Keynote & Workshop Topics

Lead Your Team to New Heights

Unforgettable training for your school, camp, company, or community requires the right content and  the right person to deliver it. That winning combination is Dr. Thurber’s motto: Teaching What It Takes®

Mix and match from the Master Topic List below to design the next amazing on-site or online educational event for you and your team. As with all important investments in the future of your organization, planning is essential. Please contact Dr. Thurber’s office for personalized scheduling and pricing: +1.603.557.8111

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  • Leadership & Parenting
  • Mental Health & Behavior
  • Physical & Emotional Safety
  • Social Justice
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  • Youth Development

Appreciative Inquiry: Strengths-Based Organizational Change

Organizations such as schools, camps, companies, and communities are full of different problems, right? Effective leaders identify these problems, brainstorm solutions, and motivate others to adopt a fix, right? If you answered yes to either of these questions then you haven’t adopted a success mindset. Learn a radically different change management approach that will reset your attitudes and behaviors by teaching you to capitalize on strengths. The single best way to achieve elusive “buy-in.”

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Promoting Focus and Compliance

Diagnosis or not, the symptoms of impulsivity and distractibility are so prevalent in children and teens that every parent, youth leader, and professional educator needs a collection of practical techniques that increase focus, concentration, and compliance. This workshop dispels myths about ADHD, explains effective behavior management, and provides realistic practice in methods that help young people avoid distraction, retain information, and inhibit impulses.

Becoming a Youth Development Professional: Making the Transition from ME to KIDS

Camps and schools are powerful, positive developmental experiences for children and adolescents. Because young people’s growth hinges on the quality of their relationship with energetic youth leaders and professional educators, it is essential that these adults see themselves as mentors who can lead by example. This workshop pushes participants to make the transition from focusing on themselves to focusing on the needs of the young people they serve.

But It’s Tradition! Transforming Hazing into Healthy Bonding

The paradox of hazing–which may be happening right under your nose–is that it creates superficial bonding while eroding genuine social connections. Tragically, hazing endangers participants and creates deep rifts in groups of young people, as well as teams of adults. By distinguishing hazing from healthy tradition, this workshop promotes authentic feelings of group membership. An excellent choice for team captains, dorm heads, boarding staff, and returning camp staff.

Classic Problem Solving: Using Options & Evaluation to Promote Group Consensus

Classic problem solving is a powerful way to use the group’s wisdom to find a solution that works for everyone. In this insightful workshop, participants will learn the step-by-step approach that successful leaders use to solve all sorts of common problems. No parent, professional educator, or youth leader should be without this fundamental conflict resolution toolkit. Far superior to blaming and shaming, and an essential prerequisite to Cooperative and Proactive Solutions.

Cooperative & Proactive Solutions: Conflict Resolution in a Win-Win Framework

Extend your skills beyond the fundamental Classic Problem Solving rubric of identification, brainstorming, and trial-and-error. Adding genuine empathy, trigger identification, needs assessment, and collaboration can transform a conflict This workshop draws on new research that gives parents, professional educators, and youth leaders powerful tools to understand conflict differently, communicate clearly, and maintain authority while orchestrating win-win outcomes.

Coping with the Death of a Student, Camper, or Young Family Member

This individualized crisis management workshop for faculty, staff, and leadership teams is a must. Dr. Thurber will work with you and your team to ensure you know how to support the young people you care for, their families, your colleagues, and yourself, should a tragedy occur in your school, camp, or family. The workshop emphasizes social-emotional wellbeing and also includes guidelines garnered from media relations and insurance professionals.

Courageous Ignorance: Equity and Inclusion Start with Humility

Celebrating differences introduces a new level of joy and insight to the experience of school, camp, and other youth-serving organizations. But humans are pre-wired to notice and fear differences—at first. Therefore, skilled leaders must guide the group toward a profound appreciation of diversity. This pioneering workshop will equip participants with the cross-cultural agility they need to recognize prejudice, undo institutional racism, and achieve lasting peace.

Cracking Kids’ Secret Code: Advanced Communication for Stronger Connections

All people speak two languages—Words and Meaning—and if all we hear is words, we miss opportunities to understand and connect. Recognizing the underlying message in what a young person says is the fastest way to cultivate the kind of respectful relationship that increases compliance and decreases behavior problems. In this fan-favorite workshop, video clips will give participants practice using this advanced technique.

Data Don’t Lie, But You Have to Ask the Right Questions

Whether you want a better participant satisfaction survey or an accurate way to assess social-emotional health, Dr. Thurber can put his geeky expertise to work by helping you design reliable and valid assessment tools. Stop operating on anecdotes and impressions fraught with biases. Instead, base the improvement of your school, camp, company, or community on scientific evidence. An essential workshop to complete before grant-writing, fund-raising, or a major policy change.

Designing and Implementing a Meaningful Substance Use Policy

Are you ready to move past a “Don’t Ask / Don’t Tell” stance on substance use? Do you recognize that publishing your policy in the student handbook or the staff training manual will never be enough to stop violations? Then you are ready to join other forward-thinking youth leaders and professional educators who taken a proactive stance on substance use by intentionally crafting an enforceable policy that emphasizes personal accountability, community safety, and learning from

Disordered Eating: Recognition, Prevention, and Social Context

Symptoms of disordered eating often emerge in young people who are away from home for the first time, feeling stressed, and seeking a sense of control. The symptoms can even become socially contagious. Unfortunately, any beneficial feelings of order, agency, and self-reliance are overshadowed by depression, anxiety, and poor nutrition. Learn to prevent, recognize, and respond ethically to disordered eating in any youth-serving organization.

Do You Want a Spanking?! …and Other Crazy Questions Grown-Ups Ask

It’s OK…we’ve all said things we don’t mean. The fact is that when adults get overwhelmed, their behavior can regress. And without equanimity and a practical plan to manage anger and other strong emotions, professional educators, youth leaders, and parents may all revert to rhetorical questions, coercion, and threats they have no intention to act on. This humorous workshop blends stress and anger management techniques with communication and discipline strategies that actually work.

Dump the Slump: Coaching Your Team to Achieve Consistent Excellence

Maintaining motivation and exuding energy are challenges that all professional educators, youth leaders, and primary caregivers face. But wishing you accomplished more and wishing you led more consistently are vastly different from setting goals and defining methods. In this advanced workshop, participants will learn Executive Coaching techniques to boost their own performance and teach their teams how to avoid those mythical “mid-term meltdowns” and “mid-summer slumps.”

Escaping Gender Role Stereotypes: Life Without Boxes

Gender roles may add superficial order to a confusing world, but culturally mediated definitions of masculinity and femininity constrain self-expression and allow no room for non-binary individuals. This challenging workshop will sensitize participants to recognize and undo these entrenched patterns of cultural cornering. An enlightened experience in your school, camp, company, or community helps everyone form authentic relationships, use their true voices, and live a life that free of toxic boxes.

Extreme Makeover: Training Week Edition

Stop putting your team to sleep by reading aloud from the handbook or training manual! It’s time to overhaul employee education by using the MAP-IT technique. With these elements in place, your staff will be engaged and enlightened: M=Masterful meetings; A=Arc of Learning; P=Practical; I=Individual time; T=Together time. This iconoclastic workshop for senior management will push the group to re-think and re-design staff education from the bottom up.

Go Tech-Know: Updating Your Electronic Technology Policy

Every school, camp, and youth program needs an updated electronic technology policy for participants and employees, but many are outdated or misunderstood. This workshop will help you evaluate the pros and cons of everything from smartphones to fitness watches and emerge with a coherent, mission-driven policy that young participants, youth leaders, faculty, staff, and even parents can adhere to. Sidestep market pressures and stay true to your organization’s mission, vision, and values.

Head, Heart, or Hybrid? Refining Your Emotional Leadership Style

Based on fascinating research in emotional intelligence, this enlightening workshop teaches participants of all ages and roles to examine their emotional leadership style—the extent to which they tolerate and understand children’s emotions. Ultimately, a deeper understanding of other people’s feeling states builds the interpersonal connections that strengthen relationships and increase compliant behavior…and who doesn’t want their job to be a little easier?

Homesickness Extremes: The Ethics and Logistics of Shortened Stays

Homesickness is sometimes so intense and so chronic that a student or camper struggles to perform the essential functions of eating, sleeping, and participating. At that point, the only ethical thing to do is consider a shortened stay. Exercising this option, after thoroughly exploring all other treatment plans, is complex, so this workshop will teach you a systematic approach that leaves caregivers settled, employees relieved, and young people optimistic about a return next year.

Homesickness Prevention for Boarding Schools & Summer Camps

Nearly 70% of homesickness can be prevented in the months before opening day! Join the enlightened group of deans, heads, directors, and owners who have implemented Dr. Thurber’s carefully researched methods for promoting positive adjustment to separation from home. Watch your homesickness rates plummet right along with parental anxiety and staff frustration. Upgrade your prevention program with a powerful combination of program design and pre-arrival, online engagement.

I’ll Knock Your Teeth Out: Understanding and Preventing Bullying

Bullying behavior is both prevalent and misunderstood. Did you know that most bullies actually have high self-esteem? Or that most bullies are themselves also targets? Using contemporary data and some classic movie clips, this workshop will enlighten professional educators, youth leaders, and caregivers of all kinds. Create a culture where bystanders become upstanders, where differences are respected, and where normative conflict and shifting social status bring out the best in kids.

I’m Black; You’re White–Now What?

Co-led with film maker and communications consultant, David Conley, this advanced three-part workshop for schools and camps is a refreshing departure from other DEI workshops in three ways: (1) It embraces each person’s “courageous ignorance;” (2) It recognizes that implicit biases can be overcome; and (3) It focuses on status behaviors as fundamental to social justice. If you’re looking for a fresh perspective on an uncomfortable topic that will endow your team with practical skills,

Internal Leadership Development I: Designing High-Yield ILD Programs

Camps Internal leadership development (ILD) can become your primary-or even your sole-source for the highest quality staff. This design workshop is for directors of day camps, overnight camps, parks & recs, and other summer youth programs who are committed to an multi-year process of refinement, tradition, promotion, and staff training that will revolutionize their current hiring practices. Especially valuable for camps who want to give their older campers a compelling reason to return.

Internal Leadership Development II: Designing a Successful CIT / LIT Program

Camps Leader-in-Training (or Counselor-in-Training) programs have 10 common flaws that usually lead to their collapse within a few seasons. This workshop for directors of day camps, overnight camps, parks & recs, and other summer youth programs is based on the radical success of the few camps in the country that have 90% or more homegrown staff. It’s not magic—it’s intentional, intelligent, and innovative. Learn how to transform your CIT/LIT cohort from a work crew to

Internal Leadership Development III: Effective Mentoring of Junior Leaders

Junior leaders follow the example of senior staff and head counselors, but frequently face two problems: Either they become intoxicated with their newfound authority or they become disillusioned by the antics of senior leaders. This workshop teaches junior leaders to learn with humility and senior leaders to set a sterling example. An excellent workshop to promote collaboration up and down the organizational chart. Excellent preparation for the challenging transition from oldest camper to youngest staff.

Internal Leadership Development IV: Principles of Hiring, Evaluation, and Promotion

No ILD system is complete without time-tested procedures for hiring, evaluation, and promotion. These are the techniques that eclipse any Standard Interview + Criminal Background Check combination. With an ILD system, you hire only people whose performance you personally witness, and you promote only those leaders who are truly deserving. Learn advanced techniques for providing feedback and in-service training that bring out the best in your staff. (Also a superior approach to staff risk-management.)

Kids Today: Essentials of Child and Adolescent Development

Understanding the maturational milestones for boys and girls of different ages, in different cultures, is essential for all professional educators and youth leaders. This workshop examines the social, emotional, cognitive, moral, and spiritual development of youth between ages 4 and 18. Participants are sure to gain the kind of perspective and insight that enhance patience and creativity. A must for less-experienced staff or faculty about to embrace the awesome responsibility of caring for other people’s

Listening to the Bright Red Scream: Understanding and Preventing Self-Harm

Self-harm behaviors are provocative, taboo, and more prevalent than we would like to believe. This workshop explains how this upsetting behavior develops, how to assess its dangers, and how to respond sensitively. Instead of panicking when we learn about self-harm, adults must be prepared for the inevitable and ready to give adolescents support, as well as coach them on healthy ways of coping. Includes essential information on contextualizing media portrayals of self-harm, such as 13

Male Call: How to Promote Healthy Male Leadership

Boys and men can bring powerful leadership to their roles as participants and as mentors, but what about the corrosive side effects that can take hold, such as harassment, homophobia, and bravado? This workshop uses case studies of unhealthy masculine stereotypes to extract enlightened methods for setting boundaries and leading by example when boys and men cross the line. Living outside “The Man Box” is liberating and healthy for individuals, families, schools, camps, and companies.

Motivation: Why We Do What We Do

For anyone who has wondered how to get more horsepower out of their students, campers, or colleagues, this is the workshop to ground and inspire fresh approaches. Forget carrots on sticks and start thinking about instilling intrinsic motivation by igniting the human needs for connection, autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Theory and research buttress the practical strategies in this transformative workshop. A favorite with parents, teachers, boarding staff, sport coaches, and front-line camp counselors.

Out of the Shell: Helping the Anxious or Hypersensitive Child

Too timid to try? Sheltered, shaking, or shy? Here are the best strategies for engaging cooperation, coaxing participation, and moving the anxious or hypersensitive child out of their comfort zone one gentle step at a time. Your patience, understanding of temperament, search for unique talents, and trauma-informed approach can provide a secure attachment from which a withdrawn child can explore. No more tears and fears…just lots of smiles, laughs, and newfound confidence.

Permanently Public: The Perks and Perils of Digital Communication

Are your students, campers, children, or employees using the internet responsibly? Too often, the perceived anonymity of sitting alone with a screen lowers people’s inhibitions and leads them to post lascivious content, sometimes accompanied by your logo. Other times, the anger or excitement of the moment clouds people’s judgement about what’s appropriate to send in a “forever format.” Help your community protect themselves and others with timeless parameters of patience, respect, and foresight.

Pinnacles and Pitfalls: Leadership is Learned

Culled from decades of experience as a parent and youth leader, this hugely popular workshop is a collection of witty, effective, and enduring leadership techniques. Presented in a visual format that gives youth leaders and boarding staff a clear view of the consequences that poor leadership can have—as well as the wonderful outcomes of patience, initiative, and consistency—this can be an inspiring closing keynote following a full day of workshops.

Positive Leadership in the Workplace: Cultural Norms of Excellence

A favorite among professional educators and youth leaders alike, this workshop blends management, communication, etiquette, and conflict resolution skills into a powerful package that eliminates laziness, backstabbing, resentment, and negativity that can plague organizations. Transform pettiness to professionalism though the intentional practice of humility, leadership-by-example, and open dialogue. An excellent complement to the Providing Effective Feedback workshop.

Positive Peer Pressure: Understanding Your Behavior in Groups

Common conceptions of peer pressure peg it as wholly negative, when in fact peers can have a tremendously positive influence on one another. This insightful workshop forces youth leaders and new boarding staff to take an honest look at how group dynamics influence their competitiveness, creativity, concentration, and integrity. Participants will learn how to be persuasively positive and how to spot students or campers who are caving to any of their peers’ unhealthy pressure.

Positive Psychology in Action: Authentic Happiness for Students and Educators

News Flash! Psychologists no longer focus narrowly on pathology and problems…and neither should you. Instead, focus on positive psychology, which emphasizes personal strengths and optimal experiences. So-called “problem kids” and “impossible co-workers” evolve into model students and professional educators when they tap into their signature strengths, engage in gratifying activities, and act in service to others. An outstanding keynote to set an optimistic tone for a full day of workshops.

Preserving Professional Teacher-Student Boundaries: Case Study Discussions

Designed as complement to the Boundaries: Essential Concepts workshop, this is an opportunity to extend and apply participants’ understanding of professional boundaries in real-world contexts. Small groups can choose from more than 50 different scenarios and discuss how to apply the guideposts they learned. Then, the small groups can gather as one large group to discuss their conclusions, clarify finer points, and arrive at a shared understanding of safeguarding best-practices for the organization.

Preserving Professional Teacher-Student Boundaries: Essential Concepts

Professional educators and youth leaders can sometimes enter a grey area in which personal information is over-shared, physical touch becomes inappropriate, and emotional connections creep beyond what’s comfortable. This popular and riveting workshop details key responsibilities, reporting obligations, and boundary-preserving strategies that are easy to remember and straightforward to follow. No camp or school should begin the year without explicit coverage of this cornerstone of professionalism.

Preventing Burn-Out: Best Practices for Stress Management

Employees at any level can burn out when negative attitudes, maladaptive behaviors, and unwise use of time off take hold. Using the five pillars of Workplace Resilience and Wellbeing, this workshop teaches just the right combination of cognitive and behavioral strategies so that all teachers, coaches, staff, parents, and youth leaders can maintain peak performance and sprint across the finish line stress-free. An excellent pre-season or mid-season jolt of self-care, full of timeless recommendations.

Program Perfection: Keys to Running Superior Activity Periods

We all remember a few times when we were having so much fun we almost peed our pants. What was the magic combination of challenge, enthusiasm, novelty, teamwork, and achievement that made it all come together so beautifully? This workshop compels participants to shed mundane coaching and supervision techniques in favor of innovation and spunk. Without reliance on expensive equipment and expert certifications, what can strong leaders design together?

Providing Effective Feedback, Part I: Written Goal Setting and Evaluation

All professional educators and youth leaders deserve honest feedback about their performance—both strengths and weaknesses. In addition, those in supervisory positions need to document the results of regular evaluations to fulfill legal requirements and inform future hiring. This workshop showcases an intriguing variety of assessment methods—both objective and subjective—that set employees up for success with concrete goals, achievable benchmarks, and measurable outcomes.

Providing Effective Feedback, Part II: In-Person Praise and Criticism

Whether you’re in a supervisory position or not, providing feedback to your colleagues is an essential skill for leadership growth and development. Of course, the barrier to providing feedback is that relationships are at stake, so even experienced managers sometimes choose to say nothing, thereby avoiding an uncomfortable moment. This advanced workshop teaches dedicated leaders how to preserve good relationships while providing clear, in-person feedback in ways that boost everyone’s performance.

Psychotropic Medication Management for Camps and Schools

Psychotropic medication management presents unique challenges at independent schools, summer camps, and other youth-serving organizations. Participants in this demystifying workshop will get facts about how common psych meds work, what their side effects are, how to effectively communicate with parents and prescribers, and which real-world policies work best for medication administration.

Putting Camp Jobs on Your Resume: A Primer for Camp Staff

Some youth leaders make camp their life’s work; many choose other careers; few are able to communicate the awesome responsibility of caring for other people’s children, leading by example, and guiding diverse groups toward meaningful goals. This workshop teaches participants how convince future employers why camp experience makes them an ideal hire. Practice crafting cover letters and resumes that accurately describe your character strengths and talents and set you apart from the crowd.

Seven Habits of Highly Effective Youth Organizations

If you have a long-term vision of positive transformation, this workshop is for you. The habits that shape institutional culture can be difficult to establish, but once in place, they are robust and reliable investments in your organization’s future. Learn what sets financially healthy and reputationally successful schools and camps apart from their peers, as well as which best practices are missing from your current playbook. A great workshop for executive-level leaders.

Situational Leadership: Respond to Any Challenge with Confidence

Ask dedicated caregivers of all sorts to label their style and they can do it in a word. However, that’s a limitation, because outstanding parenting, teaching, and youth leadership defies one-word descriptions. This engaging workshop uses video clips to teach all kinds of caregivers how to rapidly assess the demands of any situation and flexibly adapt their responses to suit. The result is a measured, patient, and effective approach to parenting and youth leadership.

Skillful Discipline, Part I: Creative Behavior Management and Alternatives to Punishment

The biggest concern that every camp leader, professional educator, and parent has is that kids will be defiant. That makes sense, because supervising young people goes from tough to impossible when kids stop listening. This energizing workshop teaches six prevention strategies that promote prosocial behavior and six intervention strategies to redirect misbehavior. Role plays with realistically challenging scenarios give all participants the chance to put theory into practice and return to their jobs with confidence.

Skillful Discipline, Part II: Even More Ways to Promote Good Behavior

Seven more prevention strategies and seven more intervention strategies make this hugely helpful workshop the perfect companion to Skillful Discipline, Part I. Parents, professional educators, and camp staff all love learning to make progress with obstinate youth that “know how to push your buttons.” As in Part I, this workshop relies on role plays with realistically challenging scenarios give all participants the chance to put theory into practice and return to their jobs with confidence.

Stop Yelling and Get the HINT: High-Impact, No-Trouble Classroom Management

The challenge for adult participants in this captivating workshop is to produce desired behavior changes in students, campers, or their own children without expending more than 1½ calories, the energy in a single breath mint. Even seasoned leaders can learn deceptively simple ways to rely on one-word directions, clear consequences, and young people’s intrinsic motivation to enhance their own experience. Manage the classroom, the cabin, or the kitchen table while preserving your own sanity and

Suicidality: Guidelines for Lay Assessment and Prevention

Suicidal thoughts, emotions and behaviors can be difficult to predict and uncomfortable to discuss. However, completed suicides are permanent and devastating, so parents and other caregivers share a responsibility to assess youth who may be at risk. Learn six mistakes most well-intentioned adults make when a young person expresses suicidal thoughts and feelings, as well as four sensitive practices that could save a life. A flexible framework for all camps, schools, and families.

The Phone Call: Advanced Techniques for Defusing Emotional Bombs

You can recognize the phone call by the angry, anxious, or over-involved parent on the other end of the line. But finding a peaceful resolution without suffering abuse or sacrificing your integrity can be a huge challenge. This practical session teaches participants practical and powerful communication skills that help parents manage stress so you can get back to the business of caring for their children. An excellent companion workshop to Cracking Kids’ Secret Code.

Time Management for Busy Professionals

You might try to shoehorn a few more things into your schedule, but the world will still rotate relentlessly once every 24 hours. So although we cannot actually manage time, we can manage our approach to tasks and priorities in a way that takes full advantage of the time we have. The key is to protecting priorities and make mindful choices while preventing procrastination. Small changes become durable habits when you experience early successes.

Waterfront Safety Design

Prevent accidents and promote safe practices by implementing these ten waterfront enhancements before next summer or next semester. Using video clips for inspiration, participants will be challenged to work different angles of the safe waterfront equation, including construction, instruction, supervision, and maintenance. Discuss the merits applicable laws and standards, learn to spot structural risks, and plan refinements to your in-service lifeguard training, lost bather drills, and emergency action plans (EAPs).

What the…? Understanding and Predicting Human Behavior

Take the mystery out of young people’s most perplexing behaviors by exploring the links between nature, nurture, objective events, and subjective interpretations. With greater insight into how behaviors are fueled by emotions and shaped by thoughts, your ability to confidently coach positive alternative behaviors will increase dramatically. You’ll also learn how adult-youth relationships are transactional, with both grown-ups and kids shaping the other’s behavior. Awareness of your own reactions further strengthens your predictive power.

Wise Use of Time Off: Best Practices for Maximum Stamina

Whether you’re a parent or a paid professional, your work with young people takes stamina. And although unhealthy methods of coping with stress—such as binging on screen time or substances—can be fun in the short term, they lead to impatience, impulsivity, and burn-out. By contrast, practicing good self-care and spending your limited time off wisely means that you’ll be ready for anything when you’re back on duty. Cornerstone content for all leaders.

Youth Mental Health Crises in Context

If a young person in your camp, school, or family felt suicidal, reported self-harm, showed psychotic symptoms, or otherwise appeared to be in psychological crisis, would you know what to do? This advanced workshop guides adults through the ethical and clinical decisions behind handling mental health crises. Learn how to provide support, keep a student safe, and make an appropriate referral without attributing blame or inducing shame. Key information for deans, senior leaders, and parents.

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