Behavior management is how we interact with campers (and CITs and sometimes even staff) to help them grow their decision-making skills and encourage desired behaviors. Our hope is that in every interaction you have with a camper, you are building your relationship and trust, encouraging kindness and good choices, and modeling and clarifying our expectations for behavior. At times though, in the heat of the summer at the end of a long day, it might feel like behavior management boils down to one question:
How can I get a camper to do what I want?
(A quick and dirty question to ask, especially when you’re tired or frustrated is ‘Why do I want them to do that?’)
The answer to this question starts well before a camper acts in a way that you’re wishing they weren’t. Here are our top five tips to help you successfully manage behavior.
- Establish connection and relationship. If you connect with your campers about who they are and what they like, they’ll be a lot more receptive to guidance from you. Ask them questions. Listen to the answers.
- Be clear. There are plenty of times behavior happens because the expectations aren’t clear. How did you phrase it?(“Do you want to…” or “would you like to…” are used all the time when it isn’t a question. “Do you want to stop running ahead?” isn’t a question since you aren’t open to a no answer.) Are there people (campers, CITs, or staff) that are modeling behavior that isn’t being addressed and is opposite of what you’re asking this child to do?
- Be consistent. Yes, different is just different, and every child doesn’t need to be treated exactly the same. That doesn’t mean letting things slide or bending rules is appropriate. Can you easily explain why one camper gets to but another doesn’t? (Maybe! If you can, then it might be justified. “Maria gets to catch that snake because she’s earned her Growth Rings and knows how to do it safely”). Being consistent includes staff. If campers aren’t allowed to sit on a water jug or jump off a high rock, then it would be good modeling to not do those things either. Being consistent means all staff are on the same page – no good cop, bad cop.
- Be positive. Encourage the behavior you’re looking for (“Ronny, thank you for being quiet and listening”). Tell kids what to do instead of what not to do (“Please walk here, it’s very slippery and is easy to fall” instead of “No running!”). Be aware of how many interactions you have with someone that are positive versus negative – if a camper is only talking to you when you’re asking them to change their behavior, they’ll quickly know what to expect when you walk up to them.
- Be a detective. All behavior is communication. What is the child trying to communicate with you? Are they hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? Are they bored or scared? They aren’t acting in a certain way for no reason. Take a pause and make a guess. Ask the child, “are you feeling nervous about playing a game you don’t know how to play?” or “what happened right before you hit Sammy? What happened right before that?”. Our goal is to help kids identify and label their feelings and then make better decisions about what to do when they feel that way.
Here are some of our favorite resources on Behavior Management:
- Quick Summary of Whole Brain Child
- Curbing Minor Behavior Issues
- Flipping Your Lid: A Scientific Explanation
- Name it to Tame it
- Connecting to Calm
- Educational Praise
- 10 Tips to Make Your Job Easier