Dealing with children’s behavior is one of the most challenging parts of serving in children’s ministry. Jenny Funderburke Smith, Minister to Children at West Bradenton Baptist Church, drops by the podcast to discuss the purpose of discipline in kids’ ministry as discipleship and helps us identify practical ways to structure the ministry and classroom environments to develop a positive culture of behavior.
This post is borrowed from Blog Hoppin’–they are not affiliated with us, but I thought this was a a great idea for use in church classrooms!
"I’ve had a saying for a long time that I use with my class: Fair doesn’t mean that everyone gets the same thing, fair means that everyone gets what they need.
I gathered the kids on the carpet (don’t all the best lessons happen there?). Then I told them to think about a time they were hurt. Of course they all wanted to tell me every little detail of every injury they’ve ever endured in their seven little years. This was actually causing my head to hurt, but we pressed on. After I let a few share, I asked them all to close their eyes and imagine that something hurting them right now. They had serious concentration faces on during this part.
Then I had them come up a few at a time, making sure the rest could hear and see the action. When each student approached I asked them where they were hurt. No matter what they said to me, I put a bandaid on the back of their hand. I had a few kids mumbling and whispering and one little girl was just not havin’ it. She kept asking her friends, "Why does she keep putting it on the same spot?" and "That’s not where she said it hurt!". She was so bothered by what I was doing, but it was perfect to make my point, so I let her go on.
I put 16 bandaids on 16 hands and when my 17th student came up for his, I just told him I was sorry, but I didn’t have any for him. He looked a little bummed, but went back to the carpet bandaid-less. I asked the kids if the bandaid made anyone feel better or if I put it on the right spot. Of course no hands raised. Then I asked them if a bandaid would even help if you had a sprained ankle or headache – of course they all said no. So then I launched into a kid friendly discussion of differentiation. I told them that not everyone in our class has the same needs, so not everyone will get to do the same things all the time. We talked about times when I might work with a small group, it’s just because they needed a bandaid at that particular moment, but maybe they didn’t. I assured them that at some time in the year, everyone would need a bandaid for something. We talked about kids who leave the room for special services and how they need a particular bandaid that another teacher gives them. I finally hit the point home when I said, if one student needs a little extra math practice, does that mean we ALL need extra practice? Of course, they said noooo (in only the way a group of 7 year olds can drag out a one word response…)
I also added in how our last student didn’t get a bandaid at all! When I asked him how he felt, he said he felt left out and confused. I told the group that never getting a bandaid was even worse and that’s why when I’m with a student or small group they can’t interrupt because it’s the same as taking away their bandaid.
I have to say, it was a goose bump inducing lesson. The visual of the bandaid and the real life, kid level examples really made an impact on them. They proudly wore their bandaids around all day, until recess when our Dollar Tree bandaids were no match for the Florida humidity."
What do you think? If you try this lesson in your classroom, let us know how it goes!
This post will complete a three part series on Guiding Behavior. I started with Understanding Bad Behavior, shared Principles for Guiding Behavior, Part 1 and today will share the last five principles.
I’m convinced that preventing bad behavior is the preferred strategy. These ideas have helped me over the years prevent instead of deal.
- Model proper behavior for the children. Too many times our behavior doesn’t match our expectations for the kids. If sitting on the table isn’t appropriate for the kids, then DON’T SIT ON THE TABLE. If bringing a drink in to the classroom isn’t appropriate DON’T BRING YOUR DRINK INTO THE CLASSROOM. Time and time again I see teachers whose behavior isn’t consistent with the expectations of the kids.
- Dislike the behavior, not the child! The Bible doesn’t say that you have to like all the kids in your class. However, it’s very clear that you are to love each one with an unconditional, Christ-like love. Be very careful not to equate the behavior you detest with the child you love.
- Provide choice and alternative solutions. Kids will work hard to see their choices be successful. The key here is providing a teaching session that allows for choices. Always have two teachers in the room, regardless of how many kids you have… with that said, plan for each teacher to do a different activity and then allow the kids to choose which activity they will do. You’ll be surprised at how much more successful your sessions will be.
- Never confront or embarrass a child in front of the class. As tempting as it might be, don’t confront in an effort to embarrass. There will be times when immediate action must be taken, but don’t choose that option as your rule. Kids deserve our respect and embarrassing them in an effort to correct their behavior will ultimately backfire on you. In a public place, quietly discuss the behavior problem without breaking his spirit. Embarrassing a child in front of his peers will most likely result in additional bad behavior.
- Be fair! Kids are quick to see when things aren’t fair. You can’t punish one child for something you allow another child to get by with. You can’t choose to have favorites in the classroom. If Jason can’t sit on the table, neither can Mitchell. Be fair.
I’d rather prevent poor behavior than deal with poor behavior. Understanding why kids misbehave and implementing these 10 principles will help you be well on your way to classroom management. This is a skill that can be learned and worth the effort.
Prevention is the Preferred Strategy!