I’m Going to Count to 3 …

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

As someone who works with children, you know there are some situations that are inevitable around little ones. You’ll be wiping noses, cleaning up crumbs, using tissues to brush tears away, and then there’s that other task—discipline. No matter how long your volunteer shift or work day is, there will be times during the day where you have to make disciplinary decisions—and sometimes they will differ from child to child.

First, you’ll want to follow the instructions of the facility where you are working. Churches, schools, and all organizations serving children and youth should have guidelines for discipline that give you a general idea of best practices to be used at that particular place.

When in doubt, follow these guidelines when making those “tough love” decisions:

  • No spanking or physical discipline. Never restrain a child. Call the parents if a child cannot be controlled with redirecting or verbal methods.
  • Take a deep breath. Young people have the power to make adults really mad. Don’t let them see you sweat. In trying situations, breathe a few deep breaths before deciding which course to take.
  • Use positive words. Avoid words that could cause feelings of shame or condemnation, including degrading references to any physical, emotional, or mental attributes.
  • Use a firm, gentle voice. Avoid words or tone that would cause a child to think he or she is a “problem.”
  • Address the behavior, don’t focus on the child. Actively listen to the child’s expression of anger or frustration. Use a firm, gentle voice when redirecting the behavior.
  • Discuss the behavior with parents if necessary. For recurring problems that disrupt the class or cause other problems, talk with the parents about solutions. Don’t just discuss the negative. End the conversation on a positive note.
  • Don’t forget to praise the child for the good things. Don’t just focus on the bad. And remember, they are children. Smile, forgive the behavior, and move on!

Discipline isn’t always easy. But it’s a natural part of caring for children. If you still have doubts, ask your supervisor about specific situations and how he or she would have handled them.