July 10, 2015
Today, I want to share two thoughts. The first is somewhat academic and the second is just camp fun.
First, I want to share an article I saw last week about parenting: http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2015/07/helicopter_parenting_is_increasingly_correlated_with_college_age_depression.single.html. The article compiles the results of multiple studies of college students that find a substantial correlation between “helicopter parenting” and depression, loneliness and anxiety. In particular, they site the danger of creating a fear of failure. Several factors create this fear of failure.
Some of it stems from the self-esteem movement and the tendency to avoid having children lose or practice dealing with failure. The problem here is the fact that humans often DO fail and we want our children to know that failure leads to success, is part of the learning process, and is not a terrible end. “It’s not a failure unless you fail to learn something from the experience,” we like to say at camp. Failure followed by effort, support, and future success can build confidence in the long run.
Our society has created a highly competitive education environment. High-stakes testing and the belief that your college is the single most important determinant of future career success puts a huge amount of pressure and stress on not failing. [Note: the college a person attends is far less determinant of success than we seem to suggest. In a talk I gave at my Harvard reunion, I quoted a study that shows that attending Yale provides no long term income advantage over the same quality student attending a state university. This info was not exactly well-received, but it has been verified. Here is the talk if you are curious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hIb3JTB1jdg.
Here is the good news – sending your child to camp is a wonderful vaccination against a massive fear of failure. At camp, campers get to experience multiple successes AND multiple failures on a regular basis. The failures are also low-stake (failing to hit the target in archery or not getting up on skis will not end up on a child’s permanent record), but they are still opportunities to experience struggle and the lessons that follow: the importance of resilience, the knowledge that you cannot succeed at everything, the awareness that failure is part of the learning process.
Camp gives children the knowledge that they can have a setback and come back stronger. Even overcoming homesickness is a form of overcoming a fear of failing.
I once suggested to Susie that we should make a t-shirt that says “Camp Champions: A Wonderful Place to Fail”. She hated the idea. The t-shirt remains unmade.
The second topic is to tell you about the special activity we had tonight.
We brought in the Drum Café to have a 45 minute all-camp drum session. Every camper and counselor had a drum while four drum professionals led us through rhythms, songs and dances.
Imagine the chaos in your home if your child and 3-4 friends all had drums. Now multiple that by around 100. This had the potential to be pure mayhem.
But is wasn’t. This group did a nice job of engaging all ages and getting us all involved. Susie Ma’am said her favorite part was just seeing the faces of campers as they drummed, sang and smiled.
Having a huge group drum at the same time while chanting is a pretty unique experience.
At the end, they entire camp was up and doing a dance together. To be honest, we were not dancing particularly well, but we were dancing enthusiastically and joyfully. Even the shyest campers were up on stage, loud and silly - and that’s a confidence booster for sure.
In short, it as another fun day at camp.
Want more like this? See: http://blog.campchampions.com/at-camp-failure-leads-to-success