For all of my years in working with children and families, I’ve immersed myself in the constant unfolding body of research about raising healthy and happy kids. As a parent and a professional, it’s like I’m chasing the holy grail (or maybe just chasing my holy tail), working so hard to “get it right”- which turns out to be a fast moving target. It’s grit, it’s resilience, it’s being present but not being a helicopter, it’s giving them confidence but not empty praise, it’s loving unconditionally but squaring that with the message that failure is now a good thing… but not too much failure. Learning from failure, is that it?
However, there is one strategy in raising happy and healthy kids that is undeniable, that remains unmoved during the decades of my professional work. Great modeling gets great results. Sounds simple enough, right? We all face the day when we hear our own voice being channeled by our children, and we recognize that in some ways (maybe ever so small) we become our parents.
So how does a camp model for your child a healthy and happy future? How does modeling here at Summer Fenn teach, nurture and fuel the skills and character we want for our kids? Turns out it’s not that simple. You have to be intentional, purposeful, committed. It takes training, reflection, self awareness and practice.
We “walk the walk” here at Summer Fenn because we ask questions about what confidence looks like, feels like, and how it is modeled. We model confident language by our own counselors saying in front of kids “I totally got this”, or “Hmmmm, this looks hard but I’m gonna give it my best shot!”. And while encouragement is always welcome, we don’t just tell kids “you can do it” – that’s the talk… we model what confidence looks and sounds like, that’s the walk.
If we hope that our children will grow to be kind and empathetic, we must not simply TELL them on a poster with rules that we need to be kind to each other. We have to seek out ways to show what kindness looks like, and name it when we see it. Our counselors might arrive a few minutes early to an activity, and I guarantee the first thing they’ll do is turn to their group and suggest that they collectively offer to help the Sports and Games leader to put out cones or retrieve basketballs. They might even make it a game and start playing the Mission Impossible theme song. The activity leader will be specific in his or her feedback, “Thank you so much, that’s such a kind offer, I appreciate your willingness to help!”. That’s the walk.
What does it mean to model integrity? Our counselors don’t brush over if they’ve made a mistake and read the schedule wrong- they say out loud to their group, “Hey, I messed this up, I’m sorry friends. Remind me to apologize to the team down at Adventure, that was my fault.” WALKING.
So whatever the current thinking about grit, or helicopters, or failure, or creativity, or screen time… we know that seeing is believing. We understand the power of a good role model, and we’ll be putting a whole team of them in front of your children all summer long.