By Melita Thomas
Guiding kids’ behavior can be one of the most challenging tasks for a volunteer. Each child is uniquely designed by God and can behave differently in a group setting at church than they do individually at home or even at school.
Here are 10 principles that have helped me to guide the behavior of kids in the classroom.
1. Be consistent.
There’s nothing more confusing than allowing bad behavior one week and the next week punishing kids for that same behavior. Be consistent with your expectations and enforcement of classroom rules and procedures.
2. Pray daily for your kids and for wisdom.
Got a difficult child? Don’t quit! Start praying. Pray specifically for that child’s behavior and for wisdom on how to best minister to him/her. God is in the business of changing hearts.
3. Don’t threaten.
Kids understand better than we realize what our boundaries are when it comes to punishment. Don’t bother with empty threats. If you do use a threat to clarify your response to a behavior, be sure you are willing to follow through.
4. Tell kids the rules … then reinforce them.
Make sure your kids understand the rules. I don’t advocate for a long list of rules to be reviewed weekly, but I do believe that kids can be expected to respect each other and each other’s belongings.
5. Be generous with praise.
You can find something nice to say about every kid in your room. When kids realize that the best way to get your attention is to behave correctly, they will work hard to please you.
6. Model proper behavior.
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!
7. Dislike the behavior, not the child.
Scripture makes it clear that we are to love each other with an unconditional, Christ-like love. Be very careful not to equate the behavior you detest with the child you love.
8. Provide choices 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.
9. Never confront or embarrass a child in front of the class.
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/her spirit. Embarrassing a child in front of his peers will most likely result in additional bad behavior.
10. 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. Enforce the same rules, the same way, for every child. Be fair.