Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Happy Camper Part 4 - The Parents

I'm a parent, and most of the people sending their kids to camp are around my age. So when I am meeting parents it is a little different than most counselors since these people are my peers.

The parents who send their kids to camp mean well, and I found most of them to be sincerely nice people. It's that many of these people think that "being a good parent" means to overindulge their child, not discipline them, or to put them on a cocktail of pharmaceuticals to keep them in line (side note: I had one ADD kid in my cabin who was off his meds for the summer. If I had to rank my kids by typical ADD symptoms, he was in the middle - in other words, he was an average kid whose parents put him on drugs during the school year).

For example, the camp has a strict "no candy, no video game" policy that is communicated to the parents. The first day of camp I went around taking away contraband, mainly candy, away from the kids. Apparently the rules didn't apply to these parents. Then there were several kids who didn't show up at camp with horseback equipment (jeans, boots, helmet). These kids "didn't feel like horseback" or were "scared" of horses. Good job, parents. Boys who are afraid of horses who don't overcome their fear end up as men who are afraid of horses. Plus the whole purpose of camp is to expose kids to new experiences, even if they aren't sure they will like them.

When parents found that their kids were with a sergeant for the summer, I got mixed reactions. Most of the parents were happy that someone was there to provide structure and discipline (and they didn't have to do it themselves). The true coddlers (the minority) were just glad to have their child back so they could envelop them back into a world where they have no discipline and get what they want when they want it.

But I don't blame the parents . The ultimate fact is that parenting in the 21st century has changed and these people are the product of their culture. So parents today are producing kids who for the most part aren't challenged or disciplined. If this is true, what does this mean for the long term viability of this country?

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