Heart-Focused Classroom Management – Part 1

Attentive, well-behaved children sound like a teacher’s dream. However, our goal is not simply well-behaved children, but children who joyfully submit to God. It starts with an understanding of authority structure God has put in place, which brings about calm order and joyful submission. Jesus is the best example of one living under submission (Philippians 2:5-8; Luke 22:42; John 4:34). Resentment toward authority structures is actually rebellion toward God’s hierarchy in creation.

Freedom is not being able to do whatever you want; freedom is knowing and loving God and living joyfully under the authority structures that he has ordained.

—Tedd Tripp from the Biblical Parenting Conference September 19-20, 2008

It continues with a right understanding of the nature of people. The traditional view of child rearing held that children are fundamentally bad and in need of rehabilitation; the new way thinking holds that children are fundamentally good. This is wrong thinking. Children are not fundamentally good; no one is. We are all sinners (Romans 3:23). Genesis 6:5 tells us that every intention of the thoughts of our hearts is only evil continually. The condition of our evil hearts is reflected in the following mindset cited by John Rosemond (Parenting by The Book: Biblical Wisdom for Raising Your Child):

  • What I want, I deserve to have (entitlement).
  • Because I am entitled to what I want, the ends justify the means (pragmatism).
  • The rules do not apply to me; therefore, no one has the right to deny me or stand in my way (narcissism) (page 38). 

The battle cry from childhood is, “You’re not the boss of me!” Our nature is hostile toward God; we are born with stubborn rebellious hearts in need of redemption and training. When children are rebellious toward their parents or teachers, they are rebellious toward God—first and foremost. Rosemond admonishes us that it is not loving for a parent (or teacher) to permit a child to be “ill-behaved, disrespectful, destructive, and self-destructive, irresponsible, inattentive, careless, aggressive, self-centered, deceitful” (page 28). Therefore, a loving parent (or teacher) will not allow a child to disobey without consequence. The parent (or teacher) should calmly enforce his or her authority (page 135). Those in authority need to say what we mean and mean what we say, clearly communicating instructions, limits, and expectations (page 225). Here are some practical guidelines David and Sally Michael have developed to help you manage your classroom with this mindset.

Preventative Discipline in the Classroom

Because—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure...

1. Pray before entering the classroom.

2. Establish a sense of authority.

3. Create a calm, quiet, ordered atmosphere.

4. Be prepared and organized.

5. Anticipate problems before they arise.

6. Let children know your expectations. (Establish rules.)

7. Make your rules consistent.

8. Enforce rules.

9. Let children know the consequences of misbehavior.

10. Be as lenient in your rules as you can.

11. Affirm positive behavior.

12. Let children make choices when appropriate and possible.

13. Make activities interesting and fun.

14. Move quickly from one activity to the next.

15. Make sure activities/expectations are appropriate for the age level.

16. Give warnings before activity changes (especially with preschoolers).

17. Arrange your room to prevent problems.

18. Separate bad combinations of children.

19. Make troublemakers into helpers. (Keep them busy.)

20. Ignore attention-getting behavior (unless harmful or distracting to others).

21. Be actively involved with the children (not chatting with other adults or doing your preparation).

22. Know your children.

23. Make children feel safe.

(This blog post was compiled by Lori Myers, based on notes by Connie Oman from a seminar Connie delivered during the 2009 Children Desiring God National Conference.)

Read Heart-Focused Classroom Management - Part 2