The words a teacher uses when disciplining sends a message to children, and not always a good one. If you want to effectively handle classroom discipline, here are ten things not to say when you discipline.
“Because I said so.”
Problem: God is the ultimate authority, not you. Also, expecting blind obedience does little to help children understand issues. Obedience should always be expected but you should have a valid reason for your expectations.
“You’re such a bad girl/boy.”
Problem: This is an attack on the person rather than the behavior. Yes, we are all depraved but we are also created in the image of God. Children should be treated with dignity and respect, not demeaned.
“I’m sick and tired of you acting this way. I can’t take any more.”
Problem: For children, this kind of statement can be perceived as rejection. God doesn’t give up on us. He is patient, kind, loving, and merciful. Discipline shouldn’t be about how you feel but about helping the child.
“When I was a boy/girl . . .”
Problem: Comparisons to the past take you out of the present moment, getting attention off the problem at hand. Besides, times have changed. Empathizing with a child can be helpful but often this approach is more about chiding than empathy.
“If you …. then I’ll give you …”
Problem: Bribing children to behave focuses on outward conformity rather than getting to the root problem and developing inner change and intrinsic motivation. You are focusing on short-term results rather than long term change.
“I’ve had enough.”
Problem: Students have been allowed to push you to your limit. When a teacher gets to this point, he/she often reacts out of anger or frustration rather than love and concern.
“If you don’t behave, I’m going to tell your parents.”
Problem: Too often this is an empty threat, a control tactic to intimidate the child into behaving. When parental involvement is needed, a mere statement of fact should be made and not a threat. A statement of fact will be followed through whereas a threat often is not.
“Now you’re going to be punished.”
Problem: The biblical word used for discipline indicates that disciplining is more like a tutorage program, not punishment. It looks ahead to what your children can become not simply what they did wrong.
“Don’t do this …. don’t do that …”
Problem: While rules are needed, they should be positively stated. The idea is to build up, not condemn. Surrounding children with a wall of no’s does little to motivate them.
“I know you can’t help it. It’s okay.”
Problem: Permissive teachers who let children slide on misbehavior fail to hold them accountable. It is not okay. They will not learn if you do not deal with it. Too often this kind of statement is more a matter of inconvenience or laziness on the part of the teacher or perhaps a misguided belief that he/she will be liked better with this kind of reaction. Failing to train a child by disciplining is not the loving thing to do.
Help for What to Say When Disciplining
Teachers will be more likely to use the right kinds of words in disciplining, ones that communicate the right message, when they have a good, biblical perspective on discipline. The Effectively Handling Classroom Discipline Workbook will lay that foundation. You can order that workbook for all your children’s Bible teachers and workers at a great savings. Click on the link to check it out in the Ministry Tools Resource Center store.