Published: October 25, 2023
Here are three discipline tips to create a happier and healthier classroom environment.
Frustration over discipline issues is perhaps the biggest reason Sunday school volunteers quit. Well-meaning people sign up to tell kids about Jesus’ love, and instead find themselves on a battlefield—or so it sometimes feels!
What can we do to turn these negative behavior situations around? As it turns out, quite a lot. And it begins with prevention. Here are three simple discipline tips to prevent and deal with negative situations from the start.
1. Discipline Tip: Pray.
All too often we forget that the role of the Sunday school teacher is spiritual responsibility. When you take on this role, you’re bound to fail if you lose your focus on why you got involved. Without prayer, it can become about getting through the morning without losing your cool. But committing your aim to God in consistent prayer helps you keep that focus.
Pray for children by name.
Pray during the week and pray for those you haven’t yet met. Ask for help showing every child how much Jesus loves them. Pray for those kids who push your buttons or regularly disrupt. Ask God to show you what he may be teaching you and for ways to creatively connect with these kids.
2. Discipline Tip: Make good rules.
Rules don’t have to be a long list of “don’ts”—in fact, they shouldn’t be. But a few simple, group-negotiated rules will serve as the boundaries for your class and help all your kids feel safe while letting them know what you expect.
Kids gain ownership when they get to create their own rules. And even preteens will come up with rules that are more demanding than necessary. This allows you to be the good guy and encourage them to lighten up on the rules rather than being “the enforcer.”
Once you’ve written them, post the rules where all can see. Preschoolers can benefit from a chart of pictures showing correct behaviors. This gives a tool for you and your kids to be reminded of what’s expected.
Here are a few guidelines about rules.
Keep rules short.
If you can’t write a rule on the chart in one sentence with child-friendly, simple language, it’s not a good rule.
Honor the rules.
If the infraction isn’t on the chart, let it go.
Refer to the rules.
When correcting a child, have the child tell you which rule he or she violated.
Review the rules.
Go over rules regularly with your kids, especially when you change leaders, return from a holiday, or when behavior is getting out of hand.
Remind the group of the rules.
Rather than always correcting a child who’s making a bad choice, remind the entire group about the content of one rule.
Point to the reward of good behavior.
Explain to your group the more cooperation you get, the more time they’ll have for fun activities.
3. Discipline Tip: Forgive and forget.
One leader tells her kids that when she goes home at night, she gets amnesia and can no longer remember what happened that day. Next week every child starts out with a clean slate. Let’s exhibit such grace in Sunday school. After all, doesn’t God separate our sins from us as far as east is from the west?
Renew your heart each week.
Keep a short list of challenges. Intentionally work on forgiving and forgetting kids’ behavior from week to week. And come each new week, expect great new things from each child.
Be their cheerleader.
While consequences are important, don’t let your Sunday school ministry be all about rules. Neither you nor your kids will enjoy that. Always tell your kids what you want them to do, not what you want them to stop doing. Let your kids know you believe they can do better.
With these three discipline tips, you’ll be prepared to create a positive environment in your Sunday school program while having fun and more effectively sharing Jesus’ love.
This excerpt comes from Sunday School That Works! This dynamic resource is full of expert insights to give you practical solutions for every area of your Sunday school ministry. You can also check out the Children’s Ministry Pocket Guide to Discipline for more discipline tips. Find even more helpful classroom management ideas here.
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