Articles From the October 1995 Unification News


How to Start a Sunday School... Developing a Classroom Discipline Policy

by Vicki Henry-Minneapolis, MN Minneapolis Sunday School Director

One point must be made clear from the beginning when talking about discipline. Discipline is not just a fancy world for punishment. These two have clear definitions which are totally opposite. In most recent times there has been much study as to how to stop children from doing "bad" and how to guide them towards doing "good"-moreover, how to motivate them to want to do "good". Along with that study has come evidence that violence can only perpetuate violence. Some people may pooh-pooh this and believe this study to be reflective of a permissive attitude. But I say: examine this study from the standpoint of Divine Principle.

Multiplication of sin is one of the four fallen natures, and I have discovered this one in particular can permeate every facet of our daily life. Its ramifications are not just in the immediate sense but reach into the continuation of past mistakes for generations. So many times I catch myself repeating the exact words and actions of my mother to my children-something I vowed I would never do, long before ever hearing Divine Principle.

Also the whole premise of the Four Position Foundation supports this very study. Parents should be examples of God's love for their children so that families of goodness may grow into a world of goodness. If the parents are centered on selfishness, this attitude will only be multiplied in their children, and then a dysfunctional family develops. It is from here that a world full of hate, greed, fear and anger develop. I have found that when I am only thinking about my own situation, I have less patience with my children and end up yelling more and neither really educating them nor providing a good example of a heavenly parent, environment or way of life.

Legal Points

The purpose of our Sunday service and Sunday school is not only for the education and spiritual nourishment of our own congregation, but it is to be an avenue for relatives, friends and guests to be introduced to God's true love and life. With this in mind, our church's legal department has directed Sunday school teachers to comply with the local and state laws concerning the physical abuse of children. They have said: "In recent years, `abuse' has come to be defined by state agencies very liberally. It is therefore suggested that Sunday school children not be physically disciplined." This is not only referring to children of guests, but to our own congregation's children as well.

Discipline as Spiritual Growth

Christianity has outlined personal growth into the following self- disciplines: poverty, obedience, chastity and humility. Indeed, anyone devoting their lives to God (e.g., monks and nuns) makes these their vows. Unificationism outlines these as they relate to Formation, Growth and Perfection, or Old Testament, New Testament and Completed Testament stages respectively.

I feel the many stages of child development can be outlined in the same manner, thereby corresponding to a particular "technique" of discipline. In the beginning, it is necessary just to keep your child safe from all the physical hazards in the home and daily life (falling down stairs, touching a hot stove, crossing the street, etc.) Much of this instruction is reminiscent of the Law in the Old Testament stage.

As the child grows and reasoning skills develop, the child can advance to the New Testament level of controlling their own desires. They have the foundation of knowledge to distinguish right from wrong. It is now up to them to fulfill that responsibility and make the correct choices.

As a child reaches his or her late teens and early adulthood, the conscience has developed to be able to think more about others and how to implement his or her belief into reality. They are reaching the stage of a true son or daughter ready to take on the role of parenthood for him or herself. This is the Completed Testament stage.

This process is called discipline. Discipline is not an effect. Jim Baughman, former president of the Unification Church in America, described discipline as "the process by which a person develops an ability or skill to the point of expertise. This process comes about through learning from and modeling after a teacher, coach, master or some other expert who guides and trains the person."

Hyun Jin Moon has also stated in his speech of March 28, 1993 entitled "The Importance of Family" that "we've seen the greatest example of what it means to be a teacher of true life, a teacher of True Love. That it is not just words, not just expressing yourself; it's actually living, setting the example."

Respect and Manners

By the time children are ready for Sunday school (i.e., Kindergarten- level), I feel they are beginning to enter that New Testament stage. Therefore, allowing them to understand the "whys" of all the rules is very important. One of the biggest "whys" deals with the issue of respect and having good manners. So it is not just stating "Don't run in church," but rather it is discussing with them all the reasons "why" we don't run in church. It is important to discuss the need for respect of the institution, the adults attending the church service, the other children in Sunday school and the way to be a child of Heavenly Father by not being rude.

It is amazing how well the Golden Rule always seems to apply when dealing with all kinds of situations and relationships. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"-simply put, it means: respect yourself, respect others, and respect the environment.

Good manners express that respect. Having good manners is a tool for each child.

In both of these it is not only the need for children to acquire them, but adults must embrace them as well. Adults must exhibit respect and good manners towards each other as husband and wife and as friends to others, as well as towards children. Children are deserving of our respect and good manners just as much as a fellow adult. It is through that action that you, the adult, are able to be the example and role model the children need.

The Classroom Plan

A classroom discipline plan should consist of the following:

1. Teachers need to be consistent with their requirements for behavior.

2. The rules need to be simple and kept to a reasonable number.

3. Children need to clearly understand the expectations.

4. Children have to learn to accept the responsibility for their behavior and accept the consequences of their actions.

5. Teachers must stay calm and not yell or lose control. When you lost control, you are now the proud owner of the problem. The child will transfer the problem onto the teacher. "She is upset that I got into a fight" will be the child's thinking, rather than "I got into a fight."

6. Discipline needs to fit the offense and quickly follow the offense in terms of time.

7. Children need to know that they are still liked and cared for, despite the altercation.

To put this into practice, you as the teacher should have a list of rules in mind. I will add here: keep them simple, concise and direct. Don't get too bogged down in the nos. Your students will not like coming to Sunday school if they feel judged and stifled with every move they make. It is also good to discuss the rules to allow the children to feel they've had a choice and voice in making them. You may even want to start your first day of class asking the children what they think the rules for Sunday school should be, and go from there.

Communication of your plan is essential. Not only do your students need to know it, but the parents do, too. Find a way to let them know what you expect of the children and the parents' responsibilities. A parents' meeting and/or flier are possible ways.

How to Enforce Your Plan

This is a very crucial part. Without it, your students will know the rules mean nothing. Of course, your example is a means of enforcement in the long range, but you also need a plan of action in the immediate sense. Many public school teachers have many techniques to keep order in the classroom (such as turning off the lights when things start to get out of control, etc.). They also use a system of what was called (in our parents' and grandparents' day) demerits. These may take the form of a chart with all the students' names on it. Next to each name are two pockets. One has three different colored cards in it, and the other is for infractions of the rules. When that happens, one card is pulled from one pocket and set into the other. When all cards are pulled in one day, a note is sent home to the parents. Each day the children begin over again.

The use of a "time out" chair or place is another. Just remember that to a child, one minute can seem like an eternity. So don't go overboard with it.

Rewards are another method, but I would not use them indiscriminately. If you do, they become meaningless and the children will not be developing their own sense of self-discipline. In this instance the rewards are conditioning them to act a certain way and it is not allowing them to reason why they must do so, thereby developing their character. This is not to say that an occasional class celebration or special sticker/bookmark is out of the question. Moderation is the key.

In Conclusion

The route that teachers need to employ for their students to develop self-discipline is to:

Love them

Know them

Expect the best from them

Explain expectations to them

Guide them

Encourage and praise them.

Next month: Parental Involvement and Participation


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