The Blessing of the Least Favorite Activity
Written by: Audrey “Sunshine” Monke
Wendy Mogel’s best selling book, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, resonated with
me. I can relate much of her message to camp and to my own family. I heard Dr.
Mogel speak at a camp conference several years ago, and she continues to be active
in the camp community. Many of our camp parents have heard her speak at school
parenting events or have read her book. If you haven’t had a chance to read The
Blessing of a Skinned Knee, I highly recommend it. In addition to sharing about the
importance of letting our kids take healthy risks, and not always rescuing them from
failure, Mogel gives many other valuable insights. She has recognized the value of
camp experiences in the development of emotionally healthy kids, as you can read
in the article “Camp Blessings” on her website.
A question I often get asked, especially by kids who haven’t yet been to Gold Arrow
Camp, is “What if I don’t want to do an activity?” Sometimes it starts with a
statement, “I don’t like horses. Do I have to do that activity?”
I think there are three main reasons kids don’t want to do a particular activity, and
they are the same reasons why adults often choose to forgo some recreational
(1) A previous negative experience with the activity, usually not at camp and not
with experienced instructors. Falling off a horse, being dragged behind a ski boat
and not getting up, or getting lost on a hike, are all examples of negative experiences
that make a person naturally inclined not to want to try again.
(2) Fear! Fear of being humiliated. Fear of failure. Fear of heights. Fear of deep
lake water. Fear of rocks. Fear of going to the bathroom in the woods. Fear of
getting hurt. The list goes on and on.
(3) Finally, another reason kids don’t want to try an activity is because, based on
their perception of themselves or their past successes/failures, they think they
won’t like it. It’s not in their normal repertoire of things they like and/or are good
I’m sure there are other reasons for kids to not want to do an activity, but these are
three that readily come to mind from what campers have told me over the years.
Interestingly, the reasons kids don’t want to do an activity are the very reason
trying the activity may be the best thing that happens at camp for that camper.
If a child doesn’t want to do an activity because of a previous negative
activity, trying it at camp could lead to either a changed mind (and a new activity
they like), or, at the very least, a not-as-negative experience to remember.
If a camper doesn’t want to do an activity because of fear, then trying the activity
could be the most life-changing event that occurs for that camper during their camp
stay. Overcoming fears and challenging oneself to attempt something that seems
impossible can lead to great feelings of accomplishment and improved confidence.
With the support and encouragement from cabin mates and counselors, campers
feel on top of the world after successfully trying something they feared. For the
camper with a fear of heights, climbing half-way up the ladder on the high ropes
course will be celebrated as a huge accomplishment, and one that can make him/her
proud. This is an example of something hard that leads to something good, a theme
that Dr. Mogel stresses. The camp environment offers a supportive place for kids to
learn how to overcome fears and accomplish things they didn’t think were possible.
If a camper doesn’t want to do an activity because they don’t think they’ll like it
based on their preferences or perception of themselves, trying something different
offers an opportunity for expanded confidence. A camper who sees himself as non-
athletic and more adept at target sports may shy away from the more physical
activities, yet trying and accomplishing them could change his perception of himself
in a positive way. A camper who likes shopping and clothes and sees herself as not
an “outdoorsy” kind of person may dread going on a backpacking trip. Yet, the
experience of cooking and sleeping outdoors could lead to an expanded view of
herself and an appreciation for the many different facets of a personality.
Sometimes, the activity a camper thought would be their least favorite becomes a
So, when a camper tells us all the reasons why they “don’t want to” or “can’t” do an
activity this summer, we will continue to encourage them to “give it a try,” because
we know the hidden blessings in the least favorite activity.
A bestselling phenomenon among parents and educators, this book is the essential guide that offers an inspiring new roadmap for raising children.
Internationally known clinical psychologist and lecturer Wendy Mogel’s sage reflections on raising children in a world where entitlement and competition abound have struck a chord with thousands of readers. In a culture whose values are often at odds with the ones parents wish to uphold and instill, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee points the way to raising self–reliant, compassionate and ethical children.
With warmth and humor, Mogel distills the wisdom of the Torah, the Talmud, and important Jewish teachings, as well as contemporary psychological insights, into nine “blessings” that address key parenting issues such as:
- Teaching respect for adults
- Keeping expectations in line with your child’s temperament
- Meal-time battles
- Coping with frustration
- Avoiding over-scheduling and overindulgence
- Helping your child develop independence and self-control
A practical and refreshing antidote to anxious over-parenting, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee is itself a blessing.