Keeping it Positive: Discipline at Church, Part 2


Last week’s blog focused on discipline at church and how to keep it safe. One piece of advice given was the “Keep it positive!” Experts recommend that, wherever possible, positive effort to guide behavior is preferable to corrective action.

Anyone who has led a group of children or youth in a classroom or church setting knows how challenging it can be to stay positive at all times, especially when behaviors test our limits – and “push our buttons.”

“Guiding children to behave in appropriate and acceptable ways is challenging for many adults,” writes Elaine Goodwin, Ed.D. Goodwin’s article Five Tips for Guiding Children’s Behavior, available on the National Network of Child Care website,  provides excellent advice for anyone who works with children.

Goodwin points out there is no simple formula for guiding behavior because each child is different. “Differing temperaments, personalities, needs, growth patterns, home environment, and family settings affect children's lives,” Goodwin writes.

In her article, Goodwin suggests that, when working with children, praise the behaviors you are looking to promote. For example, say “I appreciated how Elizabeth and Kevin helped clean up after today’s craft.” “I liked how Ashley and Amanda worked out their disagreement so politely.”

Goodwin also points out the importance of building self-esteem and recommends smiling at your children often, praising them, and carefully listening to a child who is speaking to you.

Do the children in your class know what behaviors are expected of them? In her tips, Goodwin stresses the importance of being very clear about rules and expectations. “Demonstrate your confidence by using short, clear, positive statements,” Goodwin explains.

In addition, consider children's ages and developmental stages. Tailor your expectations to their abilities. Clearly state rules in words the children will understand. Don’t forget to explain consequences as well. Then be fair and consistent in how you apply the rules, and respond quickly when a rule is broken.

Next, Goodwin recommends letting children express their feelings in positive ways. She suggests calm-down routines for children who get upset. For example, provide quiet time with a book, toy or blanket. If you have help in the classroom, you could take a child aside and read a story or ask one of your volunteers to work with a child one-on-one.

Finally, Goodwin reminds us that adults need to model the behaviors they want from children. Are we polite and respectful in the way we talk and act? Do we stay calm in stressful moments? When children treat us disrespectfully, do we maintain our composure?

“Guiding children's behavior is a major commitment from caregivers. Progress may seem slow at times,” Goodwin concludes. “Through it all, keep your sense of humor, and remind yourself of your successes and of the important role you play in caring for children.”

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