What Can Camps Do To Deal With Bullying?

Prevention

Before bullying even occurs, camps should have prevention programs implemented within the cabins and the camp.  A successful camp environment occurs when directors and counselors set an appropriate and positive tone, give and get respect, build relationships by connecting with campers and set clear rules and expectations for behaviour.

“The key to preventing violence lies in shaping children’s beliefs, attitudes and behaviors before violence becomes an automatic manifestation of their anger.”
Carole Remboldt, Educational Leadership, Sept. 1998

Prevention Strategies Include the Following….

  • Take the time to build a positive relationship with the child who bullies.  This type of relationship building is an experience that builds trust between the child and the counsellor.  Bullying is less likely to occur at camp if campers and counselors feel connected and responsible for each other.  Positive relationships also empower campers to report bullying, get help and voice concerns.
  • Teaching of non-violent, non-racist and non-sexist ideas, values and behaviours as a core part of the everyday curriculum.  Help children understand and appreciate cultural and gender differences (i.e. have a culture day, where each child brings in an item or food representing where they come from).
  • Teach social skills, including communication, making friends, accepting feedback from others, conflict resolution, appropriate assertiveness and problem-solving (This can be done by arranging opportunities for children to participate in different helpful activities with peers, while providing support and positive attention for these actions.).
  • Provide an environment where there are a variety of opportunities for children to succeed.
  • Modelling by the counsellors of positive, respectful and supportive behaviour by the counsellor toward campers and other staff.  It is important for counsellors to think about their own attitudes to children who are bullies and victims.  Children can sense whether or not an adult is supportive.
  • Using co-operative learning groups to include less popular, more timid children in small, positive and accepting social groups.  Group play encourages cooperation, sharing and negotiation.  Teach bullies empathy, victims confidence and bystanders can learn to team up to say “stop” or be a buddy or tell a teacher.
  • Better supervision during free time, at dining tables and in bathrooms by adults (this feels like more work at first, but if it is continued and is consistent, it will pay off in the end and improve the overall camp climate).
  • Understanding campers with special needs- their abilities and limitations and helping other campers understand their needs, helps improve sensitivity and decreases chances of bullying.
  • Ask older and more experienced campers to help new and younger campers.  By enlisting their help, they will be less likely to pick on these more vulnerable groups.
  • Generous praise for pro-social and helpful behaviour by campers.
  • Specific camp and cabin rules against bullying.
  • Cabin meetings about bullying.
  • Improve communication among counsellors, directors, parents and campers
  • Listen respectfully to bullying concerns raised by campers, parents and camp staff.  Support victims and give them a sense that they are being protected.  Avoid blame and focus on problem-solving.
  • Avoid sex-role stereotyping (e.g. males need to be strong and tough).  Foster friendship between girls and boys whenever possible.
  • Avoid emphasis on competitiveness at camp.  Use outdoor time as a way to foster cooperation and friendship.  Avoid competitive games.
  • Enlist cabinmates to help the victims and include them in group activities (praise when this is done).
As a Parenting Educator and Family Therapist, Susan Lieberman has spent almost 15 years helping kids, teens and adults meet success. For more information please visit www.familysupport.net for helpful downloads and other proven resources!
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