by Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character
Kids need a combination of autonomy and support, and it’s often difficult for them to get this at home or at school. It’s a hard balance to strike for any parent or any teacher. Parents are sometimes so wrapped up in the emotional lives of our kids that it’s hard for us to pull back and let them have the autonomy they need. Or we go too far in the other direction and don’t give them the kind of love and support they need.
I think when camps are able to get it right and convey to kids that they’re supported and they’re safe, but also that they can do things they never dreamed they could do, it becomes a transformative experience. Camp is a place where kids can finally get that important message.
At camp, children can take risks, make mistakes, learn about community, fail, and succeed in a nurturing environment. What do you think about children making their own mistakes?
Making mistakes is precisely how we develop character strengths. As one educator put it to me (and I quote him in the book), character strengths like grit and self-control are born out of failure. And in so many American schools and homes these days, kids don’t get a chance to fail anything.
But when we are honest with children about failure, they are able to better understand their potential and their abilities. They need to learn how to fail in a productive way – that failures are real and we don’t all win every game, but that failures are not a disaster. Instead, they are often important stepping stones on the path to success.
I think when kids experience failure in a manageable way when they’re young, it helps make future setbacks much more bearable. They need that opportunity to “practice” failing and learn failure is not the end of the world. Only after knowing this will they go out into the world – whether that’s college or beyond – and not be completely derailed by setbacks. They learn how to bounce back and see that there’s a way to do better next time.
Sometimes kids learn more when they don't get a lead in the play.... or their high award... the developmental value of a setback....