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Camping with Character

There is no place where raising boys to be good men is so much fun with such great impact than on camp. It is a time of new adventures and crazy memories that will all last us way into our adulthood – it is the “padkos” that keeps us on the journey of growing up and growing old.

At The Character Company we camp a lot – it is one of “our things” and we do it with great enthusiasm and joy. From 4 to 14 years old, without fail, we camp well. Over many cold nights, warm days, river swimming, mountain hikes and other great adventures we have all learned so much about ourselves and each other. Here are five things our boys learn at camp-

Less sugar, more running: In this digital age we are raising a generation that wants everything immediately and with the least amount of effort. Gaming consoles and phones are the new way to occupy time and are often the only available baby sitters around. Sadly this means loads of couch time with snacks and very little outdoor time in the sunshine, scuffing knees. Boys need to be outdoors, studies have shown that a boy needs at least 60 minutes of outdoor time per day.

“Daar gaan jy”: Discipline and boundaries are essential to guide a young boy growing into a good man. Boys are busy and need boundaries to give them security and make them feel safe - simple as that. “Daar gaan jy” (there you go) combines discipline with some good exercise in a fun way at camp. Boys get to make up the camp rules (most of them) at the start of camp and broken rules will result in a daar gaan jy run. This has turned into a great discipline tool and we have also seen that it gives the boys a sense of camaraderie. It is good for them to know that someone is looking out for them and that they need to be accountable to someone for their own actions.

I miss mom: When you look at the development stages of a boy, mom’s impact is the greatest up to the age of 5, between 5 and 10 dad’s impact is greater, hence our intake age criteria. This is hard for moms to deal with as boys grow older and have needs moms can no longer meet. Teenage boys will rather give up sugar and gaming consoles than showing public affection towards mom, it is just not cool!

Friends and friendships: As we grow older our choices in friends becomes more and more important, more so when we have an absent father. One of the challenges that children face today is that society is geared towards social media which lures many into thinking we are even more connected and in-touch than ever before, yet the opposite is true. Our children are loosing key social skills - it is very obvious on the first day of camp when they have no idea how to relate to each other. They also suddenly have to do activities with strangers, have people in their personal space, stand in line for meals, etc. A valuable lesson that they learn on camp is how to make friends and how to be a good friend.

I am not an island - society often teach us that we need to know all things, be able to do all things and cope with it all - cowboys don’t cry! As boys especially we therefore grow up with the idea that we cannot be vulnerable and we cannot show any form of ‘soft’ emotion and we definitely cannot admit when we are wrong. At camp we teach boys that there really is no I in team - most of our work is group related and they have no choice but to work together. One of our standing camp rules is also that no one is allowed to exclude anyone so if we play a game in free time, no one should be excluded from playing if they want to. It is important for us to learn how to journey with others and this requires that behave with respect for ourselves and those we journey with.

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