Before joining the Strong Rock staff I was a middle school teacher. I loved my students and the relationships that I was able to build with them. However, teaching was also extremely frustrating for me as I realized that very few students were willing to take responsibility for their actions, and they all thought that they deserved an A even if they put forth zero effort. I do not remember this being the case when I was a student. If I received a C on a report card I knew that it was because of my own actions (or lack of), not the fault of another. A recent conversation with several current teachers prompted me to see if there was information out there to explain why this is occurring in children and young adults today.
What I found was very interesting. We are living in what is called the Age of Entitlement. In a recent article from The Huffington Post the question was asked, “Why have parents shifted from teaching self-reliance to becoming hovering helicopter parents who want to protect their children at all cost?” Connected Families gives a great description of how parents can combat this cultural epidemic and raise children who are contributing members of their communities.
As I read both articles I couldn’t help but think of all the ways that sending your kids to an overnight camp can combat this issue as well. Below are some of the reasons as to why I believe that every child should attend an overnight summer camp.
1. Campers learn responsibility. They set the table before meals, keep the cabin clean, and help with various tasks in skill classes. Other members of the camp family are counting on them. If they don’t clean their cabin no one else will, and they will suffer the consequences of living in a dirty cabin. Campers embrace the responsibility that they are given and enjoy being able to contribute to the community. I’ve received countless phone calls from moms asking “What have you done to my child? He has made up his bed every morning since returning from camp and willingly offers to do chores around the house.”
2. Campers learn how to set realistic goals. Campers set goals in skill classes and work hard to meet the goals that they set. Campers set short-term goals that are adjusted throughout the session. Many kids want to hit a bulls-eye in archery the very first time that they shoot. Instructors teach kids to first try and hit the target. Once that goal is met, then campers can adjust their goal to hitting closer and closer to the bulls-eye. This allows all campers to experience success and the benefits of working hard.
3. Campers learn how to work with a variety of different personalities. Each cabin is made up of 10-12 campers. Each camper has a unique personality, gifts, and outlook on life. In a camp setting campers learn how to work with one another. They learn positive methods of conflict resolution and how to work with others in a group setting.
4. Campers are given an opportunity to explore the world around them. Many kids spend the majority of their day inside, watching television, playing video games, or texting friends. Days at camp are filled in God’s creation. It’s amazing to hear kids inquiring about wildlife and tree types, or learning that there is more to horses than riding them. During camp-outs kids learn to respect the environment and disrupt nature as little as possible.
5. Campers are given the freedom to discover the person that God created them to be. There are lots of expectations that the world puts on us all, and kids are no different. Sometimes we are told who we ought to be and we simply fall into that role. If you are told you are quiet, you may feel like it’s never ok to be a little rowdy. If the world expects you to always play “cool” then you may never feel comfortable just letting loose and having fun. Camp provides an environment where it is ok to just be you. I’ve heard countless campers talk about how they have never felt more loved and accepted than they do at camp. Knowing that they are loved unconditionally allows campers to step out of the box that society has put them in and truly be themselves.
6. Campers are surrounded by positive role models. We strive to hire staff who love Jesus and want to make an impact on the lives of kids. Our staff don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk. They model what the Christian life looks like and show kids how to have a blast doing it! While our counselors are in authority over campers, they are often seen more as a respected friend. This allows them to have an unusual influence over campers that it is sometimes hard for parents to achieve.
7. Campers are encouraged to take risks. While at camp, kids are surrounded with opportunities that they may not have anywhere else. They are encouraged to take risks and try new things. I once heard a camper say, “I never thought that I was good at sports, but after being encouraged to play Multimate Frisbee I realized that I’m pretty good.” It is also amazing to hear how our campers encourage one another. I love visiting the Blob during camper choice hour and seeing a camper who is afraid to jump. They are surrounded by friends cheering them on and encouraging them to face their fears and give it a try.
8. Campers learn independence. I am guilty of doing things myself because it’s easier than trying to teach someone else or having to fix their mistakes. I believe that some parents are the same way. It is easier for mom to pick the toys off the floor than to hear the complaints when asking their child to do it. Sometimes this can lead to kids never making an effort, because they know mom will come behind them. I know, I did this as a child. At camp kids learn to do things for themselves. They learn to manage their time and stick to a schedule. They learn to keep up with their belongings. They learn how to meet a challenge head on and not rely on someone else to fight the battle for them.
To sum it all up, I want to leave you with this video from the American Camping Association where some familiar faces give their thoughts on how camp impacted their lives.