We want our kids to be resilient.
We want them to be able to meet tough times and stand up strong. We want our kids to know how and when to ask for help from those they trust. As a teacher and Camp Director, I hear these desires of parents every day. As a parent myself, I long for these things to be true for my three boys and my daughter.
I want them to be both resilient and successful, but is it possible that success is an obstacle to resiliency?
If my kids never fail, how will they learn?
It feels wrong to wish failure on anyone, especially in a society of trophies and accolades. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with a child being acknowledged for hard work or an accomplishment, but I wish we could honor failure the same way.
All throughout camp, in all age groups, our goal is to set up a safe place for kids to mess up, to make mistakes, and learn from them. From capture-the-flag games where strategy can mean victory or defeat, to relationships between cabin-mates, failure is always an option.
What we teach at camp is not to avoid failure, but to learn from it.
In relationships, conflict happens. There is nothing wrong with conflict, but what do we do from there? How do we go back, apologize, and forgive? These are the lessons we strive to teach every day.
In Mountain Camp (cabins 27-44) we use Challenge Bracelets as a way to push into challenge. Each camper works with their counselor to determine what would be a good challenge for him during the two, three, or four week session. The only real guideline is that it must be something that is a stretch for the camper, and failure must be a potential outcome.
The camper goes out and strives to accomplish their challenge.
Campers create physical challenges, spiritual challenges, and even intellectual challenges. Campers set high goals, and some campers reach those goals. I love celebrating with campers who complete their challenge – we spend time reflecting on the accomplishment, and then move towards more challenges that lie ahead.
What I love more is celebrating with those campers who try time and time again to meet their challenge and don’t find early success. I love that they keep trying. I love that they don’t get discouraged and decide to change their challenge because it’s “too hard.”
I love that they learn not to see failure as a “no”, but as a “not yet.”
It’s always good to succeed in challenges, but let us also find ways to celebrate failure. Join me in praying for these boys in their time here, and in their school year to come, to not be afraid of trying hard things and not be worried about the optics of falling short.
I challenge each of you to also set for yourself a challenge this week as you wait for your son to return home. Set a challenge for yourself that is hard, that has a chance of failure, and then set out to accomplish your challenge. Celebrate if you succeed, but even more, celebrate the journey of working toward your challenge.
Then share it with your son! Our boys need to see us embrace failure as a means to grow. It will free them, encourage them, and make them resilient.
Mountain Camp Director