Behaviour Empowerment Support Techniques B.E.S.T

At Barretstown we view challenging behaviour as an opportunity for learning and growth.  At Barretstown we prevent behaviour problems by establishing caring relationships with children and providing positive outlets for energy and attention. Our role is to create a physically and emotionally safe environment for each camper.  We do this by offering consistent individual support, encouragement, responsibility and choice. This in turn guides and empowers the camper to realise the impact of their chosen behaviour and help them to make more positive choices in the future.

Our role as caras is to create and ensure a safe, fun & supportive environment and begin to form trusting relationships.  it is important to be empathetic and begin to recognise some of the challenges or anxieties campers may face before coming to Barretstown.


The steps of our Behaviour Support Empowering Techniques are



Challenges campers face before camp

Meeting new families that are on a similar journey of illness
Trying new activities
Allowing your child the freedom to participate in the programme
Unfamiliar surroundings
Meeting other families affected by a serious illness or lost a child from serious illness

Summer only

Getting on an airplane/leaving their country or family for the first time
Not having communication with parents/guardians while at camp only by post
Missing home, their family & peers
Cultural differences and language
Anxiety around food
Socialisation - not knowing anybody e.g. will I make friends, will they like me?
Anxiety over their body image
Fear and anxiety of the unknown
Fear for a specific activity as they may have had a challenging past experience


  •  Use the individual’s name.
  •  Use eye contacts e.g. get down to the level of the camper especially if the child uses a wheelchair, or step back if they are taller than you.
  •  Get to know their likes & dislikes/interests/hobbies/expectations about camp.
  •  Be aware, facilitate and celebrate the exchange of cultural diversity, customs,beliefs and norms.
  • Learn key phrases in their specific language.
  • Be observant and recognise the need to adapt to the physical ability, energy
    level, age & stage of growth & development of each child/family member.
  • Introduce your campers to other campers and staff and make sure you use their names so they feel valued.
  • Keep campers busy with fun, but appropriate activities, especially during non-structured time. Play with them when you don’t have to.
  • Use down time to establish a relationship.
  • Provide structured, entertaining activities while in transition from one activity to the next, such as games, chants, singing.
  • Keep children occupied during times in the cottage. For example: Play games / use board games or make up your own, also coloring, friendship bracelets, or necklaces. Campers can teach one another songs, cheers, and dances.
  • Keep children occupied while waiting for evening programs or meals by playing games like Black Magic, Johnny Whoops, Charades, Rock Paper Scissors, or singing.
  •  Humour -laugh and tell camp appropriate jokes.
  • Supervise your campers at all time

Listen to campers

Listen to campers

Children feel valued and respected when we listen to them. Open communication during positive times will ease the challenges of communicating when situations are difficult and emotions are charged. Always be open to the children approaching you even when it is not convenient. It is easier to talk about things that we like. Ask the child questions about a favourite music group, movie star, or television show. Ask about school,sports, camp, etc. Most important listen.

Validate their feelings and match their excitement. Be engaging e.g. ask questions, nod, smile!

Anchor – lean against something, or sit down. This conveys to the individual that they have your full attention and that you are not going anywhere.

Allow for pauses and silence. Give them time to reflect or gather their thoughts.

Don't interrupt!

Tip 1: if you imagine the word ‘W.A.I.T’ written on the person’s forehead,
which stands for ‘Why Am I Talking?’ it may help you to refocus on the
individual and give them your full attention.
Tip 2: Ask open ended questions e.g ``tell me more....``

Be consistent

Being predictable and consistent in your interactions with the children will help them know what to expect from you, and gives them a feeling of safety and control over this new environment called camp.

Role model appropriate behaviours. Demonstrating the desirable behaviours that you want children to emulate will help to avoid those undesirable behaviours. Remember that behaviour breeds behaviour and is infectious e.g a participant is more likely to be enthused and engaged in an activity when their Cara is too.

Use positive labels

Use positive, genuine, specific and individual labelling. In doing so you are building positive, trusting, and respectful relationships with campers, which mean they are less likely to seek attention in a negative way, thus ensuring a more positive camp experience for everyone. This helps boosts self-confidence and self-esteem also.


Redirection means changing one’s undesired behaviour without specifically addressing the behaviour. Redirection is distracting the child’s attention from an undesirable activity to another interesting but acceptable pastime. This is more effective than insisting a behaviour stop without offering an interesting alternative. e.g. Johnny is throwing stones in the lake, which is not an issue, however there is a group of younger children on the way to the lake who will probably mirror Johnny’s behaviour and may in turn cause a problem. Therefore, Johnny’s behaviour needs to be redirected,  by throwing Johnny a ball and beginning a different game. The behaviour without verbally addressing it with Johnny! The child also feels less controlled, frequently being completely unaware of your leadership in the situation. Campers respond better to having a choice and feeling they have control in the situation.

Whenever possible, make the choices a win-win situation. “You can stand quietly where you are or you can stand quietly next to me. It’s your choice.” Rephrasing the threat – “If you don’t stop standing in the canoe, you’re going to have to sit on the dock for ten minutes.” Try this instead: “You can either stay seated in the boat, or we can go back to the bank and sit. It is your choice.”  Always maintain a friendly positive tone.


Intervention is required when safety is a concern. We use clear and calm voice we ask the camper to stop their
undesired behaviour always giving them honest rational answers why?

We always treat each camper as an individual.  We ensure to take into consideration personal anxieties and fears, developmental age, gender, culture, background, and life experience.  This guarantees a more successful outcome.

Talk to campers. Let them know that you are going to talk to them about the issue at hand and give them time to reflect e.g. “Colin I want you to think about what just happened, then, you can tell me what happened”. Give the camper space, allow for silence & make sure you get the full story not just their perception of what happened. Therefore you can evaluate the circumstances surrounding the behaviour, its triggers and how to best to solve it!  Avoid negative labelling like ‘You are’ statements.

Reinforce positive behaviour -POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT. Public praise of appropriate and desired behaviour will go a long way in preventing the undesirable behaviours.

A camper would only be sent home, in communication with the Camp Director & Clinical Nurse Manager, if felt that the campers safety and/or that of his/her peers or staff was in jeopardy. This is never used as a threat or consequence.

It is important to continually facilitate Reflection. We do this by providing continuous support and specific labelling of positive behaviours shown. Reflection guides campers to internalise their success and associated feelings.

Dealing with a camper who is missing home

Missing home is universal.  Remember it is not a sickness, it is a longing for the familiar, for loved ones, known environments and a sense of control. At Barretstown we would always use the term “Missing Home” rather the “Home Sickness”. If the experience is outside a child’s or adults normal routine then missing home is a possibility, so we can expect to be dealing with examples of missing home on a fairly regular basis.

We develop positive relationships with the children/teens under your care and how to
facilitate boundary setting. It is our role to provide each participant with a fun experience in a psychologically, emotionally and physically safe environment in turn enhancing trust, confidence, self esteem and hope through the development of self-control and responsibility.

Campers do not have the opportunity to contact home while they are at camp without discussion with the Cottage Coordinators, therefore it is important not to make promises or agree to something unless you know you can follow through. Be patient, typically ‘missing home’ will pass in a few days! Focus on what the individual can achieve at Barretstown and what s/he can tell his/her family when they go home e.g. keep a journal.