Time-Tested Strategies for Dealing with Challenging Behavior

  • Be the kind of person you want your campers to become - obey the rules yourself!
  • Know as many campers as possible by name. Know something about them. Build relationships.
  • Be friendly. Always show interest in what individual campers are doing and their progress.
  • "One pat on the back is worth two slaps in the face." Praise good qualities and actions.
  • A sense of humor is extremely valuable. Use it frequently.
  • Maintain your poise at all times. Don't let campers "get to you."
  • Don't take misbehavior personally. It is a choice the camper is making.
  • Every child has needs; his behavior will give you clues as to what those needs are.
  • Keep in mind that misbehavior is seldom willful. Try to find the cause.
  • Try to see the camper's side of the situation. Discuss it with him/her until you understand.
  • Distract, distract, distract! One of the best methods to control behavior is to keep them busy!
  • Show your disapproval of behavior through your speech, facial expressions, and actions.
  • Being close when you note a potential problem can keep it from actually occurring.
  • Enlist other leaders (peers or staff) to provide role models.
  • Allow natural consequences to occur if the results are not to severe.
  • Withholding privileges or taking away something a camper likes is usually effective.
  • Sending a child to "timeout" allows them time to cool down and think about behavior change.
  • Have a group meeting to discuss and resolve generalized problems.
  • Remain with your campers during meals and free time.
  • Avoid getting campers over-tired, keyed-up, or tense.
  • Be willing to admit when you're wrong and ask for forgiveness.

Reprinted from The Complete Resource Pack , published by the American Camp Association. To order, call 800-428-2267.

Originally published in the 2000 May/June of Camping Magazine.

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