June 25, 2010

Catching Kids Doing the Right Thing

Often, parents and teachers spend a lot of time focused on what they don’t want their child to be doing, instead of on what they do want them to be doing. At GAC, we train our counselors in positive behavior management techniques. Since staff training is fresh in my mind, I thought I’d share with camp parents three of the concepts we teach our counselors about working with kids.

“Catch Them Doing Something Right”
One key concept we focus on is “Catching them doing something right.” Instead of looking for what a camper is doing incorrectly, we focus immediately on what they are doing well. When kids realize that you will notice the good stuff they do, they are encouraged to do more of the desired, good behaviors. A side benefit is that other campers see that you notice good behavior and are encouraged to do the same. If most of the cabin group is doing something you don’t want them to be doing, it’s better to compliment and point out the kids who are doing what you like than to nag at the rest of them. So, instead of “Stop messing around and get your shoes on for breakfast,” a counselor might say, “Hey, great job getting your shoes on the first time I asked, Joe and Sam.” Everyone else hears your compliment and are encouraged to get moving (and perhaps listen the first time you ask next time)!
At home, my favorite example of this is “Great job having your napkin in your lap, Owen.” By complimenting one child, the rest are immediately reminded to do what you complimented on.

Refrain from using “Don’t” and “No”
In phrasing rules and instructions at GAC, we refrain from using “don’t” and “no” whenever possible. Whatever follows “don’t” or “no” is something we don’t want campers to be doing and is often the only part of the sentence they hear. It’s much more effective to let campers know what we DO want them doing. On a ski boat, our instructors will say, “Keep your hands inside the boat,” instead of “Don’t put your hand outside the boat.”

The 80-20 Rule
When discussing an inappropriate or negative behavior with a camper, we train our counselors in the 80-20 rule. Our counselors know that in a conversation with a camper about a behavioral issue, it’s best to do only 20% of the talking. The camper, in turn, does 80% of the talking while the counselor listens. We want campers to figure out the impact their behavior had on others and determine their own plan for improvement. So, we ask open-ended questions, such as:
“How do you think your language affects the other kids in our group?”
“How would you feel if someone called you that name?”
“What can you do differently next time when you’re angry?”
When the camper thinks through and comes up with their own improvement plan, they have ownership in it and are much more likely to be successful. Plus, the counselor can then compliment them on their great idea for improvement and the conversation can have a positive tone and focus.

These are just a few of the many techniques we train our counselors to utilize at camp. I think they can be extremely helpful for parents to use at home, too!

No comments:

Post a Comment