“Helping Children Choose to Behave,” Ensign, Oct. 1999, 73
Several years ago as a member of a bishopric, I was asked to help a new Primary teacher who was having difficulty with the 10-year-old boys in her class. The boys were restless, inattentive, and occasionally rude and disruptive, and nothing she tried seemed to help.
I attended Primary the following Sunday, and while I was in the room the boys were well behaved. “You are a group of fine young men,” I began. “However, your teacher has indicated that from time to time you are inattentive in class. Because I have confidence in you, I feel that together we can find a solution to this problem.”
Wanting the boys to take responsibility for their actions, I asked them to help me list some of the behaviors they engaged in that might be interfering with others’ learning opportunities. We listed these on the chalkboard. The list included such things as moving chairs around, talking, teasing, not raising hands, and other behaviors common to this age-group. When we finished making the list, I asked what we could do about it. At first, the boys were hesitant to speak, but after a full discussion in which they identified some tentative solutions, I gave each boy a pencil and sheet of paper. On the top of their papers they each wrote, “What will I personally do to change my behavior in this classroom?” I stressed the importance of carefully considering their goals. Each one made a list of four or five things he could do.
We collected their thoughts and indicated the papers would remain with their teacher, who would try to help each learn and enjoy their study of the gospel.
After placing the responsibility for improvement directly on each boy, we noted considerable improvement in the classroom during the following weeks.—Dale F. Pearson, Provo, Utah