How to deal with discipline

by Wasley Black

One of the greater challenges in student ministry is learning how to deal with discipline issues. We all know that helpless feeling when you feel that you have lost control and things are going downhill fast. Here are some ideas for handling discipline issues both in the classroom and during other student events.

  • Deal with issues in private, if possible. When you talk with a student about discipline issues in private, he/she doesn't have to worry about what others are thinking, saying, or seeing.
  • Talk softer, not louder. Proverbs 15:1 is a good reminder that soft words are better. Sometimes a brief period of silence while waiting for the group to get quiet will allow you to talk in a normal voice.
  • Request that a student stay after so you can talk to him.
  • Arrange the room so you can move around. Often moving toward a disruptive student will remind him to behave.
  • Separate the distracters. Assign them to different groups or ask them to move to a different place in the room.
  • Call for the group to quiet down and wait for them to do so. It is better to point out the chaotic situation and encourage the students to help you regain control.
  • Publicly call down a student only as a last resort or in flagrant situations. In the worst situations, call a student by name and request that he calm down or leave the room. This can bring on a power struggle, but sometimes we have to do it for the sake of the group.
  • Talk to the student's parents. This is also a last resort, but is still an option. Many parents appreciate this notice; others don't handle it well and may not let the student participate anymore.

Why Might Students Act Out?

  • Physical or emotional problems
  • High need for attention
  • Hormones
  • Weather and environmental problems
  • Other relationship issues (boy/girlfriend, parents, school, bosses)
  • Power struggles
  • Boredom
  • Satan (He loves to see chaos among God's people)

Discipline Is More Than Punishment

  • Teach proper behavior.
  • Be sensitive to outside problems.
  • Strike a happy medium between being a drill sergeant and a "whoop-it-up" party host.
  • Have a minimum of rules.
  • State rules positively.
  • Develop student leaders.
  • Have enough adult leaders present.
  • Develop relationships outside of structured sessions.
  • Plan appropriately.

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