Amy Chua is right about at least one thing in her controversial new book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”. She
“assumes strength, not fragility” for her children. We agree. Children are inherently strong—we have seen this over and over again in our 60 + years of running a long term residential summer camp.
“But my child can’t be away from home for a month!” Of course he can. Given the opportunity, he will first survive and then thrive. He will learn that he can make his own way in the world, that he can make friends, that he can find his own shoes, that he can work with a team and make decisions for himself. He will gain a solid foundation for self-confidence based on the knowledge that he can be independent.
She will learn that she can saddle a horse, carry a 30 pound backpack for five days along mountain paths, climb to the top of a 14,000’ mountain. And along the way, she will also gain self-confidence based on achieving real and challenging accomplishments. No one needs to offer praise to a young person who stands on the summit of a Fourteener—the accomplishment speaks for itself.
Children are not only strong, they are inherently resilient. Much more than 90% of the relationships they form with peers and college age counselors at camp are based on friendship, teamwork, and positive communication. Camp friendships often last through life—and these friendships are formed in an environment where there was no parent watching over the interrelationship as it developed.
And, what about the 10% of relationships that create a challenge? Here is the perfect opportunity to learn positive conflict resolution skills—skills that an astonishingly large number of adults still have trouble with.
We’re not drilling math problems or providing practice sessions on the violin, but everything we do at camp celebrates the strength of young people. And the skills we practice in this environment are the social and emotional skills which young people need to learn to grown into happy, successful adults. What could be more important?