One simple technique that changes how you discipline kids of divorce, the Safekeeper concept!




Ever heard the phrase “practice makes perfect”? It may be an old, familiar saying, but it is incorrect. It makes no difference how many times you practice something the wrong way; it will still be wrong. Instead, “perfect practice makes perfect.” Allow me to explain how practicing something will help you discipline children of divorce.

Many times when working with an out-of-control child or a child on the verge of going into a rage, we panic. I know there have been times I’ve thought:

Oh no! Not now! (Like there is ever a good time to get out of control?)

Good grief, give me a break! I’ve got a lot planned, and there just isn’t time for this behavior. (My frustration and stress)

What will the other teachers think? Will they think I’m not a good teacher? (Embarrassment)

If he gets out of control, I’m scared he is going to start hitting me and cursing. What will I do to get him to stop? (Panic)

In situations like these, it is important to practice ahead of time

  • What we will say
  • What we will do
  • How we will react to the situation

A lot of children of divorce simply don’t feel safe. When they don’t feel safe is when they act out. They need to know the adult standing in front of them is going to

  • Protect them in the moment
  • Keep them safe—physically and emotionally
  • Is going to be fair to them

To help the child of divorce, I use the Safekeeper concept, or the Safekeeper talk as I call it. Dr. Becky Bailey designed this simple technique, and I have used it with hundreds of children.

I’m a Safekeeper. My job is to keep you safe. Know what your job is? Your job is to help me keep things safe.

It is simple and to the point, draws children into the conversation, and gives them some responsibility.

The Safekeeper talk is a good example of something that needs to be practiced. If you stumble around with your words, the kids in your group will not comprehend the philosophy behind it, and that is to be safe.

I encourage everyone who works with children with behavioral issues to practice the Safekeeper talk. Write this conversation down on a card, and practice it over and over until the words flow out of you without a hint of hesitation.

Don’t try to get philosophical or scriptural with this phrase. Keep it simple. Almost every discipline situation fits into the Safekeeper concept. Once you have it down, then when you come to a discipline situation, all you need to add is what the child is doing. Here are some examples.

  • A child running: Whoa there, kid! I’m the Safekeeper, and my job is to keep you safe. What could do with those feet that would be safe?
  • A child talking during large group: Gabe, I’m the Safekeeper, and my job is to keep things safe. Talking when it’s someone’s turn is not safe. What could you do that would be safe?
  • A child standing on a chair: Shannon, I’m the Safekeeper, and my job is to keep things safe. Standing on a chair is not safe. What could you do that would be safe?

With the Safekeeper talk, children are not in trouble. You want to help children do what they are supposed to be doing. A lot of children are in trouble all the time. Perhaps it has become the pattern in their brain. Perhaps they get a lot of attention with their negative behavior. Whatever the reason, we want to help them.

Children who have experienced trauma, such as divorce, for the most part, live in survival mode. They don’t feel safe, so they can’t access the upper level of the brain where they can learn and retain information.

John Indermark, in Turn Toward Promise (Upper Room Books), explains safety in the following statement:

“In order to feel safe, in order to experience security, you must be able to trust in something or someone greater than yourself, greater than your fears.”

Can you understand that many of these kids simply don’t trust adults? Because of things that have happened to them, their trust levels have been shattered.

As Safekeepers, we have to help them feel safe, so they can trust again. We must help them feel safe, so they can develop a relationship with the heavenly Father and trust in Christ: “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Ps. 4:8).


The Safekeeper idea is adapted from Dr. Becky Bailey,, 800-842-2846.

This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on September 10, 2014.

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8 thoughts on “One simple technique that changes how you discipline kids of divorce, the Safekeeper concept!

  1. Great article Linda ~ thank you. Since children are literal thinkers, I can just hear one of my little guys asking how talking out of turn is not safe. How would I answer that?

    • Good question Sylvia. You can expand the safety concept to include everyone being safe. You can say, “Sometimes when you talk when someone else is talking, it makes them feel unsafe.” Or you can say something like, “When some people talk out of turn they are loud and that feels unsafe to others around him.” Craft your conversation specifically to this little boy. If you say, “Talking out of turn is not safe. What could you do that would be safe?” usually doesn’t lend itself to a child questioning it …. but then there is always one right? 🙂

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  3. Great idea!! I just shared this to my KidMin group. I think this really holds true and will work with ANY child that has trust issues. Thanks, Linda!!!

    • Thanks Maribel. Yes, I agree with you on the trust issues and really it works with any kid in crisis and trauma. Glad you shared with your group.

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