Why the Myth of the ‘Bad Kid’ is Dangerous by Dani Bostick

Originally published on the Huffington Post.


It’s the second day of kindergarten and Sarah is sitting on the rug, playing with a new classmate’s hair. It’s fantastic hair, wild and curly.

The teacher snaps at her, “Stop it!” Sarah is also sitting with her legs bent behind her like a W, perhaps because she just turned five she has low muscle tone, or perhaps she’s just more comfortable that way.

“And we sit crisscross apple sauce here!” yells the teacher, letting out an exasperated sigh.

A battle of wills ensues, and Sarah is banished off of the carpet to sit next to a classroom aide where a tantrum devolves into a full-on meltdown, while the teacher tries to bend her at the waist, showing her “how we sit here.”

Her lanyard got stuck in Sarah’s hair, prompting more screams. She orchestrates a countdown from ten, as Sarah’s peers join in. Ten, nine, eight…

By now Sarah is throwing her shoes and the teacher is wondering out loud, “What is wrong with her? She needs to learn we don’t do that here!” She was told later that she could not participate in a scavenger hunt around the school with the rest of her classmates because she had made “bad choices.”

I had been assigned to the classroom through a local university to observe a student teacher. I stand there mortified by the interaction. It is day two of kindergarten, and unfortunately, Sarah is already labeled “bad.”

There is something wrong with her. The teacher believes this, and thanks to the public shaming, all of her classmates know it as well.

It is likely this label will stick with Sarah and following her throughout her academic career. It will inform her self-concept and as she grows older, will dictate her choices and behavior. It will have started with a curiosity-driven interaction with a classmate’s hair and her fateful preference to sit in a W instead of with her legs crossed.

I reported the incident to the principal who stared at me blankly and said, “What do you want me to do about this? It is the second day of school.” I reported it to the district, and was later told the teacher is an esteemed veteran. My direct employers, the university where the student teacher was enrolled, let me know I was a guest of the district.

In other words, voicing my concerns was not good guest behavior.

In that moment, school, district, and institution tasked with training teachers had all conspired to perpetuate a dangerous, and disturbingly common myth, that some kids are just bad.

The results of that mindset are devastating, and when that mindset is embraced in a classroom, where students eventually spend more time than they do with their families, it can have a destructive impact on our children, and society.

For students whose behavior is a function of trauma, poverty, or other challenging circumstances, callous responses can galvanize destructive beliefs: “I can’t trust people. Adults hurt me. I have no hope. I am bad.

In October, footage of a school resource officer manhandling a high school student went viral. Outrage followed. Incidents like the one I observed in that Kindergarten classroom happen every day and over time can be just as devastating as the violent outburst caught on video.

The problem is, the Myth of the Bad Kid is much more insidious, often passing as an appropriate classroom management strategy. When schools, school districts, and teacher training programs normalize that belief, they are endorsing a attitudes and a behaviors that would be labeled as emotional abuse in an adult relationship.

When a child hears she is bad from her second day in Kindergarten and her peers are recruited to participate in her discipline, she is stripped of her dignity and innate sense of worth. When the only attention she receives is negative or corrective, she learns that people in authority get to define her.

She, like the system she is a part of, begins to normalize disrespectful, shame-oriented interactions.

That becomes her new reality, one that can have devastating consequences for her self-esteem and ability to recognize a healthy relationship.

On her first day of Kindergarten, Sarah learned she is bad. She also learned from her teacher that it is acceptable for people in positions of authority to employ aggression and shame. All of this happened with the tacit approval of the principal, district, and the institution tasked with teacher training.

Using fear and shame as a deterrent does nothing to encourage self-confidence and self-regulation and can increase the frequency of the problem behaviors.

There are other ways of encouraging good behavior while building a child’s sense of self-worth and preserving their dignity. A fundamental starting point is the belief that all children are innately good, deserving of unconditional positive regard, compassion, and respect.


Dani Bostick is a psychotherapist in Colorado Springs who works with individuals, couples, and families. A Maryland native and former Latin teacher, Dani now devotes most of her energy to disrupting the culture of shame and silence surrounding sexual abuse and assault. She uses the rest of her energy to take her dogs to the dog park, dominate her fantasy football league, and write about football for Behind the Steel Curtain and Crooked Scoreboard. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and her website, www.danibostick.com.

Camp Community: How It Impacts Your Child


Every year during the months of June, July, and August, young people gather at camps all over the country. Free from deadlines, rubrics, clubs, practices, and the monotonous yet tedious schedules created for them, these kids and teens swiftly embrace the season of Summer. For those who have the opportunity, camp is a safe haven in many respects. It’s a collective of diverse minds and experiences all loosely connected by their desire to be a part of a community. It’s this community that helps shape your child into a creative, empathetic, and strong adult.

Young people are practicing! One of the coolest things about camp is that kids can be whoever they want to be. There is no expectation for them other than to be a participant. This freedom from labels and pressure to figure out who they are going to be allows campers to try on different “characters”. One year they may play the shy book-worm, another year the comedian, the next the athlete. Kids get to play-pretend with their persona in a safe and nurturing environment surrounded by caring young adults who understand how confusing growing up can get. They get to explore and question and imagine and play. This freedom, combined with activities designed to challenge and push boundaries, that foster trust, critical thinking, team work, communication, and empathy, and that inspire independence and confidence is what creates our camp community.

The common understanding that everyone is practicing and trying on characters creates a continually growing supportive community of individuals that makes camp so special to those who get to experience it. And this is what camp is truly all about. Helping our kids to become strong, healthy, well-rounded individuals who will contribute to the world in positive ways.

To find out more about our programs or our staff, feel free to check us out on the web at http://www.smymca.org or contact one of our Camp Directors:

Amanda Griffith, Bynden Wood Day Camp Director, agriffith@smymca.org

Kam Kobeissi, Camp Conrad Weiser Director, kkobeissi@smymca.org

Dr. John W. Gruber is named the 2015 Recipient of the Harold L. Schappell Lifetime Achievement Award.

South Mountain YMCA Camps is pleased to honor Emeritus Director at the Annual Holiday Social.    

Wernersville, December 2015 – On Tuesday December 8th Dr. John W. Gruber received the South Mountain YMCA Camps Lifetime Achievement Award at the organization’s annual Holiday Social. More than 50 individuals joined Board members, staff and camp alum at Canal Street Pub & Restaurant to pay tribute to one of Camps Champions. “It is truly an honor to recognize and celebrate a volunteer that exemplifies the spirit of giving. Our organization is blessed to have men and women like Dr. Gruber that grew up at camp, worked at camp, and continue to support camp through their time, talent and treasure.” ~ Nathan Brant, CEO

Dr. Gruber has been involved with Camp since its founding, working as a staff member in the early 1950s and continuing into his medical school years. After completing medical school and returning to Berks County, Dr. Gruber joined the Board of Directors and served as an active member until 2010, at which point he became an Emeritus Member. He chaired our 2004 capital campaign effort and is currently serving as honorary co-chair of our “Camp For All” capital campaign effort. In his remarks at the Holiday Social, he spoke of the impact his “Camp Family” has had over the years and his love of the mountain and the people that have been part of this program.

Dr. Jack

A few words about the award: The Harold L. Schappell Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes and honors an exceptional individual that makes volunteerism and community service a way of life. Recipients embody a sense of compassion and responsibility for others expressed through their dedication to assisting individuals and organizations for the betterment of our community. Their extraordinary contributions truly make a difference in the lives of others and in the community. Lifetime Achievement Award winners receive a glass award in the shape of a flame or campfire.

Previous Award Winners include the Inaugural recipient, Harold L. Schappell, retired Facilities Director honored in December 2013 and Glenn O. Miller, (aka Hugsy or Popsy), one of our Camp Legends in December 2014.

HS Lietime Achievemnet Award Winners

Seated in front, Glenn O. Miller.
Standing in back Harold L. Schappell and Dr. John W. Gruber.


5 Ways Summer Camp Helps Your Child Prepare for Adulthood

When I think back on my own camp experience, I recall standing on a wooden tower about 10, maybe 15, feet off the ground. Several people I had recently met stood below. They were yelling at me to fall. I’d just met these people; why on earth would I trust them enough to catch me? I put my arms across my chest and fell back through the air. Whack! I’d been caught.

Experiences like these summer after summer brought about remarkable transformations in my life. I learned how to trust others, work with others and build relationships. This ultimately helped me to grow up.

Summer camp taught me foundational principles I now rely on as an adult. As a professional mentor, I encourage many of my clients to attend summer camp if possible. Watching kids and teens grow as a result of their summer experiences is incredible. Each summer, it’s obvious they have grown and matured.

When your child attends summer camp, he learns how to work with others, build meaningful relationships, accept guidance and develop decision-making skills. All of these life skills nurture independence and confidence, creating a foundation that will serve him and that he’ll stand and grow from for the rest of his life.

So how can your child benefit from summer camp?

  1. At camp, kids learn teamwork, i.e., working together for the benefit of something bigger than themselves: the team. This takes attention away from “me, me, me,” and turns it toward the value of investing in others.

They learn that their relationships benefit from investment, and that the team benefits as a whole when individual relationships are strengthened. Contributing to the success of the group is empowering to each individual.

  1. The camp environment teaches resilience. Kids learn to fall then get back up time and time again. One example is the ropes course, a challenging outdoor, team-building activity that you often find at camp.

Kids have to learn resilience to get through the course as they will undoubtedly fall, and have to get back up over and over. As they progress through the course their confidence builds, and in turn they accomplish a task that seems impossible… and accomplishment is always empowering.

  1. Kids learn to make decisions at camp.Camp experiences grow confidence and develop good decision making skills — especially when times are tough. He also learns who to accept guidance from, in a world that’s filled with some pretty bad advice on TV, in movies and among some friends.
  2. Camp sets a kid up for trying new things,putting himself out there, and making decisions to get through various situations.

Living in a cabin, cooking food, climbing ropes, and overcoming obstacles are life accomplishments young people can develop that build strength of character, courage, determination, and focus on something bigger than themselves.

As parents, we know when children only accept comfortable situations, they find themselves limited in confidence, courage, and flexibility. The actual presentation of an unpleasant or unfamiliar situation at camp gives a child the opportunity to grow in ways he never would in his comfort zone.

Through new experiences, he’s pushed into positions to grow in life. And when teens learn to push themselves to grow, they begin to accumulate understanding of what it takes to be a productive, independent adult.

  1. Help your child to grow up.

While more and more our culture allows people to seek out what’s enjoyable and avoid what’s unpleasant, camp nudges your child to move out of their comfort zone to overcome.

So while our conveniences make life easier in so many ways, there are experiences missing that provide growth, strengthening of values, confidence, and development for times of adversity. Those experiences need to come from somewhere, and I encourage my clients to go to camp and absorb all the life benefits they’ll find there.

If your family can’t afford to send your kid to camp, and many can’t, try to mimic the same opportunities and experiences at home that they’d find at camp. Push to try new things, push him out of his comfort zone. Allow him to make his own decisions. Create some obstacles for him to overcome.

No matter what, it will require focus and effort to guide your child. There are many ways you can help your child gain the benefits of camp to ensure he’s equipped for adulthood. In this modern world, it won’t happen automatically. But your effort will be well worth the energy you invest.

Todd Kestin, Teen Coach & Mentor
Published by http://www.HuffingtonPost.com

Fall has arrived and the Mountain by Moonlight opens in 2 weeks!!!


The SMYMCA Camps are pleased to offer the community family-friendly Halloween activities geared to pre-K, elementary and middle school students and their families. Join us for a spook-tacular time on the mountain. Enjoy non-haunted hayrides, PG haunted hayrides, carnival games, glow-zorbing, glow stick zip-lining and much more!! The event runs from 6-9 pm. Activities continue after the gates close until 10 pm. Parking is FREE. Tickets for activities are $1 each, 12 for $10 and 25 for $20. Call 610-670-2267 for more information. Join us for one night or all four!!!

                                                    Friday October 16th
                                                  Saturday October 17th
                                                    Friday October 23rd
                                                  Saturday October 24th 



South Heidelberg Township Concert on the Mountain

South Heidelberg Township invites you to a FREE Concert on the Mountain….


Come and enjoy an afternoon of music brought to you by South Heidelberg Township. The Ringgold Band will be playing from 4-6 pm so make sure to arrive early to grab yourself the best spot in front of our historic Bynden Wood Stage. Please bring lawn chairs or a blanket as it will be festival seating only.

Saturday October 10th 4:00 – 6:00 pm
(Raindate Sunday October 11th)
GPS: 201 Cushion Peak Road
Reinholds, PA 17569


Capital Campaign Kick-Off Event, Summer Fun Raffle and Best of Berks…

Mark your calendars and join us for our Capital Campaign Kick-Off Event!!!

Creating A Camp For All Graphic

We hope you’ll join us in our efforts to create a CAMP FOR ALL! Please dress comfortably (camp-appropriate clothing and footwear). Following an initial presentation, we will be opening the climbing tower, zip-line, archery range and Zorbs for your enjoyment. We will also offer wagon tours of our campus. Cookout-style refreshments will be served along with adult beverages in Bynden Wood Lodge following the activities.

Please RSVP to Michele Reinert at 610-670-2267 or by email at mreinert@smymca.org.

Last Call for 2015 Summer Fun Raffle Tickets…

This week is your last chance to purchase 2015 Summer Fun Raffle Tickets. All proceeds benefit our REACH OUT FOR YOUTH campaign providing camp scholarships
to kids, families, schools and community organizations. Tickets are $10 and the drawing will be held August 22, 2015. Contact the Camp Office to purchase your tickets at 610-670.2267.


  • 1st Prize is a 2-Week Session at Camp Conrad Weiser or a red Emotion Spitfire 8 kayak.
  • 2nd Prize is a Family Camp Weekend for 4 or a GoPro Hero 3 camera (white edition and waterproof).
  • 3rd Prize is a 1-Week session at Bynden Wood Day Camp or a Galaxy Series ECEEN solar backpack with charger.

Cast Your Vote for the Best of Berks 2015!!!

Have you voted for Bynden Wood Day Camp and Camp Conrad Weiser yet? Please do!!!Vote the South Mountain YMCA Camps (Camp Conrad Weiser or Bynden Wood Day Camp) as the BEST OF BERKS! You can vote once from every device you own. Vote early and often!


Now is your opportunity to VOTE for the Best of Berks! Deadline for voting is September 10, 2015! One vote per computer will be accepted.

Click Here to Vote





Wondering what to make for dinner tonight???

We have a better idea!!! Join us today at Chipotle in Reading on Papermill Road between 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm. We’re having a fundraiser for Operation Purple Camp (OPC) which provides free summer camp for military kids.  OPC camp is open to military children with a parent or guardian from any service branch. Priority is given to children who have a parent or guardian who incurred service-connected injuries or illness on or after 9/11 or will have a parent or guardian deployed during a 15-month deployment window.

Just print out a copy of the flyer below, bring it with you and hand it to the cashier. It’s never been so easy or tasted so delicious to give back…. We hope to see you there!!!


My daughter is leaving for sleep-away camp.


The bags are packed. The duffels have shipped. The stationary and envelopes have been carefully organized and pre-stamped.

It’s her first time going, but not my first time sending a kid away for a summer. I know what to do. I’ve marked her clothing using both iron-on labels and indelible ink in hopes that the clothing will actually return in her bags at the end of the month. I’ve taught her the nuances of the “laundry bag” — pin your socks, don’t throw in anything wet — even though I know she will still return with moldy clothes and virtually no matching pairs of socks. She has shampoo and soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes. (“Take an extra, just in case!”) I label a handy-dandy shower caddy for her to keep her things in. She has her summer reading books for school. Her duffel bag is organized and compartmentalized to help her unpack when she gets to her bunk.

Didn’t kids once go off with a bundle tied to a stick?

It’s kind of a game. Having done this before, I know what is going to happen when she gets to her bunk. I know how my carefully-planned and executed packing and preparing for camp will be for naught. I’ll see her in pictures posted on the camp website wearing clothes I don’t recognize and find that jacket that she begged me to send to camp on the back of a bunkmate. I’ll pour over the pictures and enlarge her teeth to make sure that yes, they have been brushed. At least once. I’ll wonder if that spot on her neck is dirt or just the camera lens. And why is her face so red? Didn’t she remember sunscreen?

No matter how much I prepare and send with her, the bottom line is, she is off on her own. I know she won’t shower as much as she should. I know the counselors will probably empty half her toothpaste in the sink the night before visiting day so that I will believe she brushed often and effectively. I know she won’t break the binding on her book and that summer reading will be crammed in the week before school starts. And I know that half her clothes will be lost, destroyed or moldy.

Even though I try and pack every comfort of home, summer camp is more than just relocating. I can prepare her all I want, but once she’s out there, well, there’s no telling what she’ll do. And that’s OK. Because even though I’m creating this guise of concern for her hygiene and education, I’m actually much more interested in seeing a smile on her face.

Summer camp is time away. It’s time away from technology and TV, cell phones and iPads. It’s time away from the nagging of mom and dad and the fights with siblings. And for some, it’s time away from showers and teeth-brushing and clean clothes. I’ve made peace with that. Because camp is really about listening to ghost stories and turning on flashlights with your bunkmates. It’s screaming at the bugs and the heat and creating memories. It is so much more than the organized camp list and duffel.

My kids take turns going to camp. With five kids, sending all of them at once would require a second mortgage and we decided a long time ago that having a house was more important than the few weeks in a bunk. Their experiences have been mixed. My son loved it. One of my daughters, not so much. Though, granted, that was the summer of Swine Flu and she spent most of her time in the infirmary or home. This summer, it is my youngest daughter’s turn.

I hope she has a great time this summer. I hope she writes letters and wishes it will last longer. And I hope she appreciates the efforts I took to send her away prepared to survive the wilds without me there to help her.

But that last bit is a fantasy. Maybe even the letters part. Years of sending kids off for the summer has taught me to not to expect much in the way of appreciation for my painstakingly neurotic packing and preparing. In fact, they probably would’ve been happier with less.

But at least I know that she has what she needs. That I have done my job. That she is armed with toothpaste, and sunscreen, and bug spray as she goes to live in the wilds of her newly renovated bunk.

Even though in reality, what she will actually use in camp could probably fit in a bundle tied to a stick.

And that’s all good.

Article written by Adina Ciment and published by The Huffington Post.