What’s the key to good discipline?

The Key to Discipline: Giving students what they want!

We know it seems contrary to everything you’ve ever been taught about nurturing children, but the quickest way to achieve a well-disciplined classroom is to give your students (of any age) exactly what they have been wanting all along. Let us explain.

Garrido, a researcher in the field of children’s education, says it clearly: “Children quickly become restless when they are given peripheral material, but concentrate and settle down when given what they have been hungering for.” The problem is that if we don’t know what our students are hungering for, we end up giving them the peripheral materials that cause them to be restless, i.e. to not behave well.

So what is it that children really want…deep down inside? While each child might have his or her own items to add to the list, we believe that it is safe to say that all children of any age in every culture desire a few simple things:

  • To be treated with respect.
  • To be loved unconditionally.
  • To be given safe boundaries.
  • And to experience deep, meaningful relationship with God.

While many of us work hard to create lessons that are polished and presented with great flair, we believe that some simple elements in each session can improve overall behavior.

Start your class by lighting a candle. While this may sound too “churchy,” children are very aware of symbols and your weekly reminder that God, the Holy Spirit, is present in your classroom will have great impact on your students and the depth with which they approach what goes on there.

Spend a few minutes in silent prayer, just listening to God. Children often struggle with prayer because they think they have to come up with lots of big words. Ask your students to sit silently and simply listen for God’s still, small voice. Trust that God is willing and desiring to speak to your students and give him the chance. This very real connection with God combined with a quieting activity will help students focus.

Finally, engage students’ imagination in the Bible story.  Instead of the teacher deciding the point of the story and telling her students how to apply it, try asking open-ended questions and making statements that cause students to think.  Ask your students to “find themselves” in the story and then explain why they identified with a specific character.

Why do these approaches work? Each of these suggestions is designed to connect your students with God and God with your students…an essential  way to feed a child’s hunger.  But they also show the child that you and God both respect her, love her unconditionally, and are providing enough attention to keep her safe.

Give a child what he is hungering for, and he will be his best!


What can I do to bring order to preteen chaos?

(Part two in a three-part series.)

On Wednesdays, I am focusing KidZ PreZ blog on preteens. Many churches have preteen youth groups on this day of the week and Wednesday night youth group has always been my favorite ministry event of the week. Hopefully, the Wednesday posts will be helpful for anytime you minister to your 10- to 14-year-olds.

Here are some more do’s and don’ts of managing the preteen classroom, small group, social or event:

Do involve preteens in making rules. You’ll normally find that they will come up with higher expectations than you would have created. They will also be more likely to “buy in” if they are involved in the process. Plus, the time spent discussing rules will help you all clarify the meanings and reasons behind them.

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