We all lead busy lives and sometimes the things we need the most are left on the back burner until too late. So here’s some incentive to drag your calendar out and get the camping bug moving!
- You have something to look forward to
This point is obvious. Who doesn’t have a spring in their step when they know there is a holiday in the pipeline? It can also make your productivity at work go up. And can see the time pass quicker as your brain attaches a reason to the function that you are currently undertaken.
- You get the campsite you want
All too often in our store we see the pain of someone trying to book their holiday too late. They miss out on the campertrailer they want and they can’t book into the caravan park or National Park site they want. This means the holiday becomes the second best option at best.
Of course many National and State Parks don’t have the ability to book, which is both good and bad. But the more forward bookings you make and planning you CAN control, the better.
- You can actively involve your kids in the planning
Kids love to be part of most things. For many parents, it might be an easier option not too let the kids get involved in planning and packing (particularly if the kids are younger). But so much of the teaching we impart to our kids happens by ‘absorption’. So if we want our kids to be able to enjoy the outdoors safely as they grow we need to teach them how to prepare themselves properly. And they will have a greater respect for the process and importance of good preparation.
(If you don’t have kids, just skip this step!)
- You can prepare/gather your camping equipment
This point is the sleeping, angry giant of any camping trip. As a camping store, we see the transient traveller popping in to get repair kits for the holes in the tent, tarpaulins to cover leaky roofs and silicone by the tube for sealing up caravan windows and doors.
You want to give your gear a good ‘shakedown’ for any trip. If it’s a longer holiday you might want to schedule a weekend trip to test it all out (who doesn’t want an excuse for a weekend away?). You are then in a great position to know that your gear will look after you when you need it the most!
- You actually use your holidays
I’m not sure how it came about, but it seems people like to wear the ‘working’ badge of honour. You know what it sounds like, you may have even said it yourself. “I haven’t had a holiday in 4 years!” I certainly hear this a lot in store.
Somehow, our values are being turned around and now we brag that we work and don’t play, but if you just stop and think about this for a second it sounds absurd. I’ve said it myself plenty of times but that doesn’t make it any less ridiculous.
It’s the definition of ‘living to work not working to live‘. So how about we turn our priorities around and forward plan some holidays and/or camping trips.
And believe it or not, your employer will love it. There’s nothing more frustrating to an employer than annual leave that is accrued. It makes forward planning difficult, particularly if you’ve racked up eight weeks or more as the hole you will leave in the organisation will be significant for that period of time.
So do yourself, your family and your employer a favour and put your holidays into a calendar for the next 12 months this week!
PS If you want a hand getting into a campertrailer to hire for your trip go to pakenham.campertrailer.com.au
During the lead up to every Christmas I flick the ‘want’ switch to high alert. The festive season requires consumer awareness to function at a much higher level than normal and I’m as guilty as the next person when I venture past shops in buying ‘stuff’. So I try to avoid shops and focus on gift ideas with a conscience when I’m in a safe environment away from the marketing and propaganda. The key question for me is ‘Am I giving or taking this Christmas?’
This led me to explore the internet for a simple flyer I could put up at my work with gift suggestions from an ethical and socially acceptable view. I couldn’t find any simple point form flyers that led me to note these out of the box suggestions.
Give an experience rather than a ‘thing’
When my 7 year old son was invited to a birthday party I was adamant not to buy his friend a present just for the sake of it. So with some thinking about what the boy would actually like, enjoy and remember we made a lovely gift card which said “this entitles you to a visit to the trout farm”. Not only did he have something else to look forward to after the busyness of the party but he & my son got to enjoy a quality outing with just the two families and caught dinner to boot!
Give an electronic subscription
The information technology age has some great things to offer so why not use them to our advantage! E-books, magazines, brain challenging games, the list goes on and caters for all interests and ages.
Re-gift your preloved items
With too much ‘stuff’ already in our world why not re-use or re-purpose items that are still in perfectly good condition. Just because they don’t come in unscuffed plastic wrapped box does not mean they won’t be appreciated. Obviously you need to think of the gift recipients passions, hobbies or talents and make it a relevant gift you know they will appreciate but if you are truly ‘giving’ this will already have rated in your thinking. Anything from kids books and toys to a serving tray your friend has admired. Again, think outside the square.
A garden gift
Most of us have a garden of sorts and gain ongoing pleasure from them. So why not do that extra cutting of a beautiful flowering plant or propagate extra vegetable seedlings? Why, you could even paint a terracotta pot to put them in.
Do your gift shopping at a local market
Here again there is something for everyone and it is local produce grown, sewn, made or baked by local people thereby keeping the transport miles down & the local economy up!
Give a gift book
There is no end to personalizing this gift! You can give your time (2 hours work in the garden), cooking (dinner of your choice), massage, movie night and you can make as many gifts/pages as you wish. Plus you can be as creative as you like in creating the present ‘book’ and even put conditions on it (with love of course!)
We in the first world are generally flush with everything we need as well as what we ‘want’. Giving to people less fortunate than ourselves is great for them & appreciated beyond our imagination. Not only that, studies have found that it’s good for our mental health as well.
Enjoy your guilt free Christmas and beyond!
‘T’ (Mrs Outdoors Guy)
If you need me I will be swimming in a river (as this will be the experience my hubby might give me! Hint hint Scottie)
Our lives these days don’t seem to be getting any less busy. So when it comes to the Christmas holiday period it only seems to compound the problem even further. I often joke with my mum that “they should move Christmas to a less busy time of year!” She still doesn’t get it.
But in the post Christmas holiday period when people are returning from their holiday (and consequently into our store) we hear the same 6 things that keep cropping up about what went wrong and what was overlooked prior to their holiday beginning. These don’t take a lot of time but they can save you a bucket later on.
Leaving your home as if it looks like you’ve left it is an invitation to thieves at this time of year. Don’t forget to do couple of things that make it look like your house is still inhabited. Set your lights on timers so they go on and off at various times. Ask a neighbour to park their car in your driveway. And of course the bins, ask someone to bring them in so they don’t sit out the front for a couple of weeks like a billboard letting everyone know you’re away.
Particularly in the summer, the heat of travel in an unprepared car leads to those many people you see on the side of the road with the bonnet open. If you can’t get a pre-Christmas service done by your mechanic (because he is probably booked out already), then at least check the basics of fuel, oil and water. I would also add to have your air conditioning checked at this point as well. Nothing leads to in car grizzling as much is a long hot drive with even hotter air blowing around the car.
Be prepared for your journey by spending a few minutes organising things like drinks and snacks. It’s also a good idea to establish a rubbish bag so that you can deal with the aftermath of the drinks and snacks. Some serviettes and wipes are also a good idea and can save not only your sanity, but the upholstery as well. And in case the spillage gets too much have some spare clothes handy for a quick change so you don’t have to dive deep into the back of the vehicle just find a new T-shirt.
Also in car activities such as games or books are very important. We give our kids a small box and ask them to fill the box with what they want to take and that sits in between them on the journey. It’s a mix of toys, colouring books and travel games and keeps them occupied for hours.
Do you know much about where you are going? Have you checked out what facilities they have? Do you know that your camping set up will fit on the site you’ve been allocated? Have you double checked your booking? These are some simple questions that can save you from catastrophe.
Tied in with the ‘Destination’ but worth its own category, making sure that you have torches and lanterns appropriate to the site that you will be staying at is ‘uber’ important. You spend a fair bit of your holiday in the darkness so it makes sense to check your sources of light. Before you leave make sure that they work, you have batteries (or if they’re rechargeable that they are charged) and carry spares of both batteries and torches that will help you get out sticky situation in the darkness.
And finally, do you know what the risks and rewards are of the environment that you’re going to? If you’re going to a beach or river, do you know what the water conditions are like? Are they safe for swimming? Is it too deep or too shallow? You need to make preparations for being out in the sun, so have plenty of sunscreen on hand and hats and long sleeved shirts. And for where we are at the time of writing, have you checked the fire risk? What are you going to do to find out about the weather and fire ratings when you are actually out camping? Have you planned your escape should the worst happen?
So these are the 6 most overlooked topics that we’ve come across in the 20 years of working in the outdoor industry. I encourage you to spend just a few moments answering these questions in thinking about these topics because save you anything from ‘frustration’ to ‘your lives’.
All the best, Camp in Comfort
The Outdoors Guy
At the time of writing this post I am putting the finishing touches on a short weekend trip away with my seven-year-old son. So I thought I would do a quick case study on how I put the Navigator process into action.
Like most parents, I think my son is a great kid but there are some things that I wish he was better at and some things that he is just too good at already! One of the things he enjoys, when he gets it right, is riding his pushbike. But it isn’t easy for him to practice as we live halfway down the side of a mountain. There is a very small flat concrete patch in front of the house but other than that it’s straight up or straight down on a gravel driveway. And the gravel driveway equals a good amount of flesh stripped from the body when bike riding goes wrong!
As such, he is a bit ‘tentative’ when it comes to getting on his bike. Once his confidence builds there is no stopping him. But more than that,’ we’ve noticed that this trend of being tentative isn’t just applying to bikes and his confidence is easily stalled by minor setbacks across a range of activities.
So the Navigator process priority for me at this stage is to work on his persistence. This will also double into an area of resilience (the two could be seen as opposite sides of the same card).
We have done a section of a rail trail with him before (A rail trail for those who don’t know, is an old abandon rail line that has been torn up and turned into a walking/riding/running path). The great thing about a rail trail is that you know you won’t meet steep hills. Trains simply couldn’t do that. The previous rail trail distance we covered with him was 11 km. He fell off a couple of times and that rocked his confidence but when he finally made it to the end he was very happy with what he had achieved. However, with the distance of time passing rather than celebrate his achievement he dwelt on the negatives of falling. And this has rocked his confidence and that translates to not wanting to get on the bike again.
I have sold him this upcoming trip on the basis that we are going to have a magical ‘boy time’ experience. Just him and me, a couple of bikes, a stove, food, a tent and our sleeping gear and away we go. I have dragged out of storage my old pannier racks and bags so I will carry all the gear we need for the overnight trip. Camping is the carrot. What I really want to work on is the 23 km of cycling we need to do to get to the tent site. It’s double what he’s done in the past but well within his capabilities. But it’s going to take time and effort and that means coping with the weather (whatever that will be on the day), cycling for an extended period of time and pushing his body that little bit further than its gone before. Persistence and resilience.
So what does it mean to wrap my navigator program around it? It means for the last couple of weeks I’ve been gently dropping examples of persistence and resilience and how that can be beneficial to someone who displays those traits. I’ve been slowly wording him up that everything that we value takes work and effort. And of course, I’ve been letting him know how good it is going to be to celebrate reaching our endpoint and pitching the tent, just the two of us and looking back over our achievement.
Following on from this will be further comments about how persistence paid off and resilience was essential to achieve what we needed to achieve.
The catch? What if he doesn’t make it?
Oh, he’ll make it. I’ve removed the safety net. Once we start there is no turning back!
All the best, Camp in Comfort
The Outdoors Guy
How often have we heard the phrase ‘I’ve just got to get away’. More to the point, how often have you said it yourself either out loud or just to yourself.
There is something about our busy lives today that rattles our brains. Like the suspension in a car on a corrugated road there is only so long we can rattle our brains at full pace before something starts working loose (or worse, breaks).
So why is it that we all need therapy? We need ‘Nature Therapy ’. And it doesn’t need to be going into the wild necessarily. Going to your local park and sitting on a bench can achieve many benefits. So here’s my top 4 benefits of seeking some Nature Therapy.
Our lives are filled with activities and a bombardment of information and sales messages. There seems to be no end of things to do, places to be and people to catch up with. So one of the major benefits of Nature Therapy is that it is distraction free. Whether it be for a couple of hours or a couple of days, moving into an area surrounded by nature has the ability to let your mind (and your body, if you choose) rest. Rest is so important to the human body and to the mind. We need rest to restore ourselves and keep ourselves healthy both physically and mentally.
It’s handy too, if we can combine our hobby within an outdoors setting. Any hobby has proven to be good for mental health because it forces us to change thinking and let go of the things that are dominating our minds. But if that hobby is out in the natural environment it brings an added bonus of changing up your physical activity as well. Added to this is the soothing attributes of the sounds of nature. There is album after album of soothing sounds of nature and there is good reason for that. It helps our minds switch off and wander off to other places. This refreshes our minds and increases our problem-solving abilities when we return to the task at hand.
- Digital detox
There is a temptation in today’s world to make sure that our technology follows us wherever we go. And indeed, the online and Web industries are working very hard to make sure that their technology is in your face as much as possible. Even the invention of Googles driverless car was born from the sole purpose of removing the task of driving from an individual so that they will spend more time on the Internet! So it’s important when you move into the natural environment that you have a focus to free the mind. Leave it all behind. As mentioned above, when you return to the tasks at hand you will find that your brain is much more switched on. Digital devices keep our brains in the Alpha brain state. It’s a little bit like attempting to sprint for the length of a marathon. Your brain needs to move up and down in activity levels, so let the phone and tablet go. Leave it all behind.
- Physical activity
Of course, it doesn’t have to be all about rest. Combining an active hobby in the outdoors has the benefit of bringing into your lungs pure oxygen! Find a place that has clean air and go for it. Bushwalking, surfing, fishing, rock climbing, etc. you can go from mild to wild. The key thing here is the benefit of both a physical and mental aspects of being in the natural environment and being active. In fact one of the best treatments for many forms of mental illness is exercise. This also has the no-brainer effect of contributing to weight loss and increasing your fitness levels. And who doesn’t want that?
- Family focus
And lastly (but by no means least) you can use Nature Therapy to increase the connections in your core family unit. Plan activities or holidays that have a deliberate focus on spending time with each other, interacting with each other and role modelling behaviours. Just being on holiday with your family has great benefits. But if you put a bit of homework into why, how and what you do, it can dramatically improve the nature of the relationships in your family.
But you must commit the time and effort by reserving the places in your calendar, planning the activities and making sure you follow through by actually doing them. The key thing is to start by just getting out there into the natural environment and making it a priority for both you and your family.
We see no problem in striving to be our best at work and putting heaps of effort in to that, let’s make sure we focus on ourselves and our families just as much.
All the best, Camp in Comfort.
This short blog post has come about because of a recent camping trip I’ve taken with my family. We had three days of rain in the five days of camping. My kids had a ball!
One of the most common questions I’ve had from parents over the years about taking their children on camp is “What is your wet weather program?”
The short and most common answer I give to this question is “The dry weather program whilst wearing a raincoat!”
So while this answer might be simplistic (and generally designed to be humorous to downplay the effects of the weather on our programming) to a great extent it’s true.
Getting wet or dirty has become one of the ‘evils’ of the modern child’s upbringing. I’m forever seeing parents urge their children to ‘get out of the rain’ or ‘don’t jump in the puddle’ and other such phrases in an attempt to protect them from ………. well actually, I don’t know what it is designed to protect them from!
Kids love to get dirty and I believe it’s good for them for a couple of reasons. Number one it increases their tactile awareness of the environment. Number two is it increases their exposure to outside elements which has been shown to increase physiological resilience to bugs and germs.
When camping it’s the ideal time for children to enjoy the wet weather but it is also usually the time when we are carrying the fewest spares and have the least accessibility to showers etc. So set out below are a couple of tips just might help you survive the next rainy day camping experience.
It’s more and more common these days for families to camp with the camper trailer or caravan in tow. The camping experience doesn’t start when you reach your destination, it starts the moment you drive away from home. Unless you are exceptionally practiced at towing, when the rain comes down there are a few things you want make sure become part of your driving ‘toolkit’. And the first of these is to reduce your speed a little. It doesn’t have to be a major thing but knocking 5kmh from your speed will greatly increase your ability to cope with the unexpected. Leaving larger gaps between vehicles to allow for your increased braking distance is vital. Not only arethe tyres grip on the road reduced but also you have increased your weight dramatically. It might seem obvious but this weekend just gone past I didn’t seen a huge amount of evidence to suggest that it is commonplace.
The need to look ahead when driving increases exponentially when towing and then again when it’s wet. But when your car and camper trailer (or caravan etc) are throwing spray from the road not only is the vision ahead reduced but also the vision behind. This reduces your ability to confidently place your vehicle in the event of an emergency because you don’t have the whole picture in mind (front, side, behind). Increase the gaps, reduce the speed and look well ahead.
If you are towing something that has electric brakes, you will need to reduce the braking effort of the trailer or caravan slightly. This is because of the reduced grip on the road of the item being towed. It has an increased chance of locking the wheels on the trailer/caravan and then it will try to overtake you as you come to an emergency stop. The amount that you reduce the braking effort will be determined by the weight that your camper trailer or caravan has on board. Ironically, the lighter the trailer the more likely it is that the wheels might lock up. It will pay to have a couple of practice stops in a quiet street to help you get the feel of it.
If you arrive at your campsite in the rain I suggest that the absolute minimum set up that will allow you to shelter and sleep will be enough, until the rain eases a bit. This is most important when you arrive later in the day. Items such as awnings etc. can wait until the morning or released when you have more time and possibly more hands to help you. But you need to know what the minimum waterproof set up is. For instance, on our camper trailer the minimum set up is very quick but does not include the awning. This exposes the doors to the outside elements and zips are not waterproof. Our plan for this is to carry old towels and we roll one up and set it at the base of the door on the inside. This will catch any water that runs in through the zip and keep the rest of the floor nice and dry.
Set up adjustments
Affect versus aesthetics
Or we could say practical, not pretty. It’s very important in any woven product (whether that’s nylon, canvas, etc.) that water doesn’t sit and soak in any particular area. Sometimes that means playing with pole adjustments or tugging on guy ropes so that the tent or camper trailer no longer looks or pretty. I would prefer dry and ugly over attractive and wet any day.
Create water run
So we need to make sure that water runs away from the doors and anywhere that water could come in. We also want make sure that the roof sits in a way that doesn’t hold any water. Many Trailers don’t quite have enough pitch in the roof and so when a lot of water falls it will sit (sometimes up to 85 L). Because canvas is a woven product sooner or later that water is going to want to find its way through. So you will need to lower the roof at the corners to get the water to run. It’s the same with the awning. Lower one point away from all the others to create the water run.
Contingencies fall into two categories. The first is having a way to cope with the water if it does come in. This is where the old towels I mentioned earlier come into it. Their sole job is to mop up and get dirty.
The second contingency is to have somewhere to go, or to pull the pin altogether, if it is simply too much. I actually quite like wet weather camping but without a doubt there is a point at which I will make a plan to be somewhere other than the tent or camper trailer. This is my ‘Plan to bail’.
One of the biggest problems of camping with kids in the wet is the boredom factor. So having a number of things to do in a confined space becomes paramount.
Board games. There is any number of board games on the market but when selecting the ones to take away I would suggest having games with the fewest moving parts or losable items. Failing that having pieces that are readily replaced by any other item are also good. And then of course remember to carry spares such as dice.
Card games are great but have an Achilles heel in wet conditions. They are mostly made of the paper card of some sort and as such absorb moisture, not only if dropped in a puddle but also out of the air and they can become unusable. Make sure to store them in a dry bag of some sort. Even a snap lock bag will do.
People games are the easiest ones in theory but the hardest ones in practice. There are a number of books that will help you along the way for games that are based solely on people and will keep the family entertained for a while. I highly recommend a book called ‘No Props’. And it’s exactly that; games with no props.
Other resources can be found by an Internet search or by going to your local store such as Australian Geographic or similar. Even the novelty shops will have many small conundrum based activities that can occupy kids four hours.
Temperature is a critical determinant of whether I allow my children to play outside when it’s wet. I don’t mind wet and I don’t mind wind, but if it’s wet and windy it’s usually a no go. Also when the temperature is low and its wet is also an inside day.
Getting dirty is fine by me provided the temperature is acceptable. Because we don’t carry a huge amount of clothing when we go camping we will designate a dirty set. Riding bikes, exploring, jumping in puddles are all okay, but if we want to do the same again tomorrow the same dirty set of clothes goes on. That’s the only rule.
Clothing needs to be selected on the basis of keeping the children warm. Cotton based clothing will actually ‘wick’ the body warmth away from the skin. So clothing such as wool, polypropylene or polarfleece, which will keep the body warms even when wet, is most desirable. Of course a good rain layer is important as well.
You also need to be prepared to clean dirty bodies at the conclusion of playtime so you might like to think about that towel that we mentioned earlier or a few microfibre towels that can be readily rinsed and quickly dried to be put back into circulation. It will also be handy to have moisture proof bags of some sort to put the clothing in for the return trip home. I wouldn’t recommend putting them in this as soon as you finish using them as the moisture would just turn the clothes ‘manky’.
So there you have it. My tip for wet weather camping with kids in a nutshell is ‘unless it’s too cold or windy or don’t have the right clothes, let them go’. It’s just too much part of being a kid not to allow it. Yes it will create more work for you in cleaning but maybe as you are cleaning you can think of the smiles on the kids faces and the laughter they had whilst getting their clothes in that condition in the first place.
All the best, Camp in Comfort, Scottie B
Everything that follows is applicable equally to mothers and fathers. I just happen to be speaking about fathers in what follows.
I once read an article that suggested that Cro-Magnon man worked 5 hours a day, 4 days a week to take care of the needs of his family and himself. The rest of the time he played. I’m not sure whether or not this is true but I’ve often wondered since that time whether we have moved forwards or indeed regressed. What is obvious is that in today’s world we have filled our lives with things to do and things to have and time has become our most precious resource. So Dads that fill executive positions with demands on output are at the forefront of this balance challenge. But is it really healthy and are we producing appropriate outcomes for our kids?
I believe the last 100 years we have backed ourselves into somewhat of a corner and we are now the third and fourth generation to be convinced that the way we are currently doing things is okay. But I would suggest this lifestyle development has left us with some blindspots. For nearly 20 years I have been working with young people in outdoor adventure and education. This has allowed me to have conversations along the way that just aren’t possible in the ‘real world’. From these countless conversations I have noticed the following blindspots that been identified by young people with regards to their Dads.
- Value confusion. Now this one is going to sound very controversial, but it’s not really. It’s just an acknowledgement of the state of play. So here goes; show me where you put your time and money (arguably your 2 most precious resources) and I’ll show you what you value the most. So no doubt you spend most of your time and effort at work. Exhibit A, your worklife value is higher than your family value. This one has either hit you between the eyes or you already have the hairs on the back year neck bristled ready to argue. But bear with me. It’s okay. We have to live, and we have to provide for our family. Putting the value on providing for your family is different from putting the value on your family. Again that’s okay. It’s when it gets out of balance that it becomes a problem. And I think it’s important to recognise that we have demonised the idea that we could have values other than time with family at the top of our list. But it’s of practical importance. You will be able to recognise the higher value when there is a conflict that calls you to choose between the two. Which one do you choose the most over the other? Do you choose to work harder or more? Or do you choose to go home to the children as a ‘not negotiable’ time investment?
- Accepting the norm. There is nothing better to satisfy our choices and decisions than to hang out with those who make similar choices and decisions. In the executive world it’s easy to assume that no one else other than people in your position can understand the time requirements and pressures associated with the role. You are probably correct. But that doesn’t make it right. The old excuse that everyone else was doing it or is doing it was never valid as a kid and unfortunately it’s not going hold up now. Don’t accept the norm. Set and create your own values and be a true leader in carrying them out with regards to your family.
- Work centred ‘KPI’s’. The higher you climb the corporate ladder the more likely it is that you are successful in setting and attaining KPI’s. So this one is quite short. What KPI’s have you set to the development of the relationships in your family? I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest not many. It is easy to assume that relationships are organic. And to a degree they are, except if your time investment is low because of work requirements. The organic relationships your children develop won’t be with you as much as others outside influences and as such the others will have a greater influence on the development of your children’s character, emotional intelligence and ethics.
- Babysitting, not engaging. This one I have been guilty of so many times that I hesitate to write an instructional piece about it. Confusing the idea of supervising (babysitting) and engaging with my children was also common and if I’m honest is still a challenge for me. Doing work on my laptop with my child sitting on my knee is not engaging. Watching the kids play on the playground while I check my emails on my phone on the seat nearby is not engaging. It is not a time investment in the relationship and as such has little more benefit than employing a babysitter. And what’s worse? We are not fooling the kids. They know and react accordingly.
- Role Modelling. Cats in the Cradle. Kids will gravitate to role models. It’s inevitable. But as Dads we fall into the trap of assuming that a role model will be us. Then when things don’t go exactly as we hope we impose our will (i.e. discipline) as if we own the space. But there is a disconnect. So it’s a double edged sword. Discipline is not the enemy of enthusiasm. But discipline only works when coming from a position of credibility and credibility springs from respect. If your parenting method is not engaged or time invested in the respect part of the relationship is an uphill battle. This is unfortunate position because we believe with a role model (when perhaps we are not) and we expect to be responded to accordingly (which most likely won’t happen). You can’t role model if you are not there.
- Things do not equal time. We have said this many times before both to ourselves, partners and children. Kids spell love T-I-M-E. But it happens over and over. We buy or things to our children instead of spending time. I am yet to meet the child who values things over engaged time with their Dad. So I wonder who the gift is for? Is it really a genuine gift for our child or more an appeasement for our own guilty feelings about not having created a real connection for a period of time.
- False expectation and transfer of responsibility. This one may seem a little confusing at first glance but I’ve seen this over and over from the other side of the fence. And that is expecting schools to raise our children. Teachers over and over are bearing the brunt of criticisms about what should and shouldn’t be done in the development of a child. And it’s true they have a very important job, but it’s predominantly an academic one. Schools have taken on the broader roles needed in developing children to adults as parents have slowly abdicated process. I know this sounds harsh but ultimately the upbringing of any child is the responsibility of its parent, not a school or other institution. It’s too easy to transfer this responsibility and it happens too often. It’s also a by product of not being engaged appropriately with your child and making assumptions about the progress on the growth journey. Being presently engaged with your child will mean you see the issues as they occur, not afterwards, and be the main driver goal setting and corrective techniques rather than assuming other people will take on the role such as teachers or child carers.
There is no quick fix this issue should you find yourself suffering any or all of these by spots. But it starts with paradigm shift. It’s a shift that starts with seeing and experiencing the enjoyment that comes from interacting with your children at a deeper level. It’s the responsibility increase that sees you forward planning developmental stages of your child and being a hero, protector and guide on that journey. Put a photo of your family where you can’t miss it at your workstation and grab your calendar as we begin to act on our priorities. The rest will come.
Till next time, camp in comfort, Scottie B, The Outdoors Guy.
Okay, so it’s a euphemism. ’They’ are the collective representation of the many children I’ve seen on adventure expeditions over the years that wander around completely lost. They struggle with basic tasks. They usually have exceptionally low resilience. They lack creativity and problem solving abilities. They have almost no ability to care for themselves ……. because another member of the family (usually mum or grandma) have protected them from all levels of responsibility, work and harm.
It’s a surprisingly common parenting trait. It’s understandable. We don’t want our children to experience pain and suffering needlessly. There is something very deeply biological about the parent’s protective mechanism.
But are we really helping? If our job as parents is to equip our children for adulthood then our job is that of a guide not of the ‘doer’. There is a massive difference between ‘helping your child’ and ‘doing it’ for them. There is a chasm between ‘doing it for them while they’re watching’ and ‘teaching’ them.
Let’s face it, it’s very frustrating to watch someone perform a routine task while learning. Take tying shoelaces, for instance. When the clock is ticking and it’s time to go to school, it’s not easy to sit by and watch a child bumble over the knot tying process. But it needs to be done. Otherwise the child will end up being like quite a few of the Year 9 boys I’ve had on expeditions who can’t tie their shoelaces.
It’s reasonably common now to hear the term ‘helicopter parent’. This is the parent who is never more than arms reach away (or a phone call away in the modern era) with the intention of protecting their child from any possible, potential or imminent danger. This parent means well. This parent is almost always a very reasonable and caring person. But most often, also, this parent cannot see the danger ahead.
Boundaries are exceptionally important for children’s development. The absence of boundaries usually leads to a lost-ness in the child. They also need to learn that the boundaries aren’t just set when mum or dad are around. There are boundaries everywhere. Physical, environmental, emotional, behavioural and more.
Learning to ride a bike is a classic example. There is the physical boundary of balance to deal with. Learning to find those boundaries means falling off, usually more than once. That may lead to scratches and scrapes. We heal and more importantly, learn!
Now, I have to tread very warily here because it is exceptionally important in today’s world to watch over children and keep them safe from harm. But how do they learn to make decisions for themselves along the way if we remove the decision-making process from them for the entirety of their childhood? One could argue that the child raised in an uncaring home, enduring little or no attention, would be forced to develop self reliance skills and resilience. So in reality which style is most helpful?
The reality is neither and I’m sure you would agree that this is obvious. And yet in my time working at an elite private school these two extremes made up way too large a percentage of the student population.
At the same time I was working at the private school my wife was working in wilderness therapy with youth at risk programs. Most often these kids were from low socio economic families. We would often return home from our respective programs and debrief on the outcomes of the program. All too often we would reach the conclusion that the kids were the same. The only thing that changed was the budgets attached to their problems.
So having a good job and secure socio-economic status does not automatically qualify you as a good parent. Like anything else it won’t just happen. It needs thought, design and implementation. The children need to grow and experience poor decision consequences as much as good. But a good parent will be there as a hero, champion and guide. That’s how to best protect children long-term. And wrapping them up in bubblewrap is not helpful!
All the Best,
The Outdoors Guy
It’s interesting the assumptions that we make. And one of the key assumptions I know I make in my life, is that just by living my children will therefore absorb my values, traits and knowledge as I intend. But the reality is we don’t approach any other topic on the same level.
Teaching children to drive a car is a great example of this. It’s possibly one of the activities they observe you doing the most, and yet when put behind the wheel for the first time what happens? (I know this one only too well from spending seven years as a driving instructor!). No smooth ride.
I think we all agree that we want our children to take on challenges, persevere in the face of adversity, marvel at the wonders of discovery, etc. So are we disappointed when this doesn’t happen? For me, often.
Exploration and discovery are part of our human DNA and it seen in all its glory and childhood. The ability to dream, search and achieve new things is all linked in with our want to explore and discover. Yet there seems to be a time when we sit back and settle and I think that’s where we lose a certain amount of ourselves. We settle into the zone that we’ve heard so much about called ‘comfort’.
For me I’ve been fortunate enough to have a career that is all about taking children and young adults into the exploration zone and I have witnessed the wonder over and over. But the irony is that it is not a wonder for me because I have been to that location many times before (apart from the very first time, of course). This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it or it doesn’t recharge my batteries because every trip is different regardless of the landscape. However, for me to role model the wonders of discovery I need to be discovering.
And that means taking my kids with me when I myself discover. But it also means being mindful that I am being a role model and that means pre-preparing the sort of things I want to be thinking about and communicating when I get there.
And this is where I believe leaving home and going to somewhere completely new to be a wonderful thing in connecting with your kids. Whether that be a journey on a road never travelled before or simply popping into a town that you’ve never been to and exploring the shops, role modelling the desire to explore and learn new things is a critical part of keeping the excitement of our ‘core DNA’ alive. For most families, I recommend setting aside a time, pulling out a map and deciding on a location to ‘discover’ together. It also helps to create a common world. It builds a bridge. Our kids don’t often enter our world and we don’t often enter theirs. Time at home is usually dominated by chores, ours or theirs, homework, television, tablet, etc. Creating a common world with joint discovery brings unique bonds between children and parents. They are memorable moments that are not easily forgotten!
My family and I live in a small rural town. That’s what my kids know. So sometimes the opposite is true. We recently had the opportunity to go and see the stage play version of ‘The Lion King’ in Melbourne. So off we went to the ’Big City’, a foreign world to my kids. I loved the show but the thing I loved more was watching my seven-year-old son enjoy the wonders of the basics that city dwellers take for granted. Suburban train travel, trams, massive buildings through to the homeless in the streets. These are all things he sees very little of and a world of discovery was opened up to him. But prior to reacting to any of what he saw he looked at me; his reaction to all of these things was coloured by my reaction, so I needed to role model a positive colour (and yet realistic) so that he can see the good and the bad and not be put off it. To wonder at the process of discovery itself.
On the train trip back to grandma’s house (outer suburbs) his eyes were nearly falling out of his head from tiredness. And yet, he did not want to miss a thing that was passing by the window on the off chance there was something amazing out there. I sat across from him and smiled. For all the good and the bad that the city had thrown to a young boy from the bush, there was wonder in his eyes to the very end. I hope he never loses that.
And I hope that I don’t either.
The Outdoors Guy
One of the criticisms levelled at Gen Y and younger that I often hear is …”They’re lazy, they complain about having to do work, they expect too much without working for it.” And the list goes on.
But I wonder, is it laziness and expectation, etc. or is it a baseline resilience that is missing? I say that because over my 20 years of running Outdoor Education journeys it seems that we have somehow wrapped our children in so much ‘bubble wrap’ (protected them from all discomfort, harm and any form of challenge) that they don’t seem to have the reserves to call on when things or situations aren’t exactly the right conditions.
Now, I realise that this is a gross generalisation, but I hope you will roll with me on this for a while. The majority of the work that I have done with children (across a broad age range) has been with elite private schools. My wife, however, has worked with Youth at Risk programs, using Wilderness Therapy models, which are predominately low socio-economic children. And the result? Children are largely the same. It’s the budget attached to the problems that change!
We have all heard the term ‘Helicopter Parent’ and there are some more glaring examples than others in any mix, but the overall attitude of parenting has shifted somewhat at the mean level (or average). Working in a school environment I have seen first hand the want of more and more parents to distance their children from that which may cause discomfort.
Shifting gears now, I believe Resilience is one of the most valuable traits that humans can activate to unleash potential. I want to ask you a question. Prepared? When was the last time you allowed/constructed a situation to teach your child resilience? Don’t answer too quickly.
Now, there are examples everywhere. Sport, academic, outdoor activities, etc. that provide the opportunity. The trick is not to short circuit the discomfort or ‘alter the experiment’ to be easier. And then, when resilience has been demonstrated it is important to acknowledge and celebrate it, because this is where value comes from. Effort, sticktoitiveness (yes, it’s a real word, stick-to-it-ive-ness), pluck, whatever you want to call it, we value most that which we have worked hardest for.
I read an article in a local Melbourne paper a couple of years ago. It was an interview with the school captain of an elite Melbourne private school. One of the closing questions was “What has been the highlight of you time at school?” Now this was an exceptionally high achieving, impressive young man. The answer was “The hike around King Island in Year 9.” Really? Of all the decorations he had on his pocket (that’s what private schools do) and certificates on his wall, a hike? Why?
It was just under 100kms in 6 days with two thirds of it on soft sand. The groups didn’t see another human being other than the rest of their group for the duration of the 6 days. It was testing. It was heavy, hard work and yet the reward at the end was to see the entire walking route from the air on the plane flight home from King Island. What is it that made this moment special? It was hard work, there was a feeling at the start that it was ‘undoable’, it hurt, it was uncomfortable, the group had to look after themselves and each other, cross a very cold inlet waist deep near the close of the hike, sand got into everything and yet they did it! How do I know? I was the leader on that hike!
Pride, Espirit de Corps, Value! These are values that allow children to stand tall, to know they can achieve and help them set ambitious goals in a world that will be overstocked with ‘under-achievers’.
Action Step: Maybe this week, just follow up with your child/children’s activities with a short chat about ‘how well they stuck it out’ and why that is of such value. If you’re in the habit of ‘protecting’ your child, maybe just let the rope go a little further, allow a little more challenge and watch the growth through discomfort. It hurts to watch, but it’s of inestimable value.
All the best.
The Outdoors Guy