Yesterday afternoon, over 100 Crossing Kids volunteers gathered for a variety of break out sessions that ranged from engaging the heart of a child in worship to trouble shooting our new database. During this time, I had the opportunity to listen to and talk with many members of our elementary team on the topic of Classroom Management and Discipline. We didn’t come up with “5 Easy Steps” or a formula to solve all the world’s woes. Instead, we spent time talking about the heart–the “Wellspring of Life.” Management and children who behave perfectly weren’t the ultimate goal. A desire for our teaching (both spoken and unspoken) to be grace-centered and focused on the Gospel in both the ideal and less than ideal circumstances was.
Here are a few highlights in case you weren’t able to join us.
The “Why” Before the “What” and “How”
“What would things look like if Satan really took control of a city? Over half a century ago, Presbyterian minister Donald Grey Barnhouse offered his own scenario in his weekly sermon that was also broadcast nationwide on CBS radio. Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia (the city where Barnhouse pastured), all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No ma’am,” and the churches would be full every Sunday…where Christ was not preached.”
~Michael Horton, Christless Christianity~
From Shepherding a Child’s Heart by: Tedd Tripp
When we miss the heart we miss…
- Subtle Idols
- The Gospel
- The Glory of God
“God is concerned about the heart—the well-spring of life (Proverbs 4:23). Parents (*teachers) tend to focus on the externals of behavior rather than the internal overflow of the heart. We tend to worry more about the “what” of behavior than the “why”. Accordingly, most of us spend an enormous amount of energy in controlling and constraining behavior. To the degree and extent to which our focus is on behavior, we miss the heart.”
“The church borrowed the old “you listen to me, kid, or I’ll cuff you” method of raising children. It seemed to work. children seemed to obey. They were externally submissive. This method fails us now because our culture no longer responds to authority as it did a generation ago. We lament the passing of this way of rearing children because we miss its simplicity. I fear, however, we have overlooked its unbiblical methods and goals…Let me overview a biblical vision…it involves being a kind of authority, shepherding your children to understand themselves in God’s world, and keeping the Gospel in clear view so children can internalize the good news and someday live in mutuality with you as people under God.”
What is my role as someone in “authority?”
“Jesus is an example of this. The One who commands you, the One who possesses all authority, came as a servant. He is a ruler who serves; he is also a servant who rules…You must exercise authority, not as a cruel taskmaster, but as one who truly loves.”
The “What” and “How”
- One way to “love” and to “serve” the children we shepherd is to be proactive, thoughtful, and intentional about the environment we create.
- Sometimes we can anticipate hindrances for them, but also hindrances for us.
- We are all sinners serving sinners and out of an overflow of our hearts, our mouths speak.
Practical Proactive Tips
Getting their Attention
- Turning off Lights
- Show me your listening eyes, ears etc…
- “If you can hear my voice say ________,” etc…
- Not Everybody All At Once—“If your birthday is in ___________,” “If you’re wearing _________________,” etc…
- Agenda/ Sequence of Events—Let children know what you’re planning to do, if/when you’re having snack, order of events, etc… This is especially helpful for students with Autism or other special needs.
- Time Frame—“In a minute, but not yet.,” Counting Backward, Song, Giving a Time Constraint with Reminders (In 3 minutes, in 1 minute, etc…)
- Kindergartners and 5th Graders are both alike and different
- Sit near child, move closer, etc…
- Recognize and honor need for movement
- Change things up
- Limit Pocket Time
- Centralized Location?
- Pass Out Ahead of Time?
- “Leading into temptation…” (If I sit this in front of them, are they going to play with it instead of listening to directions, and will that drive me nuts?)
- Break into smaller chunks
- Have children repeat
- Model/Show Example
Take the Time to Listen, Laugh, and Have Fun
- Individual conversations/relationships
- Morning Meeting
What happens when “proactive” doesn’t work?
- Check our hearts first.
- Go back to the why: Go back to the heart.
- Remember that when we miss the heart, we miss subtle idols, the Gospel, and God’s glory.
- Have an individual conversation.
- Ask Questions (See chart.)
- Pray for/with child.
- Communicate with families.
“We are always to do our best, striving to be obedient and to love, nurture, and discipline them. But we are to do it with faith in the Lord’s ability to transform hearts, not in our ability to be consistent or faithful. Seeking to be faithfully obedient parents is our responsibility; granting faith to our children is his. Freedom to love and enjoy our children flows out of the knowledge that God saves them in spite of our best efforts, not because of them. Salvation is of the Lord.”
Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson, Give them Grace