Discipline with Love

My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. ~ Proverbs 3:11-12

In the midst of all the excitement and fun [during lesson-time], good discipline helps learning on many levels. Disruptions waste time and undermine your authority, steal focus, and send shy children into hiding. You do your students and yourself a great favor when you gently demand respect. It is important to note that good classroom discipline helps kids learn about God's authority through their obedience to you. It is also interesting that those who learn to obey appropriate leaders in childhood are more comfortable using their own proper authority later on. But in chaotic environments where adults fail to exercise authority, children suffer from anxiety and act out. Down deep, they know you're supposed to be in charge and they're happier when you are.

  • Post it. At the start of the year, have the children help you create a "Class Rules" chart as you gently guide the discussion. Asking leading questions creates the illusion that the rules are their own, so that you can point to the list at any time and say, for example, "Are you girls following the rule you made about treating each other with respect?"
  • Remember learning styles. They also greatly aid you in maintaining loving discipline by keeping every kid connected to the lesson and helping you to decode their behavior. For example:
    • The kinesthetic kid. He seems to be ignoring you. He may be doodling while you're talking or tapping a pencil on the table, because movement actually helps him to absorb information (think of a fisherman reeling in a fish). Suggest quiet ways for him to move that are not distracting to the class (twiddling thumbs, moving his knees from side to side, patting the tops of his legs). He'll understand himself better and you'll maintain good discipline without unnecessary stress.
    • For auditory learners, speak loud and clear, but vary your tone of voice to keep it interesting. Sing to them. Use sudden silence . . . or play recorded music. Invite comments and questions. Circle time is great for these kids. They always have something to say.
    • For visual learners, posters, Advent wreathes, or anything that adds a visual dimension is helpful to these kids. A kinesthetic teacher who gestures dramatically and moves around the room can be a great visual aid. Lighting a candle during prayer time to remind the children of God's presence can quiet them and help them focus.
  • Keep your cool. You have so little time and tired kids need your understanding as much as they need your leadership.
  • Move the troublemakers away from their buddies and their power disappears.
  • If a problem persists, have the disruptive child stand next to you while you continue to teach and keep your hand gently on his shoulder. He won't like it. After a few minutes, let him return to his seat. You will not have raised your voice and he will know that you mean business.
  • Don't waste time. Don't lecture a repeat offender; take action. If you have to permanently reassign seating, by all means do it. You haven't a moment to spare.
  • Put your foot down. If you have to calmly send a child to your DRE and have the parents called, do it. Incorrigible problem children may have special needs that are not being addressed or problems in the home. Those issues are better dealt with outside the classroom.
  • Forgive. Ask God to send you the grace to give every child a fresh start, every week.If you lose it in class, forgive yourself. Hand it over to Him. He can complete what you leave unfinished, and make great good come out of your mistakes.

*This column is excerpted from my booklet, "Be An Amazing Catechist: Inspire the Faith of Children"

Next week: Tips for effective use of Circle Time.

God bless you!