If you have not quite realized it, I like reading about youth development and parenting.
I have a few reasons for this. First, I am (in the loving words of my peerless bride) a geek.
Second, I realized a long time ago that virtually every counselor at camp is “cooler” than I am. If I am to make camp better, it will not be a result of my hipness. Instead, I (along with our full time team) strive to find little ways to continuously improve camp. If learning about developmental psychology or even neurology helps that mission, then I learn with great enthusiasm.
So I was reading an article about helping young people feel like they “matter”. Adam Grant stated it very simply.
“Everyone wants to matter. And mattering requires three things. You have to be noticed. You need to be cared about. And you need to be relied on.”
Most of us parents get major gold stars for the first two steps. Our children know that we see them and love them.
But how do we do regarding relyingon them?
I think to some of the times Susie Ma’am and I gave our kiddos a pass on helping with dishes because of a pending test. They had some chores, but not a lot. We could have given them more ways to help.
We could have relied on them more.
As I think about this potential shortcoming, I am truly glad that our own children attended Camp Champions as well as other camps as well.
At camp, we rely on children. We need them to help clean their table in the dining hall and assist in cabin inspection. In competitions, their teammates rely on them. We rely on them to pack their string backpacks with the gear they need for their daily activities. [Note: OK, lets be real here. For the youngest campers, we cannot rely on them to pack everything they will need for 4 consecutive classes. For some 7 year-old boys, we are just happy if they remember to wear both shoes. But each year, we rely on them more.]
When campers return after their 9thgrade year, they enter our Senior Camper program. Yesterday, I posted an article about the Senior Camper program that attempts to describe it. I will also write more about this program over the course of this session. It was a huge part of the reason we were named as an Exemplar Program for teaching 21stCentury Skills.
We truly rely on our Senior Campers. They have responsibilities that help camp run. They are tasks that are not always fancy. In fact, they are often intentionally mundane. But these tasks are important for three reasons. First, I believe that everyone should know that other humans do mundane tasks. Even if you are fortunate enough to never have a truly mundane job, it creates empathy and understanding for our fellow citizens that do. Second, these Senior Campers are reliedupon – so they matter. Finally, we want them to contribute without being showered with “thank-you’s”. Helping your community should be reward enough.
So I share a photo of the young men of 007 (boys recently completing 9thgrade) delivering ice to our huge “water monsters”: the 125-gallon containers that make sure the campers always have access to cold, clean water. We had an hour of rain yesterday morning, so this intrepid group improvised with cardboard to make their morning chore less wet.
Seeing this, I can say with certainty that these young people “matter”.