Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How Children Succeed

Two weeks ago, the CBS Camp Team traveled to the American Camp Association National Conference in Dallas, Texas, where they heard an exciting lecture by writer Paul Tough on how children succeed. According to Tough, who has gained recent fame for his book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character, the qualities we have valued in the education and development of children—namely, high test scores and measured academic performance—are not beneficial to or indicative of a child’s success, and the environments created by quests for these achievements can actually damage and hinder a person’s ability to succeed.

The real skills, according to Tough and other like-minded researchers, are not related to IQ, but instead come from qualities like curiosity, optimism, empathy, perseverance, self-discipline, zest, social intelligence, and grit. The last of these, grit, was the topic of Tough’s discussion. Tough defines grit as “perseverance in the pursuit of a passion,” and it has been a proven measure (by way of the Grit Test) of the determination necessary for success in work places across the US.

Although an appropriate amount of “licking and grooming” (comfort, protection, and consolation) is necessary from parents in the early years of infancy and childhood, continued protection from all ill-will is just as unhelpful as facing an extraordinary amount of adversity. According to a study cited by Tough, the most successful people face somewhere between 2-5 adverse events during childhood, while people facing no adversity or too much without any support system show an equal, and relatively lesser, degree of success.

A student can have all the success academically, succeeding in high school and at top-tier universities, but if she lacks grit, as soon as she encounters a set-back—for instance, the first job application post-graduation being denied—she will shut down, having no experience dealing with failure or how to move on from it. If our mindsets are fixed, we will see these failures, and any failure, as impervious to change or growth, and we will be halted and unable to push on towards success. However, if we train our mindsets and the mindsets of our children to be growth-oriented, failures and setbacks will not be defining and permanent, but rather, something we can move past or change in the future.

Protecting our children—whether it be in doing too many things for them when they are equally capable, taking things into our own hands to ensure their success, or physically shielding them from new or independent experiences—is doing more harm than it is good. Character traits like grit and self-control are born from failure, and it is important that we teach our children how to manage failure instead of shielding them from it. If you want your children to succeed, you must first let them learn how to fail. In addition to having deep reserves of grit, self-control, and optimism, those who succeed also tend to have help, so it is important that we as parents, educators, and mentors, learn to appropriately respond to and assist with failure.

Hearing all of this enforced how we feel about our mission here at Camp Balcones Springs, for it is in places like camp that children—and especially the overly protected children of today’s world—can take risks, face challenges, and learn that failure does not equate disaster. In stepping out of their comfort zones—and actually learning to be comfortable in those areas—campers have the rare chance to develop grit and the qualities necessary for success.

Mother/Son Weekend!

Two weekends ago, our retreat center hosted a weekend of fun outdoor adventures and bonding for several of our camper mothers and their sons--and some new friends!

The weekend started off with a hearty dinner, followed by a tie-dying activity, and then a relaxing evening of wine and cheese for the mothers, while the boys enjoyed ice cream and a screening of the movie Holes. The next day, mothers and sons explored all that camp has to offer, going on horseback trail rides throughout the property, climbing the rock wall, going down CBS’ infamous zip line, and canoeing and kayaking in Lake Ted. Some boys even managed to paddleboard without falling into the freezing cold water!

After dinner, everyone enjoyed s’mores and a bonfire before being surprised by camp’s most famous event--Mission Impossible! Mothers and sons were put on teams and given a “mission” to find certain glow sticks hidden all over camp. This process was more easily said than done, however, as they were being pursued in their search by bandits armed with water balloons!

The next morning, we bid adieu to all of our lovely mothers and sons, but hopefully not for long! Camp is just around the corner, and we hope to see all of our guests--and more--back here in no time!

If this sounds fun to you and you missed out, don’t fret! We are hosting a similar weekend retreat for the whole family--CBS Family Camp--March 8-10, 2013! Go here to find out more!