Every club leader has sticky discipline issues to deal with from time to time. Here are some suggestions for handling those issues well.
Q. My club members can be unkind to each other and call each other names. How can I stop this problem?
A. First, be sure you have a club rule against name-calling and/or put-downs and that it has been clearly communicated to everyone. Phrase the rule positively, such as: “Only use real names or nicknames that are kind” or “Talk to each other respectfully.” If you post your rules on the wall, you can simply say, “What’s Rule #2?” when you hear children being unkind to each other in this way.
Also take time to discuss with club members what put-downs and name-calling feel like. Tell them that you want club to be a safe place for everyone and ask for input on solving the problem: “What do you think it would take to work this out?” Ask for ideas for consequences for offenders. Kids can often come up with creative ideas.
Finally, be sure that you aren’t modeling this behavior inadvertently. Do you or another leader playfully tease the children? What adults may understand as teasing may come across as hurtful to kids. Then kids may think that hurtful comments are fair game or funny. Consider how you respond to children to be sure that you are being a great example of kindness and gentleness when you speak with your children.
Q. Sometimes it’s difficult to keep order in the club room while still maintaining a fun and welcoming environment. What can I do?
A. It’s important to strike a balance between rules and fun. One way to do this is to establish known expectations with the kids before problems arise. Talk with your club members about appropriate rules for your club room such as “Raise your hand and wait to be called on” or “Stay in the club room.” Then post these rules in a visible place so everyone in your club room can see them. Refer to them and go over them often, especially at the beginning of the year as you are setting the standard for how to relate in club.
Be sure that you choose no more than five rules. State them positively so they express what you want club members to do rather than what you don’t want them to do.
Q. When a club member misbehaves, what should be the appropriate consequences?
A. When considering what consequences are appropriate for misbehavior, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. First, be concerned about what is needed in the situation rather than any desire to “make” children behave. Connect the consequences logically to the behavior; that way children will be more likely to see the fairness in them. Remember that as a club leader you are there to teach and guide. Biblical discipline should not be about “punishing” club members, but instead instructing them in how God wants them to live. Give children a choice: “You may stop coloring on your neighbor’s picture or you may move to the other table. You choose.” Speak calmly and firmly, and don’t shame.
Q. How do I get my club members to clean up after a messy activity award or project?
A. Cleaning up after an activity is everyone’s responsibility, not just yours. Start by including enough time at the end of a project for kids to clean up. Not leaving enough time will cause frustration for everyone.
Give club members enough advanced warning that the activity they are involved in will end soon and they will be expected to clean up. Be sure to lead by example, and show them what they should do when cleaning up and thank them when the job is completed.
Q. How do I get kids to calm down so that I can start club?
A. Being organized before children arrive is important. If you don’t plan ahead, kids will eventually get bored and will find something to do. For kids who come early you can organize activities or enlist their help in getting everything set up for club. Another idea is to choose singing or a quiet game that doesn’t involve running around and getting the kids riled up. Also, make sure you communicate your expectations to club members so that they are aware of those in advance.
Sometimes children are just children—energetic, immature, acting before they think. Physical needs, learning disabilities or emotional upsets may also lead to misbehavior. Be observant and listen, and you may be able to see what a child needs and then meet that need. Remember that you have a wonderful opportunity to model Christ’s love to the kids He has brought to you.