Perfectionism and Summer Camp: Giving Kids a Safe Place to Fail

by on February 8,2022 in Camp Talk, Parents, Summer Camp with No Comments

Perfectionism and Summer Camp: Giving Kids a Safe Place to Fail

When I (Stacie) was a child, I had a tendency to be a bit of a perfectionist. Okay, okay…I still have that tendency. I struggled with anything that I didn’t feel like I could be “the best” at. I was generally a good student and loved to read. In fact, as punishment when I misbehaved as a kid, my parents would take away my books, which was usually more than enough to get me back on the straight and narrow!

By the time I got to high school, my perfectionism became a bit more of an obstacle. I started to encounter subjects that were more challenging, and suddenly, the perfect scores I was used to slipped to an A- or, heaven-forbid, a B. This was a big struggle for me. My mom had a great solution. She promised me ice cream every time I scored lower than an A on a test. This might seem counter-productive, but she knew that the pressure I was putting on myself was too much. She wanted me to see that it was okay to be less-than-perfect. While I didn’t suddenly start bombing every exam, A.P. Chemistry was made a little more bearable by our ice cream adventures as I slogged through that course. She taught me something important. It’s okay to not be the best at everything.

Maybe you have a child who struggles with perfectionism just like I did. If so, feel free to use my mom’s ice cream trick. I do have another suggestion for you as well: send them to summer camp! Camp is a safe place for kids to encounter challenges and even failures. It is also a place that teaches them exactly what my mom taught me. No one is outstanding at everything. And that’s okay.

How does camp do this? First, the environment alone asks us to shed our perfectly put-together appearance and dive into something a little more messy and muddy…literally. When you spend all of your time trying to look presentable, running through a creek and covering yourself in mud is going to feel very contrary to your normal goals. Camp asks kids to think differently. What if we put color powder and shaving cream on the slip ‘n slide and covered ourselves in the mess? What if we dumped paint on each other? What if we smeared glue all over strips of paper to create papier-mache? What if we slept in the grass in the meadow or had Bible study in a cave? What if we forsook perfectionism in the name of fun and chaos and adventure?

Second, camp exposes kids to so many different activities and skills. The first time they shoot a bow and arrow, they might not hit the target. Paddling a kayak for a first time might have them spinning in circles for a bit. Their group might not be able to complete every challenge in the challenge course. However, the message in each of these things is that it is okay to try and not be the best. You are still a part of the group. You are still a member of the community. Your worth is not defined by your performance. We will cheer you on no matter what.

Facing challenges and uncertainty can be daunting for your perfectionist kids. But we grow as people when we learn to fail and try again, when we understand that some things can just be fun and not a demonstration of perfection, and when we experience sharing our genuine and honest selves and are loved just the same. It’s never too early to have these experiences. Check out our summer camp sessions and sign your kids up today.

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