

Talk less, act more. Listen to yourself. You may discover all the useless words you use. For example, instead of asking children to be quiet over and over, wait quietly for them to give you their attention. Or flip a light switch if it gets too noisy.

Avoid pointing fingers. If one or two children are whispering, don't call their names. Simply say, "Kids, it's too noisy in here."

Use a cool-down corner. A positive timeout gives kids a chance to take a break for a short time and try again as soon as they're ready to change their behavior. Say, "When you're in the cool-down corner, do something to make you feel better such as reading a Bible storybook or holding this Care-Bear" rather than "Go to timeout, stay there, and think about what you did."

Barbara Beach is departments editor of CHILDREN'S MINISTRY Magazine.

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