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Divide and Conquer: Strategies for Effective Behavior Management

Page history last edited by Keith Schoch 8 years, 6 months ago

The Divide and Conquer site was designed as the online companion piece for "Divide and Conquer: Structures and Strategies for Effective Behavior Management of Campers," which I presented at the 2009 TriState Camp Conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey. But it's also a terrific resource for anyone seeking strategies to manage children's behavior, whether at school, camp, sporting programs, scouting, or home.

Here you'll find links to the expanded session notes (with Word docs you can use in your own Orientation sessions), as well as online and print resources which I highly recommend for leadership staff and counselor reading. I've also offered a few hot tips for Orientation sessions which time did not allow in the live session.


If you need the handout from TriState, I've provided it here: 

Divide and Conquer Outline (email me if you need the answer key!).


Part Two: The Seven Goals of Children's Behavior 

What drives them to drive you crazy?

When caught in the act and asked, "Why did you do that?" a child will invariably respond, "I don't know." Gut response. Adults will respond in the same way. The truth is, however, that both children and adults are driven by goals. They act in order to meet a need.

So what goals campers are attempting to meet through their inappropriate behavior?

  1. Attention (Recognition):
  2. Children are naturally egocentric; they will act out when they feel that they are not being noticed by others. This is why it is so important that counselors know their campers' names immediately, and use them often.
  3. Physical Needs
  4. The earliest Salvation Army camps measured their success by the number of pounds each camper gained over their stay at the camp. It's unlikely now that camps need to assess themselves in that way, but are your counselors seeing to the biological needs of their campers? Campers who are overly dehydrated, fatigued, hot, or hungry will behave to meet these needs, and often that behavior is deemed "unacceptable." Allowing campers a drink, a snack, and some rest in the shade before hitting the softball field for an hour will increase the probability that they will participate appropriately.
  5. Power (Ownership, Control Over Own Choices)
  6. Anyone who read the novel Animal Farm recalls the frustration the animal felt when the rules on the wall would mysteriously change. Anyone who is denied a choice in how they're led is likely to revolt (just ask Thomas Jefferson). At camp, children need choices over foods, schedules, and activities, even if those choices are limited to two items.
  7. Affiliation (Belonging) A radio broadcast recently reported the increase in gangs along the Jersey shore. What's the draw for youth? Affiliation, a sense of belonging. A great way to increase affiliation at camp is through bunk pride. My own bunk, for example, was called Seven Seas. Each group within the Seven Seas had its own name: Swashbucklers, Marauders, Buccaneers, and Raiders. This theme served to unify the boys, and give them an instant sense of belonging. 
  8. Avoidance of Discomfort (Physical or Emotional) Children and adults will do anything to avoid embarrassment, and most will do nearly anything to avoid physical pain. Camp directors need to create an environment that stresses participation, yet prevents campers from physical and emotional harm. Since kids live at see-level (believing what they see rather than hear), counselors can promote healthy risk taking by participating outside of their own comfort zones.
  9. Security (Safety) Humans are naturally born with one fear. Can you name it? It's the fear of falling. All other fears, even fear of the dark, are acquired. Camp should be a place where, regardless of a child's individual phobias, the camper feels secure. 
  10. Immediate Gratification (often tied to one of the above) In my own work with inner-city youth, I know that success for them is often measured by who has the best car on the block. Owning a home or earning an education are not as important, since both of those require more planning and sacrifice. Camper's desire for what they want, now, without regard for the consequences to themselves or others, is what gets them into trouble.

How can camp help campers meet these goals in an acceptable way?

For greater insight into the internal and external conditions that affect behavior, have a look at these documents that you can use in your staff training:
External and Internal Conditions Ws



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