Another major mistake Sunday school teachers make is inconsistency. One minute, you're in control and rewarding the children, the next, you feel overwhelmed and forced to threaten them with punishment. Your nerves are fried and you do not know how to balance your role as leader and teacher with discipliner and peace keeper. Because young children so often go from happy to rowdy in the blink of an eye, it is important for teachers to set out guidelines for their own behavior for dealing with problems.
Before your classes begin, sit down for a while and make a plan for discipline in your classroom. You should have different ideas for different discipline problems. For misbehaving, for example, one reaction could be to ask the child quietly, directly to that child, to please follow directions and pay attention. Quickly explain that the child's actions affect everyone in the classroom and that he/she is a distraction.
Let him/her know what the next punishment will be. Obviously, you will often have multiple children acting up during an activity, so the one-on-one discussion is not always appropriate. However, for those children who seem to be a continual problem or who you think may be displaying these problem behaviors as a sign that something else is wrong, the one-on-one tactic may be best.
When you have devised your plan for discipline in the classroom, let all the children know what you plan is. They do not need to know every detail, but let them know that you take your job as their teacher seriously and that it is your responsibility to keep things running smoothly. Inform them of your system of consequences, based on different infractions, and make sure that the children know that misbehavior is a choice. Children need to understand that their behavior and their actions are a reflection of their decisions, and they need to be willing to accept any consequences that come from their choices.
Now that the children know of your plan, do everything in your power to stick to your plan. If you treat some children more gently than others, other children will notice and use it against you if you try to discipline them later. Once you have made a decision on how to handle punishment, maintain that plan unless you see clear evidence that it is ineffective. Discipline is hard, and certainly the least-fun aspect of a teaching job, but it essential to running a successful room that promotes learning and values. Through this experience you can also teach children how to discipline effectively without being too harsh or overly cruel, an important lesson they will carry with them for life.
If you find yourself making threats or giving warnings that you do not follow through on, sit down again, alone, to think about why you are not following through. Is the punishment not effective for the child/situation? What is causing you to change your mind at the last second? Does the punishment need to be changed, or just your approach to discipline? What would motivate to follow through on your threats? If you find it necessary to change the punishment, devise a new plan that you feel you can commit to. When you answer these questions for yourself, it should give you a better idea of what has gone wrong and how to fix it next time.
Julia Shipley is a committed Christian and loves to teach young people the word of God. For more information visit http://www.quick-christian-resources.com