Culture Teaches Children Things Become Their Identity


A few years ago I read a book about ways companies target teenagers with their products.

One of the most interesting was giving all of their clothes to popular kids for free. Of course other students after seeing this would be motivated to buy the same merchandise.

Thankfully that kind of marketing has yet to involve younger children. However there is something much more subtle (but just as deadly) used to reach them

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Culture Teaches Children Discipline is Done in Anger

Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of

There are a lot of things that I love about working with children, but there are a few I absolutely hate.

One of those things is being “mean John” [1]

Mean John’s main focus is keeping control of a group

  1. He calls down students by name
  2. Separates children who are causing a disturbance
  3. Makes threats
  4. And uses a large number of naughty chairs [2]

What really frustrates me about being mean John is my actions are often motivated by anger [3].

I honestly hate being that way, but it’s necessary since children often don’t respect authority figures

Culture over time (through interaction with authority figures) teaches children that discipline will only be done in anger.

Continue reading “Culture Teaches Children Discipline is Done in Anger”

How to Survive a Child’s Meltdown

IMG_1164Last weekend while visiting my brother and his wife it took just one minute for my dog (who came with me) to locate a small cat toy my niece had bought and begin chewing it to pieces.

As you can imagine this resulted in tears, and the dog being confined to a downstairs bedroom.

This experience reminded me that reaching children for Christ involves viewing things from their perspective.

See in my niece’s eyes the dog hadn’t just eaten a cat toy from dollar general.

  1. It was a toy that she personally bought with her own money for the family cat
  2. That matched him with color (they were both orange)
  3. And she watched him play with for hours

While in my eyes

  1. It was a cheap toy so a replacement could easily be purchased
  2. One of many toys that the cat had
  3. And wasn’t really that important [1]

It shouldn’t be surprising that trying to explain this didn’t end the tears…because you can’t rationalize with emotional children

This truth is hugely important when reaching children with the Gospel of Christ because if you can’t get one child to stop crying uncontrollably then you will soon have a room full of crying children [2].

So instead of focusing on “ending their tears” we should understand WHY they are crying.

  1. By asking questions [3]
  2. By making sure we understand the situation [4]
  3. By learning what we can do to fix the problem [5]

After learning why the child was upset (see their perspective) we can help them understand ours

  1. By explaining that the dog thought it was her toy [6]
  2. She made a mistake [7]
  3. Telling them a story about losing something very special when you were younger
  4. And in this case encouraging them to forgive the dog for her mistake

I’m not saying every outburst should lead to a deep discussion (often it’s just best to let them cry it out). But there is a great need to understand it will take more than just rationalization to fix the problem.

You have to get down on one knee and look them in the eyes

Realize why the cat toy is important

And together with the child make a plan to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.

Because in their eyes it’s much more than just an orange ball

  1. my niece thought differently and immediately wanted to buy a new one  ↩
  2. I know this from experience  ↩
  3. was that cat toy really important? Why was it important to you?  ↩
  4. So your upset because the toy was the same color as the cat, is that right?  ↩
  5. in this case planning to take a trip to dollar general and buy another cat toy  ↩
  6. I would make it clear that she didn’t understand the importance of it  ↩
  7. using words that a child understands helps a lot since now you can have a deeper discussion about the situation. Have you ever made a mistake?  ↩

How to Teach a Child Discipline In a Non-Physical Way

Every Tuesday afternoon I’m involved with an after-school Bible program at a local school for first and second graders. I am aware this is a worst nightmare for some people, but I actually enjoy it [1].

What I don’t necessarily enjoy is bringing structure to the group.

Structure is the process of getting a group of young people under control using a reward or consequences system [2].

This usually takes time since some children don’t have a concept of consequences when doing the wrong thing, but after a few weeks they start to understand.

This year has been a lot harder since our group has twenty-four first and second graders in a very small room [3]

Being in this situation has reminded me that many of us (myself included) don’t really know how to teach children structure without using physical discipline [4].  So today I want to share some ideas on how to do it.

With that in mind here are some things that DON’T bring structure:

  1. Yelling at the child (it just confuses them)
  2. Embarrassing the child (James you have been doing the wrong thing all class!)
  3. Threatening the child (if you don’t stop I will)
  4. Any kind of touching (includes putting a hand on their shoulder)

While not perfect, here is an idea of the step by step process we are using in our after-school Bible program

Step One: Create a clear understanding of rules at the beginning (for us it’s if you get three warnings you don’t get any candy) and remind children during the class time.

A good practice is allowing the children to tell you the rules (what happens if Mr. John gets three warnings?)

Step Two: If a student is disobeying give them a verbal warning in a very calm voice by name (James that’s one). This can also be an opportunity to remind them of what will happen if they get two more warnings.

While this can embarrass the child, doing it in a  calm voice and in a very short sentence makes it less difficult for them

Step Three: Second warning involves moving their chair to another area of the room. Teacher sits with the child (making sure to look them right in the eyes), explains why they are there, and reminds them of what will happen if they continue to disobey

Editors note: Child is allowed to return their chair to a different spot after five minutes

Step Four: If child continues to disobey they are given a final verbal reprimand in a very calm voice (okay james that’s three). It isn’t necessary to explain what that means because he knows he won’t get candy.

Step Five: If child loses their candy two weeks in a row, then they aren’t allowed to sit with their friends. Instead the teacher or worker will choose a seat for them [5].

This is how you control twenty four first and second graders

A photo posted by australianmissionary (@australianmissionary) on Oct 10, 2014 at 4:59am PDT



This kind of a system does involve a lot of work. I am pretty much the muscle (okay you can stop laughing now) during our whole Bible program.  But it’s absolutely necessary…because children don’t understand the “If I do bad things then there will be consequences” concept.

  1. Because they experience discipline done in anger, or without a clear explanation of WHY they are disciplined
  2. Their parents promise of discipline often aren’t followed through.        Editors note: Just so we are clear I am not blaming the parents for this structure problem. Creating an understanding of it takes lots of extra time and energy, which unfortunately few of us have.  In reality there is often a need for individuals outside the parents (school teacher, family member) to help children understand these concepts.
  3. Discipline seems to come out of nowhere (not really, but there needs to be a system that REMINDS the child of the coming consequences)
  4. And it’s very easy to show love and give a child a reward even when they don’t deserve it

There is of course a place for physical discipline when dealing with children. But it’s hugely important we first create a system that teaches them right from wrong…and if they freely choose to do the wrong thing there will be consequences

  1. The Lord has blessed me with a love for helping young children, and an ability to connect with them  ↩
  2. For instance if your good you get candy (reward) but if you aren’t then you don’t get candy (consequence)  ↩
  3. It’s been three weeks and they are STARTING to get it  ↩
  4. Trust me I am a proponent of physical disicipline (my parents are also big fans) but there are instances where we can’t use it. So it’s important for us to understand how to bring structure without any physical action  ↩
  5. Often the problem is the people they sit with laughing at everything a child does  ↩