Did you know that participation in performing arts classes can help your child improve self-confidence, study skills, and overall health? Learning to dance or act requires focus, determination, practice, and patience, all needed for a successful school year. LINX specializes in award winning Theater and Dance classes for all ages, with the goal of fun and learning. The physical activity, team or cast environment, and focus on technical training found in both theater and dance classes help your child take on academic and social challenges in school. Most importantly, children gain these benefits while doing something they love!
LINX Theater offers a wide variety of voice and theater classes for children 3 years to 12th grade. Participation in a theater class can help your child develop the ability to be heard, to give comfort through laughter, and to feel confident in difficult situations. Our Theater Director, Todd Morse, is confident in the benefits, “It is our mission at LINX Theater to create a strong foundation of creativity and self-confidence in all our players so that, no matter what schooling or occupation they pursue, they can always draw on these roots and stand out from the crowd.”
LINX Dance classes involve aerobic activity along with mental focus to learn dance routines. This kind of activity helps improve both physical and mental fitness. LINX Dance classes include ballet, hip-hop, breakdancing, tap, lyrical, jazz, acro tumbling and more. With the help of highly qualified dance instructors, children in preschool through high school are inspired to reach their individual potential. Our Dance Director, Heather Emley, says, “We take pride in providing strong technical classes while creating a fun and encouraging environment for all dancers.”
Theater and Dance classes for all ages are professionally taught and take place at LINX headquarters in Wellesley, MA. Theater classes have the benefit of an extensive collection of costumes, props, scenery, stage sets, and use of LINX’s own Black Box Theater. Dance classes take place in the state of the art dance studios, enhanced with Marley sprung floors to help prevent harsh injuries and repeated collisions.
Day camps are a wonderful option for parents who are uncertain of their child’s readiness (or their own) for the responsibilities and separation of attending a sleepaway camp. By providing an environment rich in the same experiences, day camps can be a quality stress-free alternative for many parents. When I think back on my own experience as an 8 year old attending a 5-week sleepaway camp, I remember the fun I had learning to swim, playing camp games, watching ceremonies, and making new friends. As an adult now, it is clear to me that my mom was the one who wasn’t ready, and her emotions made her do some silly and irrational things to compensate. I heard about how she would “camp out” for an hour or two in her car next to the main building at night just to be nearby. I also heard about the drive she made to the camp one evening because she wanted to make sure I had enough medicine. In looking down at the car’s speedometer, she was shocked to find that she was driving 90 mph to a camp that was only a few miles away! In this case, it’s pretty clear my mom was not ready, and could have benefited from finding a day camp with the same benefits as a sleepaway camp.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Josh Schiering, LINX Vice President and Executive Director, about how LINX Camps is like a sleepover camp but without the overnight stay. He was overflowing with enthusiasm and information, and I’d like to share with you some important points from our conversation:
Josh: We are similar in the way we approach community building. We have camp rituals on a weekly basis that are entrenched in camp history, like coming together for opening and closing ceremonies, focusing on team spirit, having traditional camp sing-alongs, and participating in competitions. We have our own vocabulary that is specific to us and becomes part of our culture. We also have camp-wide special events every Friday to unite the whole camp in a common theme, like the Olympics.
The trend today is for families to seek out specialty camps for their kids, like sports, science, and dance, so children can pursue their passions and interests under the guidance of expert instruction. We are able to do this without losing sight of building a sense of familiarity and family. We offer 1-week sessions with over 40 premier camps, and most kids enroll in 6 to 10 weeks of the summer. They are able to go from one type of camp to the next while staying at LINX Camps with all the things that are familiar to them. Regardless of the program chosen, they still have the common bond and routine.
I have learned from my own life experiences at sleepaway camp, and we’ve infused a lot of the same qualities into our day camp experience, which is why I suspect our campers stay with us until they’re much older. Typically you see a lot of 5th and 6th grade kids launching into sleepaway camp, but I think because LINX Camps does such an outstanding job of creating that sense of family, tradition, rituals and belonging that we are able to retain our campers much longer than the norm or the industry standard. We had many kids who were 5th through 8th graders that are now 9th and 10th grade CITs (Counselor in Training).
A lot of kids only get to experience a level of teamwork and unity when they do high school sports. We actually hire a lot of former captains and coaches to work with our groups to bring that communal team-oriented spirit and energy into our camp groups as young as 3 and 4 year olds and up through the high school level. Campers rally around that sense of team, sportsmanship and unity. They have a terrific sense of pride in their specific groups. It’s very positive in nature. It’s never at the expense of another group; there is no putting down of another group. You can always be the best you can be without knocking down your peers, and that is part of our good sportsmanship lessons and what we teach our campers.
We have learned from our life experiences that children thrive in a structured setting with predictability. So knowing a schedule in advance is a comfort for the kids. They need to know what they will be doing for first and second period, when they will break for lunch, and how much time they have left for swimming, etc. So yes, we have a structured and prescheduled day. All that being said, it’s not regimented to the point that there is any stress built around anything. While we maintain a schedule, all children get to their activity with a lot of chanting and cheering. It isn’t a high-pressured environment in which anyone feels pressured because of a schedule. All the chanting and cheering helps with keeping them motivated to get from one activity to the next.
There are countless teachable moments in all of our life experiences and all of what we do, whether at school, on the playground, during sports, and most certainly, at day camp. Kids do have the opportunity at our camp to make friend requests to be grouped together, but many kids come from all over (we serve almost 20 different townships) and don’t know with whom they’re going to be grouped. So kids learn how to get along, be a teammate, be a good sport, put themselves out there, take chances, be a good friend, and lift someone up. We have an expression we use at camp, “no put downs, only lift ups.” While they’re not sleeping in the same bunkhouse together, they are put together in groups of 8 to 10 kids per group from all over the place. This makes it a great opportunity to appreciate and respect one another’s differences, talents and abilities, and to learn how to work together in conflict resolution, problem solving and independent thinking. We work really hard to get these elements into everything that these kids are doing. We steer them in a way to solve their own conflicts and their own problems.
But first and foremost, we peel it all the way back and really build a support network. The relationships that our counselors build with each group and each individual are built on trust, and the campers learn very quickly that these adults in their lives - their counselors - are there for them. Kids learn to make choices. Within our freedom camp, kids are presented with options every afternoon of what they want to do as their specialty. So they can act independently and pursue their own interests, go with the flow, or team up with a friend. They push themselves in swimming to get to the next level, learn how to handle frustration if they fail at something, and pick themselves up because there is no failing, only stumbling. They learn that we get up every time we fall. There are a ton of life lessons and learning that goes on everyday in a day camp setting.
It is important for kids to have family time and recharge their batteries at the end of an exciting camp day. Kids want to talk to their parents and siblings about who is going to win the sprit competition, what color Olympic team they are on, or what they are looking forward to the next day. Getting that time at home with parents and siblings is something terrific.
Obviously many kids graduate to sleepaway camp and it’s a great experience for them to explore their own individuality and learn a level of independence. But not every kid is ready for sleepaway camp at a young age and it’s not for every family. To have day camps such as ours that create and combine that sense of unity and togetherness with a traditional camp experience, while you still get to go home and have that family time, I think, is terrific.
If you like the idea of overnight camp because of the activities and traditional experiences they offer, but are unsure about enrolling your child in one, feel free give us a call to schedule your own private tour of LINX Camps. You’ll see first hand why we are an outstanding day camp choice with many traditional qualities for your family to enjoy for years to come.
More than 2 kids in the family mean you’ve mastered the art of multitasking with a baby in the house. You know what I mean…brushed your toddler’s hair with one hand while reading a board book to their brother to keep him from swiping the baby’s binky. All this while making a mental note to take the burgers out of the freezer before the meltdown hour.
The good news is, you don’t have to serve burger style meals every day. Here are some time-saving tips to give you more time to make healthier, more interesting meals when time isn’t your friend.
The key to success is planning your main dishes for the week. Knowing what you will be serving not only takes the pressure off at the grocery store, but ensures you have all the ingredients in the house when you need them. Eatingwell.com is a great resource for healthy kid friendly meals and snacks. Easy healthy meals are ones that don’t involve too many steps and pans, or the dreaded well preserved pastry dough the prepared foods industry wants to sneak into our diet.
It’s easy and quick to store a recipe you found online for later if you have an app that lets you download a recipe, categorize it, and add your own notes. If you know the recipe you need is on your phone, you won’t have to flip through tons of books or online searches. You can just get started. A good example of an app like this is Paprika, which even downloads the photo of the dish (or you can proudly upload your own pic of the one you made yourself).
You may not have a sous chef, but you can still move like Bobby Flay in the kitchen, with all the ingredients magically at your fingertips, if you do your chopping of veggies earlier in the day. It’s so much easier and quicker to follow a recipe when all the chopping is done. Just put chopped ingredients (onions, garlic, carrots, parsley, etc.) in separate bags in the fridge. If you buy extra chicken, put the extra cut up portions in the freezer to save even more time the following week.
Get the tools you need, plan your short cuts, and share new ones you learn along the way! Happy cooking!
Are your kids interested in listening to their own inner chef? Check out Cupcake Battles Camp for 2nd – 8th grade.
As I prepared the school lunches every night (back when my kids were little) I sometimes wondered at what age I should stop writing silly messages and faces on the napkin. If there was a banana in the mix, sometimes even that sported a face. It wasn’t just any napkin though, it faithfully carried a message from mom: a silly face or just the words “I love you.” Sometimes they shared the napkin with their friends and had a laugh. They could always count on the napkin, neatly tucked into each brown paper bag stuffed with sandwich, fruit, healthy snack, juice box and desert…and it made us all feel great.
As my first-born entered 2nd grade however, I sadly learned it was about time I treated her like a big kid. She sweetly told me to stop writing on her napkin. I felt a twinge of heartache of course, but she had my full cooperation. At around 5th grade, I let her make her own lunches with the selections we had in the house, and she did a great job. Of course, in doing this, she realized she had a little less free time, and I would hear how much she LOVED and MISSED my lunches! This made me smile, and I still had to make the lunches for her brother and sister, who still loved the napkin. But, as time went on, even the “baby” didn’t need the napkin anymore.
The kids kept getting bigger, so I looked for more ways to make the small things special. Little unexpected things mean a lot more than anything you can buy, like watching a half hour TV show with them, even though you both know it’s not your favorite. It shows you value the time you spend together. If someone is feeling down, a surprise cup of hot chocolate, maybe even before dinner, will let him or her know you care about whatever it is, even if they don’t want to talk about it yet. It’s the little things they are going to remember.
A lot of time has passed and that 2nd grader is now a college student. As she moves into her dorm and unpacks her sheets and finds candy kisses freely falling out of the folds, or grabs for her shower caddy and finds a Reese’s peanut butter cup under the shampoo…. I know she is still getting the same faithful and timeless message from Mom.
Looking for ways to spend special time with your little one? Check out our Fall Family Music Makers Class!
June 21, 2017
When working in the theater, I have always been known for being a part of everything; main stage shows, black box shows, acting, tech, directing, producing… Every element is challenging and rewarding for its own reasons - but some of the purest fun is in the fringe programs. Improv troupes, sketch troupes and mystery theater. These are the daring groups and some of the most experimental. They are also the fastest way to develop creativity and confidence - the bedrock of LINX Theater.
Troupes like LINX’s Mad Hatters and Mystery do just this. Mad Hatters is for the bold. As an improv troupe, there is no script. Players learn to live by their wits. They learn to trust their instincts and move fast. They also learn to rely on one another. They build confidence as a team, learning each other’s habits and turning it into comedy gold. Mystery Theater is incredibly unique since the show happens in multiple rooms at once. It is half scripted and half improvised. Imagine walking around a giant board game of Clue. You walk into one room, you witness one clue. Your friend in another, learned something different. The actors learn the control they have over the audience, leading them toward, or away, from the solution to the show.
I love every moment of a scripted show, but there is something unique about a show that throws the script away; in which actors leap into the abyss with only their wits as a parachute. These are the extreme forms of theater. Instead of the X-Games, they are the X-Shows. The actors thrive outside the norm and explore the fringe.
Explore the fun and challenge of acting on the fringe in Improv Troupe’s Mad Hatters or Mystery Theater Class.
As the father of three daughters (7th, 5th and 3rd grade), I want to make sure I raise them to value equality: equality at home, in school and in the workplace. I want my girls to think beyond the borders portrayed in books, on tv, in schools and in life. My girls will understand that the only limits they have, are the limits they set on themselves!
Kids love and relate to the characters on the TV shows we let them watch, so why not create a fun outdoor game based on their own imagination and their favorite characters? With a little help from you, there can be a fun one on one game for you and your preschooler to enjoy and remember for a long time!
All you need is sidewalk chalk, water balloons, and imagination!!
There is nothing better than laughing and remembering these times with your kids. My kids (cough, cough, oldest 21) still remember me being the “traffic-guard-fast food-drive through-cashier” in our driveway as they rode their tricycles and scooters in circles around me. In fact, they would request this game whenever it looked like “mom was in the mood for a game!” I have great memories, and I know this is sure to be a splash for you!
Have you decided where your kids will be enjoying camp this summer? Maybe you’ve already attended a local camp fair and still have lots of questions, but one thing’s for sure: you want the camp that best fits YOUR family’s needs. At LINX Camps, we’ve anticipated your questions, and the answer is our award-winning camps (age 3 – 10th grade) for the best summer ever!
We have it covered:
Things to consider no matter what camp you choose
It’s important to get a feeling for the camp. Is the staff happy to see or hear from you? We partner with parents by making an effort to teach respect and kindness, and this will shine through when you converse with our staff. Listen to your instincts when you visit any camp or make a phone call. No matter how you contact the camp, pay attention to the way you’re treated. If you feel rushed or can’t seem to get answers, then it’s probably not the best choice for your family. A good camp representative will always make time for you and treat you with the respect you deserve.
Staff and the right camper to counselor ratio is important for a positive experience, especially for young, first-time campers. You want to know that the staff is nurturing and patient. Our 5:1 camper to counselor ratio means your child gets the guidance they require from an experienced and caring professional
Integrity and teamwork – You want to know that your child will be part of a team environment where failure IS an option. When the focus is fun and learning, and not competence or failure, the child is free to learn, take risks, and grow at a faster pace.
LINX’s anti-bullying policy and inclusive environment enable your child to confidently try new activities, take part in the traditional opening and closing ceremonies, and camp-wide games.
Our team completes CORI (Criminal Offender Registry Information) and SORI (Sex Offender Record Information) background checks for every adult leader or volunteer. This is a requirement, enforced by the local Board of Health, of all staff and volunteers who will be in contact with campers.
All food provided by LINX Camps is peanut and nut safe.
Instructor competence is a requirement. If you have your eye on a specialty camp (Sports, Science, Art, Theater, Dance, and more), you can be sure an expert in the field leads it.
LINX staff members will take your call anytime, and feel free to drop in and see your child at camp whenever you wish! We have complete open communication between parent/caregiver and camp staff.
Your camp choice will define the camp experience for your child, and their experience will show in their self-confidence, increased independence, friendships, and willingness to try new things.
Schedule a LINX Camps Tour, register for summer 2018 or chat with us at 781-235-3210.
One of the best things we can do for our kids this summer is to enroll them in fun activities to explore something new or build on something they already love. A quality summer camp will do all this plus provide an education in character development, creating a meaningful life experience for your child.
LINX Camps’ VP and Executive Director Josh Schiering has always been a strong believer in character development at camp by teaching traditional values and building a strong sense of individuality as kids learn how to function and work in a group setting. “Kids learn how to get along, be a teammate, be a good sport, put themselves out there, take chances, be a good friend, and lift someone up. We have an expression we use at camp: 'no put-downs, only lift ups'."
Here are some of the ways LINX Camps helps build character at camp.
It takes courage for children to try something new, or even to do something they already enjoy with children they have never met. When a child succeeds at something new, they are much more likely to do it again. One courageous move by a child will make the next one a little easier.
Children learn how to be fair and honest by the example of the adults in their lives. Adults at camp lead by example in such a way that children get a sense of what is right and what is wrong. A camp counselor that shows honesty and fairness is a positive role model for campers to look up to and emulate.
The camp environment provides the opportunity for kids to learn to trust their adult leaders and one another as they learn, interact, and try new adventures. The camp is the safety net that not only catches kids if they stumble but also helps them move forward with confidence to do better next time.
Campers learn they are not only responsible for their belongings, but also for the way they interact with their peers. Counselors look for teachable moments to help kids learn to be responsible for their actions. While a quality camp has a plan in place to prevent situations like bullying, there is no guarantee that it will never happen. A good camp realizes the importance of addressing situations immediately and where appropriate, create a teachable moment.
Camp provides opportunities for children to appreciate and respect one another’s differences, talents, and abilities as they learn to work together to resolve conflict, solve problems, and have fun as a team.
LINX Camps builds good sportsmanship into every camp activity, check out our All Star Sports Camp for ages K-8th grade!
Are traditional camps a thing of the past?
If you do some quick web searching, it won't take you long to find a specialty camp for just about any and everything your child might be interested in. It's how the summer camp businesses are evolving to keep the interest of their customers (the kids). More and more, the kids are in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding on what they are going to do with their summer, not the parents. From zombie "nerf" camps to “learn to sew” summer camps, there is something for everyone out there if you look. But what about traditional camps and traditional camp values? Do they exist, and will my child want to go?
There are a few camps that continue to hold onto the "traditional camp" model, and over the years many fellow camp directors have shared their concerns that enrollment in camps offering only the “traditional camp” model struggled. It’s not that children don't benefit from traditional camp values and programming, it’s just become a tougher sell to the more aware children, especially with so many more options available to them via their own research and social networking (yes, kids talk to kids about what camps to do and not do)!
LINX Camps has unlocked the secret to giving kids the best of both worlds! LINX takes pride in the fact that we’ve always infused traditional camp values and activities into every camp we offer. Kids learn how to build community and character while enjoying camp games and more traditional activities as part of every camp day. With over 40 camps that focus on Adventure, Fine Arts, General camps, Junior camps, Leadership, Performing Arts, Sports, and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math), there is something for everyone!
Looking for a traditional camp that gives kids the freedom to choose their activity? Check out Freedom Camp
June 26, 2017
Audition technique can be learned in workshops and classrooms, but the best way to improve is by doing. "Audition" can be a scary word at first. It takes many tries before one feels that they truly know how to audition. But even then, there's always the possibility of unexpected encounters and moments in the audition room. I can't even begin to guess how many auditions I've been to, but it's been a lot. Through repetition, I've learned auditions styles, techniques and procedures that help me to maintain as much control as I can in the audition room. But, the end result is up to the directors, and that's what makes auditions so unnerving.
At LINX, we make sure everyone who auditions for us knows that there's no risk of complete rejection. Everybody is invited to something. We also like to make the audition room friendly, positive, and fun. While this may not be the audition experience in high school and beyond, it's certainly how we like to start our performers off. After all, our auditions are practice more than anything. We hope that after auditioning for us multiple times, our performers will feel more confident when they step into an audition room outside of LINX.
Here are a few quick tips I have for auditions:
When singing or reading a monologue, try not to look directly at the directors. Look above their heads at a spot on the wall. This way, the director does not feel like you are using them as a scene partner, which can be awkward for them if they want to jot down a note, or move their eyes to another part of the room.
Introduce yourself! When you stand before the directors, tell them your name and what reading or song you are performing. For instance, "Hi! My name is Katie and I will be singing 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' from The Wizard of Oz."
Take a risk. Directors aren't looking for their own interpretation of a monologue or song, they are looking to see yours. They might not have the same vision, but they will see that you did something big and courageous with your audition and acting is all about taking risks.
Everyone who Auditions at LINX will be invited to an amazing adventure.
Miss Heather Emley, LINX Dance Director
The LINX competitive dance program is beneficial in teaching young dancers about commitment while also giving them an opportunity to grow as dancers and share their love of dance.
Not only is a competitive dance program a great way to learn how to be on a team and to build a strong bond with other members on the team, but it also helps dancers learn how to motivate one another and work together to grow and achieve both individually and as a group. Dancers have the chance to make great dance friends from a variety of nearby towns and share their love of dance.
Throughout the season, dancers will perform at three mandatory competitions with the opportunity to perform solos, duos, trios, and small groups at additional competitions. Dancers will learn a variety of genres of dance from professional and highly qualified instructors. Moreover, dancing on stage multiple times throughout the year will help children develop poise, confidence, and self-esteem.
The commitment that competitive dance programs require result in more studio hours that focus on building proper technique, strength and flexibility. Additionally, dancers can expect more disciplined and structured classes in which they are held to higher expectations and standards. Learning to balance dance with other commitments is a great way to learn responsibility, time management, discipline and how to take constructive criticism.
Dancers in our competitive program will have a professional photo shoot (head shots and action shots) to be used during the season. Dancers also have the opportunity to learn extra group choreography over the summer for a chance to compete in additional routines at competition.
I had the privilege of watching my daughter in a high school play, which brought me back to my own “stage crew” days as a kid. More importantly I realized that with the right guidance, kids can perform beyond their own expectations, while setting themselves on a path to great personal growth.
I say it was my privilege because a lot of personal effort goes into learning to perform. As I watched the effort my daughter put into her role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I thought to myself, “Wow, she has come a long way with her confidence and ability since middle school.” I also watched with awe, as the kids were able to speak many lines in the Old English style with great clarity and confidence! I was very impressed with the dedication that must have gone into the performance.
The confidence gained helped to bring out (even further than it already was) my daughter’s ability to make people laugh, regardless of the situation. I always knew she inherited the comedy gene seen in our family tree, so it was no surprise that her interests would take her to the stage. If there is a spark of interest in this creative art form it is worth the effort to engage your child to sign up to audition for a part, as in a school play, or to enroll in a program led by professionals who have a deep love for theater and teaching kids.
I don’t know how far she will take her acting interest, but how ever far she chooses, I will always be her biggest fan. Acting education has so many personal rewards. Even if the theater is not pursued as a career, she keeps valuable personal skills to move forward with in life, like the ability to be heard, to give comfort through laughter, and to feel confident in difficult situations. I want to nurture her love of the performing arts, and our family is happy to support and enjoy the evolution of a wonderful, creative young lady.
LINX Theater is the ideal environment to nurture your child’s creative spark, with recreational and advanced classes for all interest levels.
Listening to a story and getting to act it out, I promise you, will have a lasting positive impact on friendships, lessons learned, and memories that will stay for a lifetime. How do I know? Let me take you back to my early elementary school years…I’ll leave out the date and just say I’m an adult with my oldest kid in college now.
We loved having the “Little Golden Books” read to us as kids, and even more fun was bringing the characters to life in short plays, like The Country Mouse and The City Mouse, which had a positive impact on my life. Even though I didn’t have a role in that play (back then we didn’t have equal roles for everyone), I had my fair share of fun in others. I had immeasurable fun helping my best friend, Missy, and my sister, Maggie (same age as me), rehearse their roles, as they acted out 2 mouse cousins living very different lifestyles, one of simplicity and safety, and the other of extravagance with danger at every turn.
I watched it all play out from practicing lines at home to dress rehearsals, with my sister donning adult sized pearls, gown, heels and hat much too big for her, and the BFF in comfy country clothes, which suited her perfectly because she lived on a farm in real life. I was in complete awe of the city mouse’s NYC attitude and swank as she tried to convince her country cousin, who was content to eat berries from her garden, to come with her to the grandeur of her mansion, and the promise of dining on the crumbs of an exquisite table laden with meats, cheeses and pastry. In the end, if you know the story, they narrowly escape a hungry cat and other dangers without ever tasting the roast!
To this day, if I recite the line “My dear, I do not like to boast, but have you ever tasted roast?” my BFF or sister will loudly proclaim, “A roast of beef, done to a turn! Or coffee spilling from an urn!”
We all stayed close over time, and I credit that to the opportunities we had as young kids to be part of something slightly bigger, even a small production inspired by a short story from a “Little Golden Book.” Helping each other do something you love goes a long way in forging friendships, and the lessons learned are limitless. My circle and I learned not to take the simple life for granted, and not surprisingly the BFF found her way to owning her own farm, complete with chickens and horses, and my sister lives just on the outskirts of a big city, where she can put on her pearls and heels and know she is but a short drive away from a fine dinner. Something wonderful happens when kids act out what they read in books, and the lessons and friendships stay with us for a long time.
Every child becomes a storybook character in LINX Theater’s Storybook Theater class for young actors up to 4 years old.
Teaching Boys to Be Bad...Pushing, shoving, peeing on trees… destroying, disrespecting, being mean... Oh well... Boys will be Boys!
By Josh Schiering, Executive Director, LINX Camps
If you have a son, or know someone who does, you have likely heard the expression “boys will be boys.” But what does it mean. What does it imply and why should it have a new meaning in the 21st century?
Let’s be honest, the expression “boys will be boys” is never used to describe something good. It usually follows an aggressive act, bad word choices, mean behavior, bullying actions or something adults just don’t want to deal with. You never see a boy open a door for someone, raise his hand in class or stand up and receive recognition for making honor roll, and someone shouting out, “Boys will be Boys!”
Negative Messaging to Girls
Personally, I am raising three daughters (and a son) and I do not want any of them to ever write off behavior as “okay” because it is “normal” for a boy to act that way. My girls know that people are people and measured by their individual decisions, not by their gender. If we want our daughters to be confident, strong and independent thinkers, we cannot allow gender stereotypes to define specific behaviors; not for them, nor for boys. Ingraining the notion that if a boy does something bad, it is what it is, gives the boys a “pass” to do wrong. It disempowers our girls to stand up for what is just and to hold boys accountable for their actions. This is true whether in a preschool and someone knocks over the tower they built, or when they are in high school and want a boy to stop teasing and name calling. Furthermore, it teaches our daughters that they, as females, don’t get a pass card and have to be held to different standards (no one says “girls will be girls”). And now, in 2014, they are still being raised in a male dominated world in which negative behaviors are dismissed, and that’s not okay. We must stop the gender bias at the base. We must reprogram the way our children view one’s actions. Not as gender specific, but on a person by person basis.
Teaching Boys to be Bad
We need to ask ourselves, “Are we empowering our sons to have the upper hand by using this expression, or are we weakening them to conform to a negative stereotype?” Imagine a piece of moldable clay always being made into the exact same spherical shape. That is all that piece of clay will ever know. Like the clay that doesn’t know any better or differently, we are doing our sons a huge disservice by dismissing behaviors as “gender okay.” Our boys will learn that they are not capable of anything bigger or better. If we continue to give them a “pass” for wrongdoings because it is socially and culturally acceptable, then that is what we get in return, the largest and longest lasting self-fulfilling prophecy with the worst outcomes. We owe it to our sons and boys to do better for them. We must not only reverse the negative stereotype, we must enforce the good decisions and behaviors we want them to portray. In the end, we owe it to them to do better by expecting better and never dismissing behaviors and decisions due to cultural gender norms.
REVERSING THE PERCEPTION
Why can’t a “boy being a boy” mean they are caring, accepting, loving, thoughtful and hard working? At the camp I help manage in Wellesley, MA we take breaking the gender barriers and cultural norms very seriously. LINX Camps (#1 Day Camp in MA*) has taken a stand on creating a community in which children are accepted for whom they are. LINX went as far as to build a management team that holds children accountable for their actions, while maintaining a zero tolerance policy for meanness, aggression and bullying. The standards we have set for boys in society by writing off their behaviors, has done them a gross injustice. At LINX Camps, boys applaud the successes and appropriate decisions of their peers because that is what is modeled. Chris Dumais, one of the emcees and chief motivators of LINX Camps is a camp icon, and its plain to see why. Dumais ends each day telling over 600 campers and staff that they are enough, just the way they are, that everyone is accepted here (at LINX) and that he is proud of those who make good decisions to include others and are good sports. His message is subtle, but consistent. People simply enjoy being around Dumais because they know he is easily satisfied when others are simply kind and nice, and he holds everyone to consistent standards.
At LINX Camps we implement our own Apology Training Program to ensure we support the victims and train the aggressors. We maintain equal standards for boys and girls alike and everyone knows it. LINX maintains a supportive and accepting environment, where team building behaviors and a system of consequences are a part of the campers’ everyday lives.
So, lets work together to change the meaning of “Boys will be Boys” to mean “that boy did something really good!” And while we are at it, lets make sure “Girls will be Girls” means the same thing, after all, we’re all people!
Serving Wellesley and surrounding communities, LINX is now in its eighth year of operation with over thirty premier camps. The main office is located at 141 Linden Street in Wellesley, MA. For more information on LINX Science Camp or to register, visit www.linxcamps.com/SpecialtyCamps/Science or call 781-235-3210. # # #
Eradicating Bullying: How to create an environment in which bullying would never dare exist!
By Josh Schiering, Vice President and Executive Director of LINX and LINX Camps, and lifelong advocate for building bully free environments.
Two negatives make a positive, right?... Not when it comes to bullying!
A single negative comment or act can have a lifelong and irreversible impact on a person. Whether in camps, schools, families, playgrounds and even playgroups, bullying is a natural part of our culture. But, it doesn’t have to be that way anymore. As individuals, we are empowered to make decisions about our actions. How we react to what we see and hear is up to each person. When it comes to bullying, I always challenge my staff and children to be counter-cultural in their decision making,
BULLYING (Verb: ˈbo͝olē)
Use of superior strength, influence, force, threat, or coercion to abuse, intimidate, or to aggressively impose domination over others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual while there is an imbalance of social or physical power. Bullying may consists of one or more of these four basic types of abuse: emotional, verbal, physical and cyber.
Synonyms: persecute, oppress, tyrannize, browbeat, harass, torment, intimidate, strong-arm, dominate
IS IT BULLYING?
Some say the term “bullying” is overused and doesn’t apply to all cases of meanness. I say, “Listen to the victim!” So who gets to decide if an action is “bullying?” The answer is clear and simple, “The victim alone decides if they are being bullied.” While a single act of calling someone a name may not appear to fit into the definition of bullying, I challenge us all to take a closer look. Did being called that name make the victim feel intimidated? Did the name caller have an implied power differential over the victim? As a result of this action, did the victim have a hard time focusing on school work? Were they afraid of a repeat of the action? Did they feel oppressed?... When it comes to feelings, well, no one gets to tell someone else what they are feeling. Therefore, the victim decides if he/she is being bullied. Period! End of discussion.
TAKE IT SERIOUSLY!
As educators and role models we must take every reported and observed act of meanness seriously. While as adults we may have thicker skin and our life experiences help us handle the intimidating actions of a bully, the issue a child is facing might be the most significant and “biggest deal” in their lives. We must let children know that as adults we:
Take what they are saying seriously;
Are there to help, coach and train them;
Will make sure justice is served;
Will make them whole again;
Will hold the aggressor/bully accountable for their actions;
Be there to help them in the future.
ERADICATING BULLYING - IS IT POSSIBLE?... I SAY, “YES!”
When we sit down with our children before the start of a new school year to discuss their goals in school, we do not say, “Let’s try for C’s across the board.” We encourage and motivate them to strive for all “A’s.” We acknowledge it will be tough, and it will require a lot of hard work, but nonetheless, we work for the best possible outcome. Subsequently, when it comes to bullying, I encourage all institutions to take a stand and declare their initiative to eradicate bullying. We are not in the business of “dealing” with bullying, we are in the business of not allowing it to exist in our environment. So how do we eradicate it?
ERADICATE (Verb: iˈradiˌkāt)
Destroy completely; put an end to
Synonyms: eliminate, get rid of, remove, obliterate
To eradicate bullying we must do two things:
1. Train parents, staff and children on how to handle bullying when it happens regarding:
a. How to see it;
b. How to immediately address and remove it.
2. Create an environment so rich in “positives,” that bullying would never have a chance to even enter the environment by doing the following:
a. Set goals and expectations that everyone be kind, respectful and inclusive;
b. Share your goals with others (colleagues, supervisors, etc.);
c. Motivate effectively so those involved want to exceed your expectations;
d. Get buy-in from your staff (have each person be a contributor at your goal setting meeting so they feel a connection to the mission);
e. Get buy-in from your children/students/campers and parents (have your staff facilitate the goal setting meeting the same way you led the meeting with them);
f. Never let your guard down and never give up this mission;
g. Celebrate your accomplishments (Celebrations at home can be extra story time, special outing with a parent, etc. Celebrations at school or camp can be a dance, carnival, game the children want to play, etc.)!
I am known for saying, “I would rather lose one mean camper from our actions, than lose a single camper due to the actions of one mean camper.” These are strong words to stand by, but parents, staff and campers know I mean business, and therefore no one in our environment will stand for acts of meanness. As a result, campers feel safe and encouraged to try new things without fear of rejection, humiliation or being put down. The result is a community in which people are free to fail, and therefore more likely to learn, due to the supportive environment provided everyone.
All too often institutions have a great method for handling bullying, but they tend to forget one of the most critical steps of them all, FOLLOW THROUGH. If we fix a car that is leaking oil we can’t assume it is fixed forever, we check the source of the leak as time goes by. We make sure there is nothing dripping from the area we fixed, and we make sure there are no new leaks. If there are more leaks, or the same area we fixed leaks again, we take it back to the shop to be fixed again. A customer should leave the shop feeling like he/she has been encouraged to come back if there is another problem. It is much the same way when working with children. They should feel welcomed and encouraged to return by having been provided with feedback that addresses present and future concerns and problems. Every issue must be dealt with or all of our efforts leading into the “fixing/eradicating” of the problem are for nought. So follow through and follow up often.
Example: My plumber Jamie recently installed a garbage disposal at my house. When he left he said, “keep an eye on it and look for leaks. If you see anything, let me know and I will come back immediately.” Jamie is not only an excellent plumber (no leaks) but he made sure I felt comfortable to come back to him in the event of a problem. Even if it is in a year, I will go to, Jamie, because I know he cares and stands by his word/work.
Be like Jamie when it comes to working with kids who come to you!
How to see bullying:
Have appropriate staffing ratios. Give your team a chance to see and hear everything. Not just in the classroom, but on the playing fields at recess, on the buses and all around.
Build relationships based on trust. Your team will not see and hear everything that happens, they just can’t. So building a relationship of trust will make the victim more inclined to come to you in cases you don’t see or hear what happened.
Promise and follow through on anonymity - children need to know they can trust you, and need to know they won’t get in trouble for telling you something
Remember this - “Silence is approval” if you see it or it has been reported to you - you must act!
How to address it and remove bullying:
Handle each situation with “kid gloves;”
Take what a child shares,seriously, and remember that if you think it is a small deal, it is likely a big deal to the person reporting the incident to you;
Remove the child who was victimized and listen to their story with compassion and concern, let them know you are there to help him/her. And let him know you are proud he came to you! You want to encourage this action and therefore must provide positive reinforcement for this behavior;
Remove the aggressor from the situation and have a one-on-one;
Remember that perception is reality. While you might get conflicting stories, you need to listen carefully and find the right balance to help both parties come to terms and own their actions/decisions;
Follow the apology training flow-chart to ensure proper accountability, training and empowerment;
Communicate with home! Parents are there to help raise their child and need to be in the know.
Create an environment so rich in the positives:
If you go to your doctor and you learn you have high cholesterol, you have a few options to help your situation. You can improve your diet, or you might take medicine, or be more active. Each of these steps, like the bully-response plan above, are reactionary. What if you took the steps to ensure you never had high cholesterol in the first place? What if you ate well and exercised your entire life? You are ahead of the game and might never know life with high cholesterol!
Remember that bullying is part of human nature and what we are trying to do is to be counter-cultural or create a different, more positive cultural habit and habitat. It will take time and patience, but you must succeed! Be a change agent.
Establish expectations and rules for your group
You must have a meeting within the first 15 minutes of a group coming together for the first time. Any time a new member enters the group you must sit together and review the rules collectively. In this gathering, never dictate the rules - you want buy-in and ownership, you are a facilitator. You can, of course, lead the group to the answers you want by using leading questions (should we be respectful…? what should we do when…?). The outcome of this conversation must include words with powerful meanings, explanations and examples like: respect, kindness, inclusion, fairness, taking turns, cooperation, good listening, good sportsmanship and spirit! Solidify this discussion by making a sign, poster, creed, bill of rights… you decide. But, get everyone in your group to agree to honor this list of rules and expectations. Then, hang it up or carry it with you. If the occasion arises - you might need to reference the list and remind children what we ALL agreed to uphold.
Put positive reinforcements in place. Many schools and camps use different models for this, each is adaptable to a home situation too. Whether filling a jar with marbles for each time a rule is followed or expectation exceeded, or giving a high five; be sure to recognize and celebrate accomplishments!
Evaluate your plan - do this on your own as the administrator and do it with your group. Have debriefs and discussions to check “how things are going.” Publically provide positive recognition for behaviors you asked for when you see them
One day I went up to the softball field and saw two lines formed (partners throwing and catching across the field). The coach told the girls that for every successful catch they made, they got a point for their team. Girls were motivated to not fail at catching. Before they started throwing, I asked the girls to define good sportsmanship and explained that I wanted see them being good sports during this activity. The second I heard one child say “nice catch” to her teammate, I jumped all over it!... I immediately said aloud, “Ooooh!... great, good sportsmanship encouraging your teammate!” What followed was inspiring, every single player shouted to their teammate words of encouragement, “Nice catch, ooh… good try…. you’ll get it next time, way to go!”...
The lesson here is that kids are innate people pleasers. Tell them what you want, motivate them to exceed your expectations and then acknowledge them for their efforts and accomplishments. In this softball-catch game example, my praise was all it took to get them to do what I wanted. With younger children you might need to use point systems, sticker charts, games, and other strategies. For more on Use of Positive Reward Systems be on the look out for the article entitled, “Use of Positive Reward Systems.”
What you’ve been reading comes down to this, you do not tolerate negative behavior and you maintain a ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY for any acts of meanness. You do that and follow the plan above and you will succeed. Is it true that if you demand perfection, you will get perfection?...I say, “Set the expectation for perfection, then give the people the tools needed to succeed, properly motivate them to exceed your expectations and watch the magic.”
For more on how to establish a positive environment that doesn’t allow for meanness you can contact Josh Schiering at LINX Camps (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the LINX Camps website at www.linxcamps.com. We are proud of the work we do on a daily basis. We believe wholeheartedly that we are able to change the world, one staff, one parent or one child at a time. Now, once you have this system in place, the learning and growth of the individual and community is limitless! You have to believe in this and set the course as the leader of your organization for it to work. Inspiration and mission setting are important! Passion for a cause is inspiring. Go forth and inspire by being positive role models for children and others!