In children’s Bible study, even the best laid plans run amuck. Most often it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with a particular child or children who can easily raise the energy level in the room for whatever reason.
This is when you do well to think like a child and respond like an adult. Being able to put yourself in children’s shoes is being child-like. Everyone needs to empathize with the children in their Bible study classes and understand that disruptions are part of the normalcy.
Bible Study: “Discipline Do’s and Dont’s”
While empathizing you need to respond like a leader. Leaders don’t get impatient easily, they don’t let the disruption win, and they don’t berate one child in front of the whole class, no matter how tempting it is to do so.
Behavior signals are great tools
First, rely on a “behavior signal” to restore order. It can be telling all children to put their hands in the air and then one finger to their lips. It can be clapping or flickering the lights.
Set the signal up with the class in advance, and they’ll know to quiet down when they see or hear it. Using behavior signals is another way of helping kids know what’s expected of them.
Reprimanding is okay at times
1. Keep your voice confident and your words “directive.” Director means you shouldn’t say, “Would you like to sit down now?” Say, “Now you need to sit at the table.
2. Stoop down when addressing the child and then look into his eyes. Some say your energy becomes “compressed” and more powerful when you stoop, and you’re more likely to get the reaction you’re after.
3. Praise positive actions. Some children would rather have stones thrown at them than be ignored. Once they realize their best chance is by getting praise, they’ll go for the good behavior.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask parents for advice about their child. Generally, if a child is doing something disruptive in your class he’s done it in others, and the parents are well versed. Obviously, you don’t want to offend, but parents may have already solved a challenge at home—or may want to if they know what’s going on.
Sandwiching remarks helps parents understand
Talking to parents can feel tricky. You want to let parents know you’re in their camp and you’re not judging them, and the best leaders practice one good approach. They practice the old business management behavior called “sandwiching,” meaning you sandwich negative comments between two positive ones.
Here’s an example of how to state the sandwiched negative: “Abbey has a lot of artistic talent. I always love to see what she paints next. She also acts angry sometimes. Is there any light you can shed to help me out? We really want her to have a good time.”
Notice there’s no use of the word “but” in the statement, as in “but she also acts angry…” The “but” word or other transitional negatives like “however” and “nonetheless” tend to erase your positive statement. It takes some work, but try to avoid the “but” words when sandwiching compliments, either to parents or the students themselves.
Be childlike in your ability to empathize and be a leader in your ability to address challenges. The group should never suffer due to one person’s disruptions.