Camp Counseling: Preparation for Parenting

Posted on March 17, 2014 by Catherine Ross

As a retired camp director, I frequently enjoy visits with former staff and their children. It is rewarding to watch these graduate camp counselors apply the valuable lessons that they learned about being a good counselor to raising their own children. A visit to my grandson’s kindergarten class demonstrated that regrettably not all parents have the benefit of this training.

Last December, I had the pleasure of visiting my grandson, Aidan’s, kindergarten class. His teacher had invited the parents to join the children for a gingerbread-house-making holiday activity. In the classroom, there were six sets of desks shoved together in groups of four to accommodate the twenty-four students. Add that many if not more moms, dads and grandparents and the room was happily crowded and chaotic.

In front of each child lay a stiff cardboard base, a small milk carton, several graham crackers and an ample supply of white icing. When Aidan got started, I willingly held the graham cracker walls to the sides of the milk carton house till the icing-glue stuck. With wild abandon, Aidan then proceeded to decorate his house and surrounding garden with smarties, candy canes, jube jubes, marshmallows and pretzels as he saw fit. I encouraged and praised but resisted interfering with his wild creativity. The end result was neither tidy nor symmetrical, but Aidan was pleased with his efforts. As there was no parent to assist the little girl sitting beside Aidan, I also offered her encouragement. She too produced a unique product.

Across from us, I observed one mother assisting her daughter and a father assisting his son. Actually, assisting is the wrong word. These parents were mostly doing the work for their offspring in an effort to produce the perfect gingerbread house. Most of Aidan’s creation was devoured by him and his sister before the day ended so does it really matter that the candy cane fence was not perfectly aligned?

Regrettably, these parents did not follow a basic tenet of Camp Counseling 101 i.e. ”Never do for children what they are capable of doing for and by themselves with effort.” To act otherwise is to imply, whether one intends to or not, “Perfection is the goal. Your effort is not good enough. Watch how I do it. I can do it better.” Thank goodness for camp where children are encouraged and allowed to do what they are capable of; where it is OK to be less than perfect and where, as they learn at their own pace and by their own efforts, their confidence and self esteem flourishes.

By Catherine Ross, CCA Communications Officer

Past Communications Officer at Canadian Camping Association
Catherine's lifelong love of camping began in 1953 when she accompanied her mother, the new camp cook, to Camp Tanamakoon in Algonquin Park. She remained at Tan until 1978 as a camper and in several staff roles. After five years as a teacher, in 1979, Catherine and her husband George purchased Camp Mi-A-Kon-Da for girls in Parry Sound, Ontario which they owned for 20 years. Catherine has served on the Board of the Ontario Camps Association, and is Past President of the Society of Camp Directors. She is served as Communications Officer on the Board of the CCA, as is a recipient of the CCA's Ron Johnstone Lifetime Achievement Award. She is past editor of Camps Canada, published by the CCA, and the OCAsional News, the newsletter of the OCA. She is the author of four publications. Her articles on camping have appeared in numerous magazines.