Dazzling Surprises

Option #2 forces or coerces the young person to perform the desired behavior, which is often done. This gives the outward appearance of success, but robbing a camper of his or her sense of control actually diminishes motivation and self-esteem. It can even create resentment and aversion to try something new. It’s a failure in the long term.

Option #3, which resembles the penetrating mysteries of quantum physics, works best because it relies on a collision between reason, self-determination, hypothetical thinking, and empathy. Best of all, this blend fuels what professional educators refer to as character building. There is something ineffable about it, but a skilled leader knows it when he or she sees it.

With the thoughtful encouragement of his leader, Diego eventually did jump in the water that morning. The broad smile on his face when he surfaced told the predictable story of a life fully lived. However, even if he hadn’t jumped in, he would have learned something about himself. And that is surely the most salient point of departure between youth development and quantum physics. No matter which way human interactions travel and spin, the support of an adult leader can reveal simple opportunities in the most unlikely places.

Jeb Roberts has been serving for three summers as a cabin leader at YMCA Camp Belknap, the camp where he grew up. He is majoring in physics at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. Reach him at iseekthejoy@gmail.com.

Dr. Christopher Thurber is a psychologist, author, and father. He serves on the faculty of PhillipsExeterAcademy and is the director of content for Expert Online Training. To book a workshop, purchase DVDs, or access leadership resources, visit CampSpirit.com.

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  1. Summer of Surprises
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  4. The Importance Of Candid Feedback
  5. This-N-That

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