We’ve all had classrooms that seemed out of control. We may have even known a leader who hit because the couldn’t keep things from going to the chaotic side. Here’s a few keys I’ve used over the years for our lead teachers and room leaders.
1)Let them know what’s expected of them. This is why I think having some sort of rules and sharing them with the kids is important. I don’t want our teachers to feel legalistic but we do want order in our classrooms. Kids need reminders of rules as our fallen nature just wants to live in rebellion. We make our rules simple and try to even make them fun as we ask for kid’s help in reciting them. This is especially true with younger children. I also like to change up the wording of the rules every 18-24 months or so. This keeps it fresh but at the same time I keep the basic core of the rules the same. For instance one year the rule might be “Raise your hand if you want to talk” or another season it may be “no talking while the teacher is talking”. I’ve used acronyms and word play to keep them fresh and fun. I’ve had the K.I.D.S. rules and had the Go Rules (Go listen, go respect, go before class, go have fun).
2) Always correct in love. I try to make sure to never correct my own children in anger. The same thing must be for the children God has entrusted to us. Correction should flow out of relationship when at all possible. Don’t be sarcastic or belittle the children. I admit I struggle with not being sarcastic, as it’s one of my top “gifts”.
3) Have rewards for obedience. The Bible says that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him and when I grow up I want to be just like Him. I believe there is nothing wrong with offering rewards for good behavior. There is a Biblical law of reaping and sowing that I want to impart to the children. The best ways to do that is to show them. I’ve used candy, treats, Bible Bucks, Reward Points, stamps, stickers, quiet seat prizes and more. It all has depended on budget and culture of the church I was at.
4) There need to be consequences or steps of consequences for disobedience. I personally like using a “three strikes and you’re out” policy. This allows for a warning, a moving of seats, and then finally a calling of a parent. I tell them that I like baseball so much that I have to have three strikes. In my 25+ years of kid’s ministry, I’ve gotten to “strike three” with only a handful of children.
Sometimes I’ve even used a “three balloon method”. This is where I would blow up three balloons. I would tell the and if the classroom got out of hand and I needed to stop I would “pop” a balloon with no warning. If at the end of the class there are any balloons left everyone gets the daily reward, but if not… no one does. I don’t like to do this all the time but it helps on weeks and services where it seems like just about everyone is having a hard time obeying. This uses peer pressure in a positive way.
5) Be consistent Do what you say you’re going to do even if it doesn’t seem fair to everyone. No one ever said we had to be fair. To quote Andy Stanley: “Things stopped being fair in the garden”. Don’t change what is acceptable behavior based on your mood. Create and stick to a system that works no matter who is teaching. Kids will have their favorites but you don’t want one teacher to have to be the “bad guy”.
6) Be engaging. I’ve found that often when behavior is struggling, it’s because we aren’t engaging the children properly. Maybe our segments are too long. Maybe we are just plain boring. Are we having realistic expectations for the kids? Do we expect boys to behave like girls? (I’m looking at you, big education.) Get honest with yourself and learn to evaluate what you’re doing. Find someone who can be honest and open with you, if you can’t identify it yourself. One of the things we do to help kids engage is have a small group time. This gives kids a chance to talk to their friends and leaders openly in group of trusted people. Engaging the kids is about sharing the right things in the right methods. Let’s not make the great story of redemption boring!
7) Be appropriate. I don’t mean to avoid telling off color jokes(although you should already understand that). Are your age groups appropriate divided? Do you make provision for kids who have special needs that sometimes inhibit their ability to understand how to behave in certain situations? Does your classroom provide ample space for the amount of kids you have: not too little but not too much? A small classroom as well as a large classroom can lead to issues. All these things can contribute to behavior.
How about you, what are your keys? What Do you agree or disagree with? What have I left out? Leave your comments.