Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Discipline in the Classroom...what does that look like?

Great Article from the General Board of Discipleship...
Discipline in the Classroom

God is a God of Peace
There are certain times of the year that questions arise around discipline, and the start of a new school year is one of them. Summer vacation is over, and promotion Sunday is drawing near. This is a wonderful time to consider what discipline means in Christian community. Many times we look at this word as the definition of punishment, but as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to the discipline of love and peace.

What do love and peace look like on Sunday morning when parents drop their children off for Sunday school, or during weekday children’s ministry programs? In loving one another, we provide children with an emotionally and physically safe, intellectually stimulating, and nurturing environment. As peacemakers, we help children understand how to engage in a world, that is not always loving, in the way that Christ exemplified for us. This goes beyond rules and law to the covenant we share in Christ.

In Christian community, it is necessary to covenant together. We promise to love one another, but the accountability piece in love may get lost when leaders feel helpless to lead in a way that is true to who we are called to be as Christians. We hold a responsibility to our children to set boundaries that allow them to grow and learn in a healthy environment. More than a few times, children’s leaders have expressed frustration over - let’s just say it - bad behavior. Remember that every week for at least 35 hours, children are expected to follow rules in classrooms all over the world, and for the most part they do. Children understand boundaries, and they understand what is expected of them.

Faithful formation of our children is not easy. It takes careful planning, communication with parents and children, intentional relationship building, patience, a sense of humor, and a commitment to the call to make disciples. Most of all, it takes living into the Christian command of love of God and neighbor.

Equipped to create peace in the classroom!
A few ideas from Melanie

There are some strategies that we can use to encourage and support a healthy environment for children in the nursery, preschool, Sunday school and in other areas of ministry with children.

Create a covenant with the children at the beginning of the year. Even preschoolers understand boundaries.

Post the covenant in the room, and revisit it often. Set aside time during the year to update it based on children’s growth.

Parents share in the responsibility to prepare their children to participate with others in a way that stays within the covenant. Make sure that parents understand the expectations, and encourage them to remind their children of these expectations before church activities.

Remain calm in all situations. If needed, take a few deep breaths. Deep breaths can be quite calming.

Children are made to test boundaries, so our response the first time a boundary is crossed will set the tone for most children.

Speak positively, and encourage cooperation.

Remember that you are the adult responsible for the formation of the children while they are in your care, so check your behavior also. Children know who we are by our actions, and our words.

Melanie Gordon is Director of Ministry with Children at the General Board of Discipleship and a member of the South Carolina Annual Conference.

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