What is a teacher or parent to do when they have a group of troublesome toddlers or cheeky children? They don't stay in their chairs, they crawl all over the carpet when they are supposed to be listening to a lesson, they talk out of turn and to each other, they don't participate, and they don't pay attention.
In an environment like this how can learning happen?
Well, at my church, the primary children ages 3 – 12 (but especially the younger ones) have had a pretty serious reverence problem. I teach the three and four year old cuties. Week after week the leaders of the primary program tried new idea after new idea to try to get the children to choose reverence all on their own. You got it, the primary leaders want the children to learn self-government.
They Have a Perfect Pre-Teaching Plan!
Recently, they came to primary with a new plan. This plan was a proactive plan instead of a reactive plan for the reverence problem. To effectively be proactive a leader must teach first and then consistently follow the previously taught plan.
Pre-teaching is the key to learning self-government. In fact, pre-teaching is one of the main things that sets self-government teaching apart from other forms parenting or obedience teaching systems. If a parent doesn't teach their child, ahead of time, what skills they need to have and when to use those skills as well as the positive and negative consequences associated with the skills, then the child is left to experiment and the parent is always going to be instructing on the reactive, or defensive side, of interactions and issues.
This is how the teaching happened. One of the primary leaders started out the primary meeting with a few pictures and a fun number game with fingers.
She first told all the little ones to hold up their five fingers. They love to raise hands so this was an easy request.
Next, she informed them that she was going to tell them what each of their fingers stand for in primary.
Number one finger stood for their eyes watching the teacher.
Two fingers stood for their ears listening to the teacher.
Three fingers stood for their mouth being quiet.
Four fingers stood for their hands being still and not touching others.
Five fingers stood for their feet being still and them staying in their chairs.
Finally, she showed them the full chart containing all the pictures she had placed on the board representing each finger and explained that the chart was to remind them to “Give Me 5” every time she, or any other teacher, holds up their hand and says the catch phrase “Give Me 5”.
The children responded beautifully the first day. We will see how the other Sundays go. I'm sure they will need to repeat the training multiple times before it becomes automatic behavior for the children. And, the other teachers present will need to hold the children accountable. But, this system is sure to make a lasting positive difference to our busy primary.
So many people ask me how to effectively teach self-government to a group of children who are not their own. This is a great example of how to do it. With my young students I have also taught them what the consequences will be if they don't follow instructions and accept 'no' answers. Children need to know the skills required and the positive and negative consequences.
Speaking of positive consequences, Heather, the primary leader, told the children that they would earn ten fuzzies in the fuzzy jar (when filled they get cookies) if they behaved properly.
I am so impressed with the way our primary leaders at church are problem solving the irreverence issue in a proactive, and assertive way. They are great leaders for the youth and teachers under their care.
Heather said that you are welcome to use her chart. She said she does not take credit for the idea. Apparently they got the idea from someone on Pinterest, but she made the chart and shared it with me.