Helping children to value themselves without adults needing to define them
Imagine someone approached you on the street and said, “Listen to these facts – your abilities and tastes will never change. You will never improve or get worse at anything. You will have precisely the same hobbies today as you will 50 years from now.” You would think they were insane, right? I know I would get indignant. I might respond with a stern, “You don’t know me!” And I’d walk away, sure I was right.
And then we think about how children are frequently interacted with. Most children are led to believe that, from a very young age, the most important things about them are things they have very little control over.
“Who’s my big strong man?”
“You’re daddy’s prettiest little princess in the whole world.”
“Look how smart you are!” (in response to the child accomplishing something easily).
And, while these utterings are offered with the best of intentions, they can have some seriously sad consequences in the long run.
Why? Because, if we value ourselves based on things we have little control over, we will spend our lives feeling helpless to control how valuable we are.
And that’s pretty sad.
If you’re even considering sending your child to summer camp at the Stomping Ground, you likely know the incredible potential that exists inside every child. You know that, when a child puts his mind to something, he can accomplish ANYTHING, given a long enough period to practice.
You also know that there are certain things we can’t really control. Try as I might, there’s a certain ceiling that exists on how pretty I am. Lifting weights and changing my diet in college moved me from 135 to 140 pounds, and then a hard stop. As for smarts? There was always someone who could get slightly better grades than I could, or win the approval of teachers more effectively.
And it hurt. Wasn’t I valuable because I was so handsome? Wasn’t I valuable because of how easily I could solve math problems? If there are people who do these things better than I do, does that make them better than I am?
Now, we don’t hope to disparage adults who are trying to make children feel better about themselves. We’re just trying to start a new conversation surrounding helping children understand who they want to be – to help them find a lasting and sustainable happiness, rather than a brief thrill after winning the approval of a grown up.
Sewing the seeds for real confidence at summer camp.
At the Stomping Ground, we understand that real confidence simply doesn’t come from grown ups making declarations about certain fixed qualities of “who you are.”
It comes from waking up every day and deciding who YOU want to be. It comes from pursuing interests that mean something to you – not interests that are prescribed by well-meaning adults. It comes from following your heart to form authentic friendships, from learning empathy for your fellow human beings, from accomplishing goals that you set for yourself.
And those are the opportunities we hope to provide at summer camp in 2015.
Our summer camp staff members will never tell your child who he or she is. They’ll ask questions, and engage, and inspire, and listen – but they’ll never define.
Our summer camp staff will never tell your child what to do, unless it is to help keep him or her safe, free from bullying, or from doing something illegal.
Based on our experience, having tried this for the last 4 years at other places? Your child will thrive. And we can’t wait to be a part of it.