Helicopters can’t hover over camp!


Quick!  Name a memory from summer camp! Did you think about your cabin?  S’mores around the campfire? The polar bear swim?  What about saying goodbye to Mom and Dad?

At the Dekko Foundation we’re often asked to support summer camps.  So we’ve been thinking a lot about camps and how they support children’s growth and development.

Pastor Mark Radloff, executive director of Indiana’s Lutheran Outdoor Ministries, gave us some interesting thoughts about what camps do for children.  He told us that most children who go to camp want to swim, canoe or tell ghost stories around the fire.  However, he believes that they gain much more than fun experiences.  He says that they also gain a sense of adventure, self-regulation, leadership, risk management and social skills.

In Mark’s blog he writes, “The truth about building character is this:  Maturation of social skills requires rejection; nurturing self-reliance requires loneliness; acquiring a sense of adventure requires fear; boosting self-esteem requires failure, learning emotional regulation requires loss; promoting unselfishness requires hardship, increasing kindness requires crowding and establishing secure attachment requires homesickness.”

As adults we SO want to protect our children that society has coined a term for that protection:  helicopter parenting.  In Mark’s words above though, it is so profoundly pointed out that, by not being rescued, children build many of the character traits that will help them through life.

Maybe one of the best things about camp is simply this:  Helicopters can’t hover for an entire week!

9 replies
  1. Kimberly
    Kimberly says:

    Thanks! This is such a timely post for me and my girls. I want them to go off to camp and they’re scared for the very reasons Mark writes about (rejections, loneliness, failure). I think I can have a great conversation with Jess & Sam after reading this – it might just make a difference for us.

  2. Sharon Smith
    Sharon Smith says:

    My summer camp experiences are such memories. I learned to ride a horse and paddle a canoe. I learned what happens when one boy drinks four cartons of milk for lunch. And I got homesick and learned to deal with that!

  3. Kim
    Kim says:

    I agree that camp can be fabulous! Of our four children, only one LOVES camp. In fact, he usually gets in the car exhausted, hoarse and “apologizing” for not writing a letter to us during the week. The others have been to camp, but have not been “bitten by the bug”.

  4. Ashlee
    Ashlee says:

    Student Council Camp helped me to see the potential in others and in myself. But best of all, I loved making new friends!

  5. Jenna
    Jenna says:

    I think Mark is on to something. I’ve heard other youth development leaders talk about the importance of preparing children for the path ahead, rather than removing any possible obstacle that they might encounter.

  6. Barb
    Barb says:

    We have taken kids to camp from our facility and have always felt that it was the highlight of their summer. There were new friends and new skills!!

  7. Tom
    Tom says:

    I feel for children who do not get to experience camp. Thanks to those who support wonderful learning opportunities that camping experiences provide and helicopter parents don’t!

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