Guidelines for Disciplining Children and Youth

Markham Woods Church is blessed with a large number of children and youth. These young people are important to us, and tremendous amounts of time, energy and money go into providing facilities, programs, and activities for them. As the statements of Mission, Philosophy and General Goals demonstrate, we have carefully considered what we want for them. But we also recognize that, at times, children and youth may try to see how much they can get away with. The following ten principles will help in dealing with such young people.

  1. Never lose sight of what we’re trying to achieve. We want the young person to have a positive image of everything related to the church, its God, its beliefs, its members, and its property.
  2. Discipline gently, in love. If anger spills through, the discipline will be seen as spite or revenge and will be counterproductive.
  3. Be slow to accuse or take action on the basis of a report (i.e. hearsay) from another child—or even another adult. If there’s any possibility of innocence, assume innocence. It’s always better to err on the side of gentleness than to be harsh and condemnatory.
  4. Remember, true power comes through lowering the voice rather than raising it. Don’t try to shout over commotion. Be prepared to wait for however long it takes to get total silence and total attention before speaking. Young people soon learn that it’s to their advantage to give their attention immediately.
  5. Refrain from all physical contact when seeking to bring behavior into line. Never spank a child. Never slap a wrist or leg. Never snap or thump a child. Never grab and forcibly move a child. Never pinch a shoulder muscle or use any other form of pain infliction to coerce desired behavior. In the most rare and extreme cases, temporary physical restraint might be called for to protect a child from inflicting serious injury to self or others. But physical contact for general disciplinary purposes is always inappropriate in our church setting. Physical contact even as a means of affirmation (an arm around the shoulders or a hug, for example) should be used judiciously. Remember, physical contact can easily be misunderstood.
  6. Resolve disciplinary issues directly with the child if possible. If a resolution can’t be achieved, involve someone higher in the chain of command. Ultimately, involve the parents. In the most rare and extreme cases, law-enforcement officials may have to be called.
  7. Honor the church’s “No Put-Down Zone” concept. Don’t make cutting, sarcastic, name-calling comments to a child, to another adult, or to another adult about a child—even if it’s your own child. And don’t tolerate such comments from one child to another.
  8. Discuss inappropriate behavior only with those who need to know. Anything else is gossip and can lead to labeling.
  9. Think through your expectations carefully, request as little as possible, but expect compliance when a request is made.
  10. Impress upon the parents the importance of their role in ensuring their child’s safety and cooperation. Punctuality when picking up children is imperative, and parents must assume responsibility for knowing where their children are at all times.