Looking at the Heart

Posted on February 26, 2012. Filed under: behaviour, Christian, edublog, educational, Kindergarten, personal, reflection, teaching and learning |

You’ve heard of a bandaid.  But have you ever heard of a behavior band aid? This is a term describing what people do when they try to fix a behavior by telling a child to stop something that they shouldn’t be doing, or by threatening them with some type of consequence and then possibly not following through. As a teacher, I have been learning the value of getting to the root of my student’s behavior issues and trying to deal with the heart of the issue rather than slapping on a behavior bandaid.
It all started when my friend Janelle was reading this Christian book called Shepherding a Child’s Heart.

She has three kids and this book was really challenging her to be purposeful and consistent in her discipline. It was challenging her to actually spank her kids EVERY TIME they disobeyed. Sounds harsh, but hear me out; if she asked one of her sons to do something and they didn’t, she would have a talk with them, explain why it’s important to be obedient, pray with them and then spank them. At first, she felt like she was spanking them constantly, and then after about 2 weeks, she noticed that they would obey her without questioning her or putting up a fight. They were starting to become obedient and their household was getting more peaceful. She actually found herself disciplining in love rather than anger because she would correct their behavior before it got to the point where she was angry and fed up, and the children understood that she was discipling them because she loved them, not because she was angry and they had screwed up.
This inspired me to try and be consistent in my own classroom for the very reason that I too wanted to correct my student’s behaviour in love, looking out for what is best for them rather than giving consequences in anger. I was going to be teaching kindergarten at the time and I decided that at the beginning of the year, our class was going to make up rules that everyone was expected to follow, and WHENEVER someone broke a rule, I was going to try and be consistent with discipline. Now, I obviously can’t spank my students, THAT would be awkward! And I also decided that I couldn’t give timeouts every time one of my 39 students broke a rule, or I would have no instruction time and the whole classroom would be filled with kids in time outs. Instead, I decided to give three chances. First time they broke a rule was 1, 2nd time was 2, and when they reached 3, I walked them over to the time out chair (while still teaching the lesson) and set the visual timer for about 5 minutes; when the red was gone, they were allowed to come back and join the group on their own. Sometimes they had to draw a picture of what they did wrong and what they should have been doing, and I would try my best to talk to the child one on one afterwards to discuss what had happened. At first it was hard to be consistent, I would forget how many chances each kid had, but thankfully the other little tattle tales would usually help me out! Forcing myself to be consistent was one of the best things I could have ever done in my career. To this day, it is helping me so much with classroom management. I have never once had a kid question why they had to go into the time out. They know my expectations, and they know the consequences… Every time.


Now, that’s all fine and dandy, and I’m sure many other teachers have come to this conclusion long before me, but what I am excited about this year is how consistency in discipline is merging with the heart issues of my students behavior. Let me explain; it began when my husband Jon and I went to a marriage retreat this September. We watched a series of Paul Tripp videos, and one of the analogies he used really stuck with me. He says:
“If I shake a bottle of water, spilling some, and ask you, “Why did water spill on the floor?” you might say, “Because you shook the bottle.” In other words, the shaking is to blame for the water on the floor. If I ask you, “Why did water spill on the floor?” you might say, “Because there was no milk or pop in the bottle. Why does anger, hurtful actions, and vile language spill out of people? It is not because they are shaken or the fault lies with whatever did the shaking. No, the problem is that there is anger and vile language inside, waiting to be shaken and spilled.”

I explained the water bottle analogy to my students in language they could understand, and gave them a chance to find a spot by themselves in the classroom and look into their water bottles/hearts. I wanted to give them a chance to see if they could find any anger or “darkness” that was already hiding in their hearts; whether that was mean thoughts or actions towards a sibling or friend, parent or teacher. Before we came back to the carpet, I told the kids that if they needed to make anything right with another person in the classroom, they could do that before they sat down. About 3 kids took me up on that offer, and talked one on one with another student before sitting down. When we came back to the carpet, I asked the children if anyone wanted to share what they “saw” in their hearts. A few students told me about hateful thoughts toward others, or about a fight they got in earlier that day.


As the year has gone by, I have continued to give the students chances to look into their heart to find out WHY they acted they way they did. I am trying to not only train their behavior, but help them realize what is causing their behavior and what they can do to deal with it BEFORE it comes out in hurtful words or actions.
This is a difficult task to do for anyone, including adults, but I have learned that if I expect my students to be changing their behavior from the inside out, I need to be doing it myself also. Now, as a Christian I believe I can’t actually change my own heart, but that Jesus can work in me and change my evil heart into a loving, caring one that can show mercy and kindness, so I pray for help! 🙂

I have also found that recognizing my attitude and my heart has really helped me be transparent with my students. I have had to apologize to them on more than one occasion this year when I have acted in anger, or tried to discipline not in love. I don’t tell them that I am sorry for disciplining them; if they are not following the rules, and the kids are creating an environment where it is not easy to learn, they need to know that I have the right to discipline them for that, AND change that behavior… BUT, the problem is that my heart tends to do this in the wrong way… surprise surprise! What I do tell them is that I am sorry for getting angry and mad at them. I explain it to them by saying that my heart gets kind of black and hard towards them and I start getting mean and trying to control the situation through anger rather than love. They are always very forgiving, and they show me grace. Isn’t it funny how children are so quick to forgive, yet as adults we hold grudges and can carry bitterness with us for days, months and years?  I am so thankful that I work with children who are so young, so tender, and so willing to open their hearts.  I am definitely blessed.  And the plan is, from now on I will only be handing out REAL bandaids for paper cuts, scraped knees and microscopic owies that the child seems to need a bandaid for… No behaviour bandaids here!

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2 Responses to “Looking at the Heart”

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[…] not. I use the words inappropriate and appropriate a lot. But ultimately we talk about it being a heart issue. They are not always going to have a teacher or parent standing behind them when they are on the […]

[…] this might be dangerous to say, but overall, I think the best thing I can teach students is how to look at/listen to their heart. As Jen Stewart Mitchell discusses in her blog post, citizenship is citizenship.  It […]


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