You have them. The kids who disrupt your class with their antics. The kids who challenge your authority and try your patience. The kids who ignore the rules without fear of consequences. Admit it: Sometimes you wish they wouldn’t walk through your classroom door! Even the “good” kids can get on your nerves from time to time.
Today’s child can be a handful, and teachers are scrambling for new ideas to control their classrooms. Too often, classroom discipline is reduced to a stern face and a set of ineffective rules and escalating consequences, with the only solution coming when kids graduate from their class. Then the game begins anew.
While there’s no secret formula guaranteed to calm classroom chaos, approaching discipline from a different perspective can help. Don’t think of discipline as punishment for unwanted behavior. Think of it as a disciple-making strategy. Turn those trying moments into teachable moments. To do that, we must first understand the truth about children’s hearts.
Fruit of the Heart
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit” (Luke 6:43). Jesus wasn’t talking about trees when he said that; he was talking about people. He was telling us misbehavior reveals a heart that’s bad—”desperately wicked,” Jeremiah says. And kids aren’t exempt! Proverbs 22:15 reveals that, in their natural state, children are driven by a heart of foolishness—ready to yield to their selfish cravings without thought of the certain effects.
We can attempt to control the behavior of children with bribery, contracts, threats of punishment, time-outs and the like, but the heart remains unchanged. If we’re to make disciples rather than to simply diffuse classroom tensions and distractions, we must seek to discover the heart issue each misbehavior reveals.
Sailing illustrates this truth well. I’ve been sailing once. Until then, it made no sense to me. The wind blows one way, so I figured that’s the direction the boat would go. “How does it get back?” I wondered. “Wait for the wind to change direction,” I guessed. Here’s what I learned: Your destination is determined by the trim of the sail, not the direction of the breeze.
That’s how it works with kids, too. The “wind” of your discipline (does that term accurately describe your huffing and puffing?) may not take children in the direction you intend. It’s the trim of their “sails”—inclined toward God or toward self—that’ll ultimately determine their direction.
Discipline, commonly understood, molds behavior. Discipline that disciples molds the heart. If you recognize this, you’ll focus on revealing to children the nature of sin and instilling in them the character of God. To do this, we must tackle the task of teaching our children a principle about the choices they make.