What you focus on, you get more of – think discipline!


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I facilitate a DC4K, DivorceCare for Kids, group at my church. We have 14 kids registered. Some of the kids are already in step family situations. Some have half siblings. Some live with a grandparent, and all have experienced either a divorce or a separation of their birth parents.

We have children from kindergarten through fifth grade in our group. Mixed ages work well when you have children who have experienced a family crisis or trauma.

Some of the children in our group have had out-of-control behaviors, problems at school, and issues with anger. These are typical behaviors for children whose parents have divorced. These are also typical of many kids in step/blended families.

However, you won’t see these issues in our group. Allow me to explain why. You see, I expect the best behavior out of these kids. I focus on how I want the kids to act and how they should behave. I set the expectations and standards early on, like the minute they walk into our room.

Entering the group

  • When they walk in our room, they know the environment is set up for them. They can see we are prepared for them. The room says, “We are waiting for you!” This speaks volumes to hurting children.
  • They are given choices immediately. They can choose how they want to be greeted by pointing to the following icons – high five, fist bump, hug, handshake, or no touch (a circle with a slash through it). Choices empower a child. Choices gives children a sense of control over their out-of-control lives.
  • The next choice they can make is what station they want to go to – art, activity book, self-serve snack, or group project.

Circle time (A time to bring all the children together so they can learn about the week’s topic, hear the scripture for the week, watch a video, listen to a story and take part in discussions.)

  • They choose where they want to sit and whom they want to sit next to.
  • They can sign up to serve in the group and contribute to our DC4K family. This helps them feel like they belong.
  • The first night the group decides upon 2 or 3 rules. These are easy-to-remember rules. For instance, I wear hearing aids, so the first rule is, “Speak clearly because Miss Linda wears hearing aids and can’t hear very well.” The first night I pull the aids out of my ears and show them to the kids.
  • We go over the session schedule the first night. This way they know what comes next. It is posted every week in the same place.
  • Next comes the Safekeeper. We go over the Safekeeper talk the first few sessions.

Controlling behaviors (A time to help children develop internal controls that help them learn to control their external behaviors)

  • When I speak, I speak with authority and in a “this is the way it is voice.” My conversation leaves no doubt about what I expect.
  • I tell the kids what to do, not what not to do.
  • My conversations with them are sprinkled with humor and also with concern for them and their personal situation.
  • We are low key on various issues. For example, in our room we have stained glass windows. These windows have a low sill and the first night a ten year-old boy climbed onto the windowsill at circle time. I know he was expecting to get in trouble. I understand he has been in trouble a lot. I looked at him and thought to myself, “Now is there really any harm in him sitting in that windowsill?” Not being able to think of any harm I said, “Cool seat!”
  • The two windowsill seats are the favored seats.We haven’t asked the kids to take turns, nor do we get involved in who sits in the seats. It appears that the kids have determined that it is a first-come situation. To this date there has been no arguing or possessiveness over the seats. One time it might be a kindergartner sitting there; the next time it’s a fifth grader or second grader.
  • The adults in our group model cohesiveness. We work together as a team and the kids see this cooperation.
  • We have colorful written instructions everywhere. Some instructions have graphics and pictures also. There are instruction signs for the self-serve snack, the arts and crafts projects, the group projects, etc. The kids don’t have to be told what to do as they can read what to do. This allows them freedom to be in control.The older kids read the instructions and help the younger ones. We have created community and family within our little group.

We do not use time out, stickers, or rewards systems to control behaviors. We expect the kids to be in control. We focus on what we want more of, and we want happy and joyful kids learning and healing through the Lord and His Word.

We want self disciplined children, and we want them to begin their journey to discipleship through a love for Jesus Christ.


Children take pride in contributing to something greater than themselves. In our group they can sign up to help during the session but at the end of the evening everyone is expected to help clean up. And by clean up I mean

  • Take down the tables and put them in the storage closet
  • Fold the chairs and hang on the chair rack
  • Fold the colorful tablecloths that are sprinkled throughout the room
  • Roll the storage shelf back into the closet
  • Fold the blankets that are used to watch the videos and put them in the blanket tub
  • Push the tub of blankets back into the closet
  • Unplug the DVD/TV player and the CD player
  • Roll the DVD/TV player into the closet
  • Turn off the lamps
  • Pick up any trash

I wish I could take a video to show everyone how this DC4K family is coming together. Last week during our station time this is what I observed:

  • Two little girls at the “breaking bread” table laughing, eating, and talking. They were forming a friendship of the strongest type.
  • Two older kids at the project table doing a weaving project. They were concentrating so hard they were oblivious to the rest of the room.
  • Three children sitting at the activity book station working on the week’s activity pages sharing and laughing.
  • One lone kindergartener working his Scripture decoder. This little tyke was working so hard on decoding that Scripture that he was oblivious to the world around him.
  • Three kids working at the art project table making butterflies out of coffee filters.

Our song selector for the evening had music playing in the background. All was right with the world and these kids for the time being. I realize they had to go back out into their world and face many issues, but for now they had a reprieve from family dysfunction and stress.

What you focus on, you get more of, and we are focusing on giving these children the love of God and salvation through Jesus Christ. We are making disciples and creating self-disciplined children.


This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on November 7, 2014.

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