Helping kids regroup from the behaviors picked up at camp

>>Do you have any advice for doing “damage control” after camp/preschool etc? After being home with me all year my kids had a fantastic summer at an amazing camp- but several weeks later I’m still trying to remedy the things they picked up there- name-calling, saying hurtful things to each other, as well as more tantrums and less listening, etc. Camp was great but is it worth it??<<

I so much understand this question!

The first time we encountered this phenomenon was when my oldest went to sleep away camp for three weeks when he was 12.  Camp was a wonderful experience for him but it took three more weeks at home until he returned to his pleasant and relaxed self.  The week he came back was the first and only time I ever heard a curse word from the mouth of any of our children.  He was much less pleasant to be around; it was like he forgot how to get along with everyone during the time he was away.

I’ve experienced this several times since then.  It’s a direct result of kids spending a disproportionate amount of time with their peers.  The behavioral changes reflect the increased attachment toward their peers and the diminished attachment to you and your values.  Camp and school both can lead to this dynamic, but so can long vacation days at home if your child is playing with friends all day long.

At the beginning of this summer, I set boundaries to proactively address this, and set a limit of four hours a day my kids could play with friends – 11 – 1 and 4 – 6 pm.  I purposely didn’t let them play for four solid hours with friends since the break in between was helpful in them reconnecting to me at home.  Even so, this was sometimes too much for one child and my older kids kept commenting how nice it would be when we get back to our less peer oriented year round schedule.  They’re quick to notice the signs of peer dependence sneaking in!

Time, connection and reasserting boundaries is the answer to this.  Your kids need to detox and they need your support and love while they slowly discard the behaviors and speech that they picked up while at camp.  Spend as much time in a relaxed and enjoyable way together and try to really enjoy each other.

Then when you see certain behaviors crop up, address them from a place of love and strength.  Be clear about what kind of speech and actions create the home environment that you want to have.  If you hear someone speaking or acting in a way that isn’t in line with that, gently but firmly help them correct the behavior.  (I’ve written at more length about how to establish and enforce boundaries but it’s been a while and you’ll have to search the archives for it.)

An example of something I do with my kids is have them repeat what they wanted to express in an appropriate way.  If someone says something like, “You’re so stupid, why are you always bothering me?” one thing you can do is:

A) Reflect back the feeling – ‘you sound frustrated’, ‘it’s hard to have people using your things without permission’.

B) Then move directly into modeling how they can better express that – “A nicer way to express that would be, ‘Please don’t touch my things without my permission.'”  Then have them replay the scenario using the words you modeled for them.  You can do something similar with physical misbehavior.

Then keep doing that for years :) and one day you’ll enjoy the benefits!


8 thoughts on “Helping kids regroup from the behaviors picked up at camp

  1. i don’t actually intend for this to get past moderation, so don’t worry.

    it is so typical of you homeschooling, control-freak, “i know better than all the professionals, medical and otherwise, because i use the internet” types to corral your kids and limit their interaction with peers because it diminishes your control over their environment. well- how about living somewhere where the majority of peers are worthy of your approval? your kids don’t live in a vacuum, and eventually will leave the house and become independent- how about not making them into misfits??

    i’m not sure how aware you are of this, but you seem to live in somewhat-charedi israel. that means your kids will bez”H need shidduchim. with other families. who are not copies of yours, because those don’t exist. you homeschool them and then they don’t do well in israeli society except maarava/nehora/wherever your son goes- which is only putting off the problem. plus, if he’s the frummest one in his class, of course you don’t want him spending extensive amounts of time with his peers- they’re slackers! and your daughter had to switch to american sem, because- shocker- she isn’t integrated in the society in which you live (yes, i know you’re recent olim. making aliyah with school-age kids is basically a grave one digs for oneself so my sympathy is limited). there’s no “somewhat-charedi” here, because “charedi” generally means “listens to gedolei hador” or at least “nominally does, and hangs out with people who do”. so one’s options are relatively limited.

    you don’t know me. i grew up YU-modern-young israel type and now live in an anglo community in charedi jerusalem. i obviously have my issues with the system. i still keep my smartphone because i am addicted to it, even though i know i’m not supposed to. i have one baby (born here, BH), so haven’t dealt with the school system yet, but he is in full-day maon because i work to support my learning husband (who also works part-time. i mainly work full-time because i want to and always did). but we hear about the local chadarim and bais yaakovs, and we hear that people are generally very happy with them but of course you make concessions in the name of living in greater israeli society. by way of one stupid example- there is much too much junk food circulating in cheder- pekelach, cake, etc. we don’t love it, but we’re not going to homeschool over it. so it makes the kids like school. great.

    in summary, to end my rant, good luck with the next phase of child-rearing, because you seem to be on the cusp of it and your kids are figuring out that they stick out. and no one likes sticking out. and, especially in israel, sticking out is bad news. but of course you know better. really, best of luck to you.

    1. TG, it seems that something I wrote has triggered a lot of emotion for you and I’m sorry for whatever is happening for you that you’re feeling so much anger.

      As the mother of ten children ranging all the way to age 21, I’m aware that one day my children will need shidduchim. Hashem has a match for every person and my children aren’t less worthy of meeting their soulmates than anyone else because they were homeschooled. Looking for families that are carbon copies of mine isn’t my agenda; it would be impossible for any one to find a family just like theirs regardless of how they educate their children.

      I’m not going to go through each point one by one simply because I’ve written enough about each topic at length that there’s nothing I can add in a comment that will add clarity. A person will believe what they want to believe.

      I blog to share my thoughts, not to tell anyone else how to live their lives. If your life is working well for you and you’re happy, keep doing what you’re doing!! If you find something of value here, please keep reading. If my approach to living doesn’t resonate with you, move on to a blog that does – it’s not as if there aren’t loads of blogs out there.

      With Hashem’s loving grace, our children have done well and far from feeling I’ve dug my own grave by choosing to live here, I feel very blessed and thank Hashem that He granted me the merit to raise my children here.

      With Rosh Hashana just a couple of weeks away, I send you my warmest wishes that your coming year is filled with all the blessings that you want or need in your life.

    2. TG, has it occurred to you that you describe the very roots of your frustration and anger and it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with someone else’s preference for homeschooling: you are from a MO YU background and are now living as a kollel wife in some anglo-israeli hareidistan which imposes an absurd degree of cultural and intellectual conformity upon you (Ramat BS?). The life you see laid out in front of you is not really the one you want for yourself or your kids. It’s probably a good thing you have realized this while you child is a toddler and you can change course. So good luck with that.

      In any event, Avivah, I enjoy your blog despite the fact that I am not on the same page as homeschoolers for various reasons (not least that if I had to work full time as my ASD son’s teachers and therapists I would probably end up homicidal) , but until now I wasn’t aware that other kids were ‘toxic’ from the HS perspective. I also think you are over-explaining this in terms of ‘attachment’ to parents vs peers. Kids in camp model behaviors that are accepted and ‘successful’ there and translating them to home. You point out correctly that you need to model what you consider acceptable alternatives in their place. No elaborate attachment theory necessary.

      1. MJ, thank you for your comment and giving me the opportunity to clarify.

        The phrase ‘detox’ was used to refer to a concept that people are familiar with, of rebalancing whenever you’ve had more of something than is beneficial to you. I don’t believe I’ve ever said that kids are ‘toxic’ to other children. My comments weren’t a general homeschooling position but a reflection of my understanding of child development.

        The brief comments I made were referencing up a very extensive and detailed thesis by famed psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld on peer dependence, which explains the phenomenon referenced above in depth. Some parents find it helpful to understand the roots of the behavior rather than simply addressing the behaviors; others, like yourself, find it enough to just know what to do. I personally like to understand the ‘why’ and not just the ‘how’, so naturally that’s how I write. :)

  2. sigh. i deserved all that. i’m sorry i lashed out- it was impulsive and not very nice. your assessments of me happen to be completely incorrect, but it is of no consequence to anyone. i ask mechila from anyone i may have offended, though i sort of doubt i managed to actually offend anyone.

    כתיבה וחתימה טובה

    1. TG, I appreciate your general request for mechila and am taken aback that you don’t think you might have hurt someone by what you wrote. What you wrote was quite offensive and my family members who saw what you wrote were shocked that someone could or would say things like that.

      You said you are charedi and supporting a husband in kollel, so I assume Torah values are primary to your life. May I gently ask you to consider what you wrote and if the manner in which you expressed yourself here is reflective of those values?

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