February 13, 2014
**This is a continuation of our Counselor Skills Series, where we share some of the specific training we do with our counselors to make sure that your children enjoy the benefit of getting to know exceptional role models while at camp. You can find the other articles in this series here: Homesickness, Confidence, and The First 48 Hours.
The first priorities at camp are always to encourage the growth of our campers and make sure that they are having as much fun as possible, so discipline can be a tricky thing to handle. Most of our efforts at maintaining good behavior are directed at prevention. Counselors who use best practices are typically able to help limit misbehavior. These best practices include:
No matter how good the counselor, though, at some point in a three week term boundaries are going to be pushed, feelings are going to get hurt, and rules are going to be broken. Those things are a part of the process of growing up.
We want to share our process for training our counselors how to address these situations, so that you can be confident that they are being handled appropriately, whether or not your child is involved.
An unskilled young adult who is overwhelmed by a difficult camper situation is most likely to rely on the use of size and authority to wield punitive discipline. Therefore, the first thing we do is to name this crutch and tell our counselors that they are better than that.
At Camp Champions, discipline is not something that we do TO a child, it is something we do FOR a child. It is the process by which we teach campers better alternative behaviors to the ones that got them into a fight, argument, or other negative situation.
The most important starting point is to understand why children misbehave in the first place. There are two primary reasons.
The first is a skills deficit—the camper simply has not yet learned the best way to handle a challenging social situation. This makes sense when we consider that we cannot expect an 8-year old to show the same level of social dexterity that an 18-year old does, or that a 38-year old does. It is our job to help them develop the skill that we would like for them to show.
The second reason for misbehavior is that one of the camper’s needs is not being met. Maybe they are tired, hungry, or dehydrated. Maybe they are feeling left out by their friends. Maybe they are not feeling enough recognition or affection from the counselor, who has been called to help with something else. To be clear, our daily systems are built to proactively meet these needs, but what if a camper doesn’t sleep well one night? The counselor must be attuned to recognizing these needs so that the root cause of a misbehavior can be understood.
The implication of these two causes of misbehavior is that the responsibility for misbehavior lies just as much with the counselor as it does with the camper. Most of the time, the child has made a mistake because we have yet to teach him or her an applicable skill or because we have overlooked a need that is not being met. We want to teach the camper to take responsibility for his or her actions, but we must stop short of becoming upset at a camper for making a mistake.
It is easy to blame two campers who are fighting for not being able to control themselves, but we expect our counselors not to take the easy way out. We expect them to recognize the skills deficit or the need, and to take responsibility for teaching the campers a better way to get what they want.
The best way to teach, it turns out, is to start by asking questions. Click here for Part 2 (coming out next week). Also, if you would like to learn more about what we can do to help our children succeed (or not do), please click the link to the video below.
* We believe that the way we train our counselors is among the best in the country. We are writing this blog series to share parts of what we teach during our 12-day orientation, so that you can feel secure in trusting your child to the supervision of our counselor role models.
See the full series here: Counselor Training Series