Good Camp Counseling is Good Parenting!

Most of you may be wondering what to expect of your camper’s counselors.  It’s an important question as we care for your most prized possession.  We are only as good as our staff.  I can be the best director in campville, have the finest facility and program, but if I don’t hire the best staff to guide and nurture the campers, I have failed.  Good camp counseling provides the same values that you expect at home.  It’s packaged a little bit different and has a cast of many who work each and every day with your child.  Staff are talented, they’re fun, patient, energetic, kind, and very cool in the eyes of your child.  Great camp counselors follow these simple rules of thumb as they go about their daily work:

They are consistent disciplinarians.  This is certainly not their easiest task.  They know the guidelines at camp and know they will be challenged by campers.  This consistency will help mold campers ideas of what is fair and just and they will see this daily, whether choosing teams for a game or delving out jobs for cabin cleanup.  Both cabin counselors will be a true team on what is appropriate so there’s no “good cop/bad cop”.

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The “Golden Rule” reigns at camp.  Treating campers with kindness and patience will show compassion.  In turn their behavior as a counselor, will cause campers to treat others in the same fashion.  Politeness and manners in our culture are important when so many people interact on a daily basis.  Camp is a great place to extend the hand of civilized behavior with one another and again it pays forward.

Be available for talk time, because children need to have conversation just as much as we do.  Listening is critical here and after listening, passing along information that may be a future lesson for life.  The conversation could range from favorite ice cream flavors to asking about their most memorable vacation and where they’ve traveled.  Children also need to know their opinions count and in so doing our staff learn even more about their personality.  At camp we have talk time every night in the cabin after campfire and it’s called friendship circle.  While this is a much more organized way to get a feel for the camper’s day, any cabin time should be talk time.  Activity and meal times are also great times to get to know campers.  Many years ago when I worked for Outward Bound we started with six days on the Deschutes River in Oregon.  The two staff leading the trip paddled the oar/equipment boat and the students paddled the 4 man rafts (usually three rafts per group).  Each day we would spend time taking one student at a time on the oar raft to just talk and get to know that person better.  By the time our river component ended, our 21 day course had benefited from that special time bonding with our students and it made a huge impact on the rest of our course.

Set a good example.  Much of what our staff do at camp is copied by the children.  What they say, how they treat one another, how they dress, what words they choose, and more are noticed at camp by someone and likely many! Campers might not seem to be paying attention or watching our staff but they are, from up close and afar.  Good behavior is expected here and our staff are an extension of you the parent at home.  I challenge my staff and ask, would you make that comment or decision if the parent were standing there next to you or if I was standing there next to you. IMG_8045

Lastly – our staff unplug in the presence of campers and during the activity times when children are around.  Phones, tablets and ipods cannot be used in the cabin and only have restricted use in certain parts of camp at certain times.  You will not see a counselor talking on their cell phone as they stroll through camp.  Children need to see that their counselors are not dominated by electronic devices but are users of other equipment at camp like bikes, pottery wheels, carabiners, horse reins, bows, and a gentle hand when dealing with a baby farm animal.

Our staff begin receiving these value based messages in preparation for entering our child centered world early in the Spring and when staff training comes in late May, we re-emphasize the importance of good parenting at camp and why their role as a counselor is so crucial in our setting.  In the end I see that children really remember their counselors more than anything else at camp.  They may have had fun on the climbing wall but it was that counselor who talked them through the difficult section and praised their resilience for getting to the top.  That memory is what I call creating “Camp DNA” or good camp memories.  Our staff play the vital role in that Camp DNA.  We strive to partner with parents in creating the best possible camp experience that we can here at Gwynn Valley.  Stay tuned!