Discipline. It’s such a harsh word. It conjures up methods of torture in some peoples’ minds—flashbacks of switches and standing in the corner.
However, the word discipline isn’t synonymous with the word punish. Instead, the word discipline actually means to “train.” All children need training, therefore all children need discipline—it’s just harder for some than others.
As a Small Group Leader, there have been times where I’ve had to “train” a child that wasn’t mine. When a child decided that he absolutely had to have the block his friend had. When a child got overzealous in a game and decided to push his friend. When a child couldn’t use markers appropriately and decided that coloring everyone in his path was a good idea.
I have learned that three things need to happen when “training” a child in my Sunday environment.
Name the behavior that needs to be eliminated. “We don’t take things from our friends.” or “Oh my! We don’t push our friends, even when we’re playing.” or “Markers are for coloring only on the paper, not on our friends.”
Remove the child from the behavior temptation and redirect to a different activity. “Let’s go find another block to play with.” or “Why don’t we go find a book to read together?” or “You’ve done an amazing job on this page. I think we can put it out in the hall now.”
Stay with the child until you are sure the behavior incident has passed and they have been successfully redirected. Play blocks WITH them until you are sure there is no more frustration. Read a book WITH them until the anger has dissipated. Move to another activity WITH them to be sure they don’t head back to the markers.
Remember, you only get forty hours a year with these children. You want them to look back on those forty hours with joy and remember that they felt God’s love while they were with you. “Training” children in a quick and calm manner allows the learning and fun to continue while reminding them that there are expectations in your environment.
It can be a tricky line to balance. So what about you? What are some effective ways you have found to discipline or train your few?