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10 Powerful Things You Can Say To Your Kids

At our Chicago area summer camp, we’re aware of the importance of empowering children.  When the Pew Research Center showed parents across America a list of 10 skills and asked, “Which of these skills is most important for a child to get ahead in the world today?”, the winner, by a landslide, was communication.  Not only was it chosen as the most important, but it beat out such traditional favorites as reading, writing, teamwork and logic.

Communication for kids starts with their parents and it is important to make sure that our kids have not only a direct line of communication with us, but a healthy one. Listed below are 10 powerful things you can, and should often say to your kid.

Summary below (from the folks at, with the whole article available at this link.

  1. I like you.
  2. You’re a fast learner.
  3. Thank you.
  4. How about we agree to…
  5. Tell me more.
  6. Let’s read.
  7. We all make mistakes.
  8. I’m sorry.
  9. What do you think?
  10. Yes.


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4 Ways to Create an Awesome Kid

When we’re at our girls-only, boys-only, and blended summer camps near Chicago, we see quite a few awesome kids, and do our best at creating an environment to maximize their development. Below are some good tips on how to help your child be the most awesome s/he can be! stay stress-free. Summary below (from the folks at Barking Up the Wrong Tree), with the whole article available at this link

  • Work on yourself: Increasing your own happiness and reducing your stress have big effects on your kids.
  • Autonomy: Want them to be successful adults? Make sure they have a say in what they do — starting now.
  • Communicate: Family meals make a big difference. Tell them their family history. More arguing means less lying.
  • Community: Their peers have more influence they you do. Make sure Grandmom is around if you want compassionate children.

One last thing you need to keep in mind if you want a close relationship with the kiddos:

Love. Don’t just be guider, protector and enforcer. Kids are nearly 50% more likely to feel close to those who show them affection.


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How to Minimize the Effects of Gender Bias on Your Daughter

At our girl summer camp programs near Chicago, we have always been about empowering young women.  As we put it, we exist for girls as they are so they imagine the women they can become.

Lynn Johnson of Go Girls! wrote a recent blog detailing how gender bias negatively impacts young women.  Below are some takeaways from the article, with tips on how you can minimize the effects of gender bias.  Gender biasThe whole piece is available at this link:

  • 65% of Americans believe that women are more compassionate leaders than men
  • Women comprise only about 20% of state and national legislators
  • 40% of teen boys and 23% of teen girls prefer males over females in powerful positions, such as politics
  • There are more white men named Jim in the California legislature than black and Asian-American women combined.

What to do?

  • Become aware of your own biases.
  • Cultivate family practices that prevent and reduce bias.
  • Teach teens to spot and effectively confront stereotypes and discrimination.
  • Don’t just let “boys be boys.”
  • Challenge teens’ biased assumptions and beliefs.
  • Use programs and strategies that build girls’ leadership skills.


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4 Ways to be a Great Parent

Although I’m still waiting for my imaginary go to guide on how to be a great parent (I’m thinking it must be lost in the mail for the last 11 years or so…), I’ve tried to do my best by my son.  

Here are some good tips from the folks at Barking Up the Wrong Tree.  Summary below, with the full article available at this link.

  • Gardener not carpenter: Your job is to provide a safe space to grow, not to systematically build Frankenstein.
  • Under 6, they need play: Having an imaginary friend who happens to be a dragon named “Larry” is a good thing.
  • School-age kids need teaching: Help them build skills. Cooking, good. Bartending, not so good.
  • Teenagers need apprenticeships: They need to learn how to learn without you. And that means real world experience.


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Why Spanking Is Bad for Child Development

I still have fond memories of hanging out in the back of our family station wagon, without a seatbelt, looking at the drivers immediately behind our vehicle. Many of us growing up in that era also remember well-meaning parents who spanked us. Although many easily appreciate the wisdom and safety regarding current child seatbelt laws, some struggle with whether spanking is still a good idea. Child being spanked

Our summer camp near Chicago is always focused on positive child development. So we encourage some potentially reluctant parents (including—according to a recent NBC News poll—the majority of Americans who believe spanking is “sometimes appropriate.”) to check out recent research studies, elucidated in a recent article at Bullets below, with the whole article available at this link:

  • The majority of people over 30 likely grew up getting spanked at least occasionally

  • In many cases, being spanked made kids more rebellious.

  • According to a recent study published in the Journal of Family Psychology analyzing five decades of spanking research, children who are spanked often are “more likely to defy their parents and to experience increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems, and cognitive difficulties.”

  • The more often adults were spanked as children, the more likely they were to later develop a host of negative outcomes, including mental health issues.

  • Spanking was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance.

  • The negative effects of spanking correlate with those of physical abuse in childhood.


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6 Ways to Keep Your Family Happy

During beautiful summer days at camp, within our Midwest summer camp community, the challenge of keeping our camp family happy is not overwhelming.   Hanging out in nature, playing with friends, and enjoying the beautiful weather are almost guaranteed to keep one happy.  

When not at camp, it might take a little more intentionality to maintain family harmony.  Below are some good scientifically-backed research tips on ways to keep your family happy longterm. happy-family Summary below (from the folks at Barking Up the Wrong Tree), with the whole article available at this link

  • Create a family mission statement
  • Share your family history
  • Hold weekly family meetings
  • Fight fair
  • Have family dinner together
  • Just try!


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4 Warning Signs Your Child Might Be Being Bullied

At  all times, and especially during Anti-Bullying Month, we should be aware of how our children are doing socially. imagesAt summer camps for kids, it can be easier to see if bullying behaviors are present.  The challenge can be at home, where much social behavior takes place away from families or online. Here are 4 useful warning signs that a child might be being bullied:

  • Frequent headaches
  • A drop in grades (even in just one subject)
  • Being upset after social events
  • Excessive concern about being popular

A link to a full article from is here.


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How To Never Have to Argue with Your Kids (Or Anyone)

At our summer camp in the Midwest, we work on conflict resolution techniques to help empower our campers and staff. A recent blog from the good folks at Barking Up the Wrong Tree, a blog offering cool life tips, emphasized a few ways that we can use to never have to argue with your kids (or anyone). download Bullets are below, with the full blog available at this link.

  • Listen With Full Attention: Everyone needs to feel understood; kids are no different.
  • Acknowledge Their Feelings: Paraphrase what they said. Don’t say you understand, show them you do.
  • Give Their Feelings A Name: “Sounds like you feel this is unfair.” It calms the brain.
  • Ask Questions: You want to resolve their underlying emotional needs, not get into a logical debate.


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Trusting Child Development Professionals to do Their Jobs

As parents, we seek the best for our children. What can sometimes be a challenge is recognizing that the best thing for our children is letting them navigate their own path, and sometimes letting them fail.

Life’s best lessons aren’t always learned through getting your way, or creating situations where your children get their way. For example, when parents confront coaches about playing time (or referees about perceived bad calls…or camp directors about experiences related to camp) for their kids, they send dueling bad messages: that the child deserves the time (or call) and that the child can’t communicate with the coach (or referee or camp director) for him or herself.  

What can be hard for some parents (including me) is to let your child go through adversity and experience failure. Despite those types of experiences often offering the best lessons, we often prevent kids from learning those lessons by intervening on their behalf.

Instead, we need to recognize just how smart and resilient our children are. Instead of “rescuing” them unnecessarily, we need to encourage and support them while they figure stuff out by themselves. Perhaps easy to say (or write), but definitely leading to stronger, more lasting life lessons.

Let’s try words like these the next time we’re tempted to intervene with a coach or child development professional: “You’re my child’s coach (or camp director). I trust you.’”


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Why NOT Talking to Your Child During Camp is Best for Their Development

For many children this summer, camp will be the first experience they have away from home, their family and friends for an extended period of time. Some will be eager to experience this new chapter in their life; others will struggle with the decision their parents made for them and will try and find every reason not to go. Nevertheless, camp parents know that it is best for their children’s growth. But, before you pick up the phone and call camp or write a letter to your child to express how much you miss them, think to yourself: would this really be the best decision for them? Chances are, it’s not. 

Boys camp empowerment A very good article written by Ian Brassett called “Summer Camp & Homesickness: Why NOT Speaking With Your Child is the Best Medicine” outlines some of the best reasons why…. well… the title clearly explains it. One of the main points is that when parents send a child off to camp, they are sending them to a safe and fun environment with the opportunity for growth. Children can’t grow mentally if parents keep a tight grip on them. Sometimes things won’t go as expected for them, and other times, plans will fall nicely into place. No matter what happens, it’s a learning adventure that they need to embark on by themselves. 


Another point from the article is that you, the parent, chose your child’s camp. You researched the resources and activities the camp provides, and the employees and directors in charge of your children. Have confidence that you chose the right camp. Trust the camp to care for your children and keep their best interests in mind as well as trust your children to put an effort in to improve themselves. 

Growing can bring challenges. Good camps (including Camp Kupugani) ask parents in advance the best way to deal with their child.  The best camps try everything possible to make each child’s experience enjoyable and memorable. 

Remember that camps don’t want unhappy children. They will make sure to involving your child in fun activities, have counselors work with them and help them make friends. Friends help feelings of homesickness diminish and feelings of fun grow. 

As a parent, camp (and feelings of “childsickness”) might be harder on parents than it is on kids. While the kids are preoccupied with activities and making new friends, you might feel a little lost without them.  Take that opportunity to revel in the fact that, for a change of pace in your life, you don’t have to adjust your schedule around your young ones, and might even 

have…. *dramatic gasp*… free time! Keep in touch with the camp’s latest happenings through pictures and posts on social media sites. (Pictures do say a thousand words.)

Even if you’re struggling mightily with childsicckness, DO NOT make a “pick up deal”. Do not say to them, “Try things out, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll come get you.” By saying that, you’re already giving them a reason not to try their hardest to be independent while they’re away. You’re telling them that Mom or Dad will come and rescue them when any hint of a challenge comes along.  That’s not the type of child you want to send out into the world!

So, for the best development of your children during camp, don’t speak or write to them how much you miss them while they’re in camp or give them an option to be picked up during session. More often than not, talking to your child will end in failure. In the words of Ian Brassett, “No camp wants a camper to leave without growth. That would be the biggest failure of all.”


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Kupugani touches on all the core values and enrichment that we hope to instill in our [child]. My husband and I absolutely love Camp Kupugani. Our [child] gained immensely from camp.

Lisa G.

Everyone…was just so, so personable, kind, and the kind of person I want
my [child] looking up to and spending time with.

Laura V.

[My daughter’s] face lights up when she speaks about camp, it’s a priceless experience.

Kenya P.

I have never come in contact with such a wonderful group of people at a camp before. Everyone did an outstanding job, the camp was so organized, it was unbelievable.

Joe M.

She absolutely loves the camp, the staff, and all the friends she makes there. I consider Kupugani to be a big influence in helping her grow and expand her mind each summer.

Luci A.


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