Life in General

Dear head counselors and staff,

“YOU IN THE BLUE CAP, GET OUT OF THE SHUL RIGHT NOW!” bellows the head counselor; pointing at the boy in the blue cap who dared whisper to his friend 5 minutes into camp.

What goes through the mind of a head counselor as he publicly humiliates the child with the blue cap, I’ll never know. Is it to make an example out of him?  To assert his authority? 

What I do know is – this age-old method has got to stop.

Did he choose the right kid – is this indeed the camp troublemaker, or did the head counselor actually just give this boy a title that he will now live up to?

This is a typical scene that every boy who has gone to camp is familiar with; but that doesn’t make it acceptable.

Shaming. Humiliating.

Two ingredients that create a defiant and daring camper. 

Dear head counselors, counselors and all staff members,

As you get ready for an amazing summer, devoting every waking hour – and there are many since you don’t sleep much –  to kids of all ages and types, pause and realize this mission you are being entrusted with. 

We are dishing out thousands and thousands of dollars and entrusting you with our precious children. We are so grateful to each of you who agree to undertake this tremendous task of giving our children the best summer possible.

That kid in the blue cap that ends up being used as a korban;

He is someone’s precious child. There’s a mother and father out there trusting you to take care of their treasure. To build and not break. To influence and not destroy. To inspire and not shame. To empower and not put down.

Long after you leave camp and have caught up on sleep, this child will either be soothing their scars or flying on clouds of inspiration.

Camp is invaluable; there’s endless tales of campers recounting the life changing experiences that overnight camp has brought into their lives.

But let’s talk about another group of kids. Who came to camp for a fresh start and repeatedly get shamed and yelled at. Publicly humiliated. Sent out repeatedly.

And surprisingly enough, the more they are screamed at, the more they act out.

Wouldn’t you if you were trying to save face?

And instead of realizing that the staff themselves have created this monster, they blame the camper for his behavior. Of course responsibility and accountability are integral for each camper; but the staff need to be the adults in the room.

In a conversation with a counselor of a particular camper who was causing a lot of havoc, the father of the child spoke to the counselor about some different strategies to reach the child, and then suggested that the counselor call a particular respected mentor who has experience dealing with challenging campers.

The response from the counselor: ”I can’t be bothered.”

This is a true story.

And so to the dedicated staff, head counselors and counselors, I want to share with you; to be in your position is signing up to “be bothered.”

It’s part of the package.

Children are often delightful and enthusiastic, but can often be, well, bothersome.

And it’s up to you; how will you be treating each camper? No, not the easy campers who look in their Siddur all davening, who don’t talk after lights out and always show up on time, getting more and more points, prizes and Rebbe pictures.

What about the other 80%? 

Screaming, shaming, embarrassing and humiliating doesn’t fly anymore.

A good measuring stick to keep in mind is that if you can’t say it with love, don’t say it.

I’ll leave the particular discipline systems to the professionals; but when you look at that kid in the blue cap who dared to talk/smirk/make faces/whistle/put his feet up and you are ready to attack him, pause and remember that he is someone’s child. He is someone’s most valuable possession. And he wants to have a fantastic summer just like you do.

Proceed with caution; not everything can be easily undone.

Wishing every one a happy and successful summer!

Signed,

A mother of multiple kids who are heading to camp for a great summer!

2 thoughts on “Dear head counselors and staff,”

  1. Dear Goldie, I was saddened by your letter. You want to shift the responsibility for raising respectful children onto teenagers who are ill equipped to handle these “precious” neshamos. The misbehaving child distracts the counselors from their responsibilities to the rest of the kids who are in camp to have a good time; not to get a “fresh start.” Our tuition money is wasted whenever a camper acts out and time is taken away from camp activities to provide the discipline the child didn’t get at home. Parents of misbehaving campers should do their kids a favor and spend the money on parenting lessons. We would all be better off.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment!
      The point of raising this issue was not to shift any responsibility; every parent has the responsibility to raise their child to be a mentch, period. And every child takes a different route to get there, some smoother and some bumpier – depending on how Hashem gifted them. And when the child is in camp, the well being of the child is in the hands of the camp; the intention here is to highlight a particular method; the use of public humiliation as a means to gain control, that can do more harm than good.

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