Classroom Discipline Tips for Children & Youth Workers, Sunday School & Other Bible Teachers

Be sure you have the proper motivations when you discipline.

Why should you set rules in the classroom? Your answer to this question will greatly affect the way you manage the classroom.

Perhaps you do not feel the need to set rules. You may believe that it is more important to allow children a sense of self-expression. You may have the idea that children will like and respect you better if you steer away from rules.
If motivated by the following, however, you will see the necessity of discipline in the classroom which ultimately means having a few good rules by which to measure appropriate behavior. You will realize that the outworking of such motivation does not allow you to be overly permissive but neither does it promote rigidity and legalism.

Reason #1: You love them!
Proverbs 13:24 says "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him." This verse is directed toward parents, but the principle would apply to any who have responsibility over the welfare of the child. This typifies God's relationship with us. Hebrews 12:5-6 says "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and punishes everyone He accepts as a son."
Reason #2: You are concerned about their future.
Classroom discipline is more than crowd control and maintaining order -- or, at least it should be. The purpose of setting rules and consequences is not just to better the here and now or to help you tolerate an hour in with the kids. There is a bigger picture that asks "what will it produce?" Hebrews 12:11 puts it this way, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." A harvest is a result of seeds that were planted earlier in the season. The seed of discipline planted now will yield godly character and direction needed for the rest of their lives.
Reason #3: The human heart is inclined toward evil and consequently needs help to do right.
Scripture teaches that people do not grow into their sinful condition but that they are that way from birth (Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:10-12, 23; Psalm 51:5; 58:3). Proverbs 22:15 says that "folly is bound up in the heart of a child." As a teacher you cannot choose to do right for them but you can have an influence in guiding and helping to shape them.
Reason #4: Children want and need boundaries.
Children derive security from knowing where the boundaries are. Loving enforcement of rules makes them feel safe and protected. A lack of rules, allowing everybody to do what is right in their own eyes, yields anarchy and chaos. It tends to leave children feeling frustrated and insecure, sometimes even producing a hostility or resentment within them.
Reason #5: Children need to learn how to function within a community.
Today's children will be the leaders of tomorrow's church. They need to get a grip on God's design for the church early on. Patterns learned early in life are difficult to break. Within the Body of Christ there is to be an interdependence, a working together, a concern for one another. Rules help children to learn respect and consideration toward others. They need to understand that the world does not revolve around them, that sometimes they need to exercise self-restraint for the good of the whole. Classroom rules provide guidelines of appropriate behavior for community life.
Reason #6: Children need a model of God's relationship with us.
God's Word is filled with rules that are for our good and He disciplines us, in love, when we do not abide by His rules (Heb. 12:4-13). He blends into that process His love and concern toward us, His goodness and mercy as well as His justice and righteousness. All of these characteristics are a part of effective classroom discipline. Hence, as we manage the classroom, we have opportunity to teach them more about God's character and ways.
Reason #7: You have a God-given responsibility.
There are many verses that deal with the responsibility of parents to discipline their children (Eph. 6:4; Prov. 13:24; 19:18; 23:13-14). As teachers, however, we are also responsible for those entrusted to our care. James 3:1 says "that we who teach will be judged more strictly." Matthew 18:6 zeros in on our responsibility to children when it says "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." Could a lack of rules end up being a source of accountability for us as teachers? A simple rule may have helped to prevent a child from sinning. A simple rule may have been instrumental in shaping future behavior of a child.

The benefits of properly motivated discipline in the classroom are seen in the kind of children it tends to produce:

  • children who are learning --- because the classroom is conducive to learning
  • children who are more cooperative --- because they feel safe and secure
  • children who are maturing --- because they have opportunity to build character and social skills
  • children who are less self-centered and more respectful --- because they are being taught a better way
  • children who are able to better comprehend God's character and ways --- because they have a model
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(Last updated 11/01/15)

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