Originaly published by Becky Post at www.parentfurther.com
If you have a child in an out-of-school-time sport or club, you may have been recruited to coach or lead that activity. If you have stepped up and taken on a volunteer leadership role, good for you! You are modeling great skills for your kids—and you are contributing to your community.
Many parents are happy to pitch in and teach religion classes or lead scout troops, but the challenges quickly become apparent. One of the biggest challenges can be what teachers call “classroom management.” If you are not a professional educator, you might call it “chaos.”
Managing the chaos is important, for many reasons. Disruptive young people can easily dominate the situation, ruining the experience for other kids and derailing your activity plans.
Setting behavior norms for your group depends on you taking charge, according to youth development experts Ann Saylor and Susan Ragsdale, authors of Groups, Troops, Clubs, & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.
They recommend establishing a four-step process:
- State norms in a simple, positive manner. For example, “Respect the personal space of others,” instead of “Don’t touch others.” Or, “Listen while the leader speaks,” instead of “Don’t whisper to your neighbor.”
- Refer to the norms and use them consistently.
- Post the norms where all can see them.
- Most importantly, develop the norms together.
Saylor and Ragsdale’s book is packed with guidance and tips to help you take ownership of your class or group, while channeling young people’s positive energy and ideas. Using games—like the following—can be a great way to establish norms that the kids can truly own.
In and Out Game
Ask the group the following: How are you expected to behave? What rules and expectations are “in” and what rules are “out”? Break your group into two teams: the “In” group and the “Out” group. Give each team five minutes to list the various behaviors expected for their assigned word (in or out). For example, the In group might say that an “in” behavior is to respect their elders while the Out group might say an “out” rule is whining for what you want. Invite the groups to share their rules out loud. Record their ideas and then, as a group, review and determine the rules and expectations that should be in place for this program and this group.
Ragsdale and Saylor also recommend that your group come up with consequences when norms aren’t followed. They write, “Establish high expectations (You can do it!). But in setting high expectations and consequences, make sure the consequences match the violation and aren’t a ploy for attempting perfection.”
They recommend the following sequence for dealing with challenged norms:
- When norms are challenged, walk over to where norms are posted and tap the norm in violation.
- Ask the group what needs to happen next.
- Do what is necessary (perhaps the simple tap on the norms will get things quiet or you’ll need to follow through on a consequence).
- Ask if they’re ready to move on and continue to live by the guidelines they’ve created.
- Move on.
Image via Tom Williams on Flickr.