With teens, abnormal behavior is almost always normal and only a temporary phase they pass through on the path toward adulthood. Remember your own teen years, be flexible and keep a good sense of humor.
Discipline is from the word “disciple” which means “learner”. Therefore discipline is leading a person into self-control through instruction and example. It is not the same as punishment. Punishment may be a part of discipline as it is a means to control behavior when a person is unable to exercise self control. Our goal is the internal control of the teen instead of the external control of the teacher.
I. Set reasonable limits
- Decide what is and what is not objectionable behavior and set specific limits accordingly. Consider the age and needs of youth.
- Youth should know and agree to the limits and have some limited room for negotiation. Allow, as much as possible, for freedom and flexibility within the rules set. Like bargaining for a price it is best to set your price too high and bargain down to where you
want. In the end both parties feel that have a gotten a good deal! If youth help make the rules they break them less frequently.
- Be careful not to set too many rules. Decide which battles are worth fighting and save your resources for the battles that are really important.
II. Establish consequences
- Avoid threats.
- Once limits are set, don’t budge on them. Youth are continually testing limits to see how far they push them. They want freedom but they also want limits that are firm. It gives them security. Yet they must also know what will happen when a rule is broken. They WILL break them at times even to just see if you will follow through.
- Consequences should be edifying, consistent, fair and fit the action. Don’t play favorites. Build a good healthy respect for youth in discipline. Never embarrass a youth in front of peers. Deal with them alone and attack the behavior, not the person.
III. Create the right atmosphere
- Set a positive tone to your relationship. Notice and affirm appropriate behavior. If you spend most of your time affirming you will need to spend little time correcting. Affirmation & encouragement are inspiring. Criticism is largely self defeating.
- Youth can tell if you are a drill sergeant, a pushover or someone in between. Being too strict is a mistake but so is being too lenient. A happy balance must be established so that youth are allowed free expression as their talkative high energy selves within an orderly context.
- Correct with compassion instead of harshness.
- Avoid the use of labels to characterize youth such as “naughty”, “bad”, “good”, “lazy”, “slow”, etc.
IV. Eliminate conditions which cause behavior problems
- Conditions leading to discipline problems may be internal, external, temperament, developmental or symptomatic:
- Poor student/ teacher ratio
- The room being too hot or too cold
- The room being too crowded
- The room having too many distractions
- Make sure activities involve everyone. Often youth who aren’t involved are the ones that create the most problems.
- Move smoothly and quickly between activities. When a lag occurs between activities, problems tend to occur.
- Arrive early, prepared, and ready to start. Start with a “bang” to encourage promptness. Fight teens’ tendency to be late by starting on time. Start meetings with a quick activity that will grab their attention instead of running after them, wasting your time trying to round them up.
- Use positive clear directions. If youth are unclear of instructions then tend to be disruptive.
- High sugar at beginning of sessions
V. Build relationships
Youth are more likely to respond to someone who respects them as individuals and whom they have grown to respect. Get to know all youth, especially those tending toward behavioral problems. Accept their silly, noisy sides and direct their high energy into appropriate outlets. Accept feelings and high energy they cannot control but seek to stop disruptive, annoying, and destructive behavior.
VI. Plan high energy programs
Youth have an attention span in minutes approximately equal to their age in years. Good meetings are positive, upbeat, and have a wide range of activities that are exciting and fun, game oriented, and concise.
VII. Plan with youth
The more ownership youth have in an event, the less discipline problems you will have.
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