Bullying is always a hot topic when dealing with children. While no one promotes it, there are several different views on how it should be handled. The YMCA has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to bullying. But they are taking great steps in preventing it all together.
Before anyone can become a YMCA day camp counselor, they have to attend several training events. Over the course of seven years, I have attended roughly 105 hours of camp training. The topics of those trainings range from safety and first aid to crafts and games. Out of all of the hours of training I have attended, there is one seminar that has always stuck out in my mind. That training dealt with actively building friendships. The idea behind this training was friendships can begin anywhere, and as counselors, we could help those friendships along. This idea is something that has been in the back of mind since the day it was introduced to me. It’s something anyone who works with kids should think about.
How do you actively build a friendship?
It was explained to me like this. Say you see a kid sitting alone. Pick a multiplayer game, like Uno, and ask the child to play. Once you get the child engaged in the game, remember it is not about you, it’s about the child. If the child hits you with a draw four, make sure everyone in that room knows it. Be loud. Be obnoxious. Make a scene. You want to grab the attention of all of the children around you. You want them to think the kid you are playing with is cool. Sooner or later, kids will start to come over and watch you play. Deal those kids into your game. Now that you have other kids attention, STOP show boating. Be as quiet as possible. Once the game (or round) has ended make sure the game continues, but leave. Your job is over.
This doesn’t always work, but you would be surprised how often it does. I have seen so many friendships start over a game of cards. That training is one I know I will never forget. I’m amazed how often I have used this technique, not only at camp, but in my everyday life.
Give it a try next time you have the opportunity!