“But you said you’d give it back on the last day of camp!”
“Never said such a thing!” Responds the head counselor, totally disregarding the camper’s wide, innocent eyes as he watches an adult not keep his word.
“I never give things back when I take them away, sorry!” And the head counselor moves on to his many other things he has to do.
Sure, it was only a $3 keychain; nothing of much value. That is, nothing of much value to the head counselor.
But that’s 3 whole dollars to this child, plus his integrity, being tossed in the trash.
It happened the first week of camp; the spunky 10 year old had his $3 keychain with him; the head counselor approached and asked for it and he gave it; that’s when he was informed that it was being taken away.
And that’s also when the camper remembers being told that he would get it back on the last day of camp, and the head counselor doesn’t remember anything of the sort. Truthfully, why would he; considering the millions of things he’s dealt with between the first week and the last.
The child comes home from camp; he’s had an amazing experience filled with trips, activities, swimming, games sports and more. But what’s the first thing that he says?
“He took my keychain and wouldn’t give it back! Even though he said he would! And it was $3!!”
A broken promise from an adult.
After much deliberation, the child’s father reaches out to the (young) head counselor and tries to bring him into the bigger picture; the harm in adults failing kids and breaking their trust, and asks the head counselor to replace the keychain. It’s not about the $3, it’s about the lifelong lesson of adults keeping their word when they make promises to children. The father says he will send him the $3; please show him you take him seriously. He is convinced you told him he’d get it back.
“Sure,” agrees the head counselor, understanding that it’s about more than the $3. He doesn’t have the keychain, of course, but it’s easily available to replace.
“He’s going to send you the keychain,” the father tells his son; the look of his eyes lighting up, of his integrity and trust being restored, is hard to miss.
A week passes, followed by the father receiving a message from the HC: “I changed my mind, I’m not sending it. I don’t give back things that I take away from campers.”
All conversation cease to exist; he has made up his mind and does not respond to any follow up conversation.
And this trusting 10 year old is trusting no more.
“I don’t give back things that I take away!”
How is that a thing?
Who is right? Did he say it or didn’t he? Is the 10 year-old remembering correctly or is the head counselor? At this point, it’s not relevant, because there’s something bigger going on.
There’s a great saying I came across – Mean what you say, say what you mean; but don’t be mean.
A kid is using something inappropriately or at the wrong time? By all means, take it away.
But the purpose of taking away should be for the purpose of the respect and discipline needed at the time; not for the gratification of showing a child that you and your stuff is worthless, so I will toss it. Too bad.
$3.00. An insignificant amount to an adult.
$3.00. Sometimes it’s that cheap and easy to teach trust and respect; the principle of keeping your word. $3.00 to show I respect you as a human.
And $3.00 to destroy it too.
Don’t forget the big picture.