As I prepare for next month’s camp counselor training, I find myself reflecting—once again—that parents should get at least this much preparation before they start the job of raising kids. After all, just like camp counselors want to have a positive impact on their campers and thrive in their work, parents, too, want to have a positive impact on their kids and survive the demands of parenthood.
Since not every parent has gone through staff training and been a camp counselor (which is great parenting practice, by the way), I thought I’d share one part of our curriculum. In our “Counselor Top 10” session, we cover the ten most important things great camp counselors do. I converted the list from counselor/camper to parent/child language. Here is the new Parent Top 10 list!
Parent Top 10
What will you will do to be a life-changing, memorable parent for your kids? Remember, the goal is to create positive relationships and experiences for your children.
- Begin with the end in mind
- When your child becomes an adult and their friends ask, What were your parents like? what do you want them to say?
- Focus on your child
Put your child’s needs ahead of your own while they’re in your care.
- Build a close relationship with your child
- Greet your child immediately and enthusiastically when he/she comes down for breakfast each morning.
- Learn what interests your child has and help them explore hobbies. Ask how things are going (school, friends, life).
- Check in with each of your children, every day.
- THIS IS SO IMPORTANT WE’RE SAYING IT AGAIN – EVERY day, check in with EVERY child: “How’s your day going? Who have you made friends with? What was the best part of your day? What are you having trouble with?” This will take just a few minutes but will make the difference for some children between an okay childhood and an amazing one.
- Speak with children at eye level and use positive body language to show them you are listening and you are genuinely interested in them and what they are saying.
- Communicate clearly using language that children easily understand; avoid sarcasm, which is often misunderstood.
- Provide positive family leadership
- Model and enforce a respectful, supportive, kind, and inclusive family culture.
- At weekly family meetings, start discussions and games.
- Be present and observant of your child’s verbal and nonverbal actions towards others and be an encouraging and supportive relationship coach to help your child develop friendship skills.
- Watch your TONE OF VOICE and your words.
- Create fun
- Smile & laugh.
- Use POSITIVE words.
- Celebrate rain & other unplanned events.
- Sing loudly.
- Dance like no one’s watching.
- Make mundane things like sunscreen, teeth brushing, room clean up, laundry folding, and bedtime FUN with a game, a chant, a dance, or a song.
- Read one of your favorite childhood/young adult chapter books to your child.
- During down times and while going here and there, interact with your child by playing games, telling stories, and singing songs.
- Promote growth
- Encourage children to try new activities and hobbies.
- Praise and reward your children for specific achievements. Use growth mindset and character praise!
- Debrief about your child’s day: What was the best part? What did they learn?
- Be patient and understanding.
- Address problem behaviors in a nurturing and positive way.
- Serve as a positive role model
- Provide consistent leadership and structure.
- Take care of yourself. Be sure you get enough sleep, eat well, and exercise.
- Use appropriate language and discuss appropriate topics around children.
- Follow and consistently enforce all safety rules (e.g., helmets while bike riding, wearing seatbelts, not texting while driving).
- Communicate effectively with your spouse, teachers, and other care-givers.
- Express concerns or complaints to the right people in a respectful way.
- Be a positive, contributing member of the family.
- Be flexible: We need to work as a team to ensure the best experience for our children. Job assignments are not based on requests, but on the needs of the family, which vary from day to day.
- Speak positively about your family and children.
- Arrive on time to all meals, activities, and events.
- Get help – often!
The best parents know when to seek advice and get support.
There you have it. I thought some of these tips might not translate well to parenthood, but now that I look them over, they appear to be just as good for parents as they are for camp counselors!
If you enjoy reading Sunshine Parenting, please subscribe to get an email update each time I post (use box in column on the right), or follow me on Facebook or Pinterest for links to other articles and ideas about camp and parenting. Thank you for reading and have a happy weekend!