Campfire Notes

Want An Independent, Self-Confident Kid? Camp Can Help!

Want An Independent, Self-Confident Kid? Camp Can Help!

By Audrey “Sunshine” Monke, Camp Director. Originally published at Sunshine Parenting.

While it’s easy to think of ways to teach our kids to do laundry or solve math problems, finding a way to instill important character traits isn’t as simple. The way we model traits we want our children to exhibit has a powerful influence on them, and some traits (kindnessgratitude, and generosity) they learn first and foremost from parents.

But there are other traits best learned through experiences outside the home and beyond the watchful (sometimes too watchful) eyes of parents. Camp experiences offer exactly the kind of experience away from home where children grow important character traits like independence, self-confidence, and grit.

#1 Independence

“Looking back at my life, camp has been the most influential part of it. I can truly say camp is where I developed my independence, gained confidence, and learned what friendship truly means.”
-Lizz

Being hyper-involved and in constant communication with our children has become something modern parents brag about. But when do we start letting go and giving our kids a chance to feel independent? This has become much more challenging in an age where cell phones are always attached to our (and their) hips and tracking apps are ubiquitous. In fact, as parents today we tend to foster dependence even when we’re trying not to. Forgot their lunch? A friend says something mean? Stubbed their toe? We know right away and swoop in to help.

Whether the result of parenting trends or ultra-high levels of physical and digital connectedness, today’s children are much less independent than we were at the same age.  I find it hard to resist editing my son’s paper to make it “just a little bit better” or jumping in to help make his lunch when he’s running late for school. Thirty years ago, we were babysitting infants at age 13.  Today, some of us hire babysitters for our 13-year-olds!

Camp experiences offer unique opportunities for kids to see how much they can do without us hovering nearby. They build their independence skills because they take more responsibility for themselves and their belongings, make their own decisions, and feel a sense of autonomy. For many kids, camp is the first opportunity they’ve had to experience these things.

#2 Self-Confidence

“Camp has really helped me become more confident with who I am and has helped me try new things. Without camp, I would be too shy to go up to someone and introduce myself. Camp has had a giant impact on my personality, and without it I would be a completely different person.”
-Stephanie

When we tell our kid she’s “great” at something, it’s easy for her to be wary of the praise. We parents are notorious for seeing our kids through rose-colored lenses and thinking they are the greatest at _______ (fill in the blank); our kids know intuitively that our assessment of them, however complimentary, is most likely not accurate or objective.

However, when another respected adult mentor – like a camp counselor! – recognizes a positive trait in our child and points it out, that can have a powerful impact. When someone outside the immediate family recognizes our child’s unique qualities and helps him or her address weaknesses, it can build real self-confidence.

#3 Grit

“I love the encouragement that I got, both from counselors and campers, to try new things all the time. I love that the camp encourages you to do that. The camp atmosphere made me stand out and be unique, in ways that I would have been too embarrassed to try at home.”
-Claire

“Grit” became the new buzzword in education and parenting circles thanks to Paul Tough’s best-selling book, How Children Succeed. Angela Duckworth further cemented the importance of grit, or resilience, in her popular TED talk: Grit, the Power of Passion and Perseverance, and her book, Grit. People with grit have “stick-to-itiveness,” persistence, and resilience, all of which help them work hard and push past difficulties and failures.

We all need some grit. But how do we teach grit to a distinctively non-gritty kid or young adult—one who quits when something gets challenging, who doesn’t want to try anything new or difficult, or who prefers playing endless video games to practicing piano, reading, or some other more useful-seeming skill?

As parents, it’s hard to create experiences that require our children to use grit, but at camp those experiences happen every day. While struggling to climb the rock wall or attempting to get up on water skis for the 12th time, our kids develop their grit muscles in a big way at camp. And, they likely wouldn’t try for as long or as hard if we parents were hovering nearby with our worried expressions. At camp, kids are encouraged to set goals, challenge themselves, and overcome failure again and again. And that develops their grit.

Interrupting the cycle of dependence can only happen when we as parents are willing to encourage our children to develop their independence, self-confidence, and grit, and, though it may seem counter-intuitive, that happens best when we’re not around.

Related/Resources:

Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk: Grit, the Power of Passion and Perseverance

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, Paul Tough

10 Reasons Great Parents Choose Summer Camp

Too Much Screen Time? 4 Ways Summer Camp Can Help

 

 

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Be You: Be your Best Self

Be You: Be your Best Self

BE YOU Week 10: Be your Best Self

“Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe.”
-Oprah Winfrey

For many years we have heard both campers and staff say that camp is where they can be their most true, authentic selves. Being your true self is an important value and we want you to celebrate your differences and what makes you exactly who you are.

We want to encourage you to continue focusing on being your best self all year long. Depending on where you are in life, the focus might be something different. Let’s take a look back at our deeper questions from each week of our Be You series, to help you find an area that applies to where you are in life right now.

  • Week 1: What do you like best about yourself?
  • Week 2: What activities get you into “flow?”
  • Week 3: What stresses you out? What calms you down?
  • Week 4: What do you appreciate about others?
  • Week 5: What can you do to build up a friend?
  • Week 6: What are some positive things you say to yourself?
  • Week 7: What makes you stand out from the crowd?
  • Week 8: What is a tiny habit you can create for yourself?
  • Week 9: How will you bring positive changes to the world?
  • Week 10: What are you doing to be the best, most authentic version of you?

This Week’s #GACbeyou Challenge

Journal or share with someone else (can be a parent, sibling, or friend) your answer to this question: 

What are you going to do to be the best, most authentic version of you? You can take something we talked about over the course of this series or you can find another area of your life that you want to focus on. By focusing on being your best self, you are going to be giving the world and those around you something special. Everyone and everything will benefit from who you are and what you have to share.

GACspiration

Want to be inspired? Print out this week’s GACspiration and post it on your bathroom door or mirror (just like at GAC)!

Activity Ideas

Assign a family member, friend, and yourself to each day of the week to be the focus of that day. For example, your mom could be assigned to Monday, assign yourself to Tuesday, your best friend can be Wednesday, your sister on Thursday, etc. Whoever is the focus of the day, make sure you are doing something to help them see the best version of themselves. By bringing out their best qualities, you are, in turn, bringing out yours!

We are so glad that you have joined us on this journey of discovering how to truly be you!

Resources

Be You!

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