Unconditional Positive Regard in the Minikani Experience
As a camper, counselor, and administrative staff member, one of my favorite aspects of Minikani culture is the unconditional positive regard between campers and counselors. It’s hard to appreciate the full strength of it as a camper, but as a counselor the love and care you have for your campers is something that fuels the spirit of Minikani through decades.
Unconditional positive regard is a term coined by humanist psychologist Carl Rogers and describes a form of support and acceptance that transcends the current or past behavior of an individual. In therapy, this helps the client continuously feel accepted and supported through good and bad times, setting them up to continuously build their self-worth and confidence despite any mistakes they make. It doesn’t mean all behaviors are acceptable. Instead, the individual practicing unconditional positive regard focuses on the underlying fears or anxieties that could be causing the behavior and offers aid in alleviating those stresses. Of course, Minikani counselors are not practiced psychotherapists, but the sentiment and attitude are there. Especially with kids who sometimes exhibit “bad” behavior, they often don’t understand the full implications of what they are doing. Regardless, as a camp counselor it is not our job to judge any child. We simply model better behavior and help them follow the expectations at camp.
How is this achieved?
By meeting kids where they’re at and not holding them accountable to unrealistic expectations, we make sure all campers are encouraged to grow and thrive at whatever pace they are able to. Whether they are a 7-year-old who just wants to chuck rocks into the lake and run around pretending to be an astronaut, or a 13-year-old who just wants to play chess all day and talk about the history of the British Commonwealth, all passions are celebrated at Minikani. A common phrase counselors toss around is FTK – For The Kids. That’s why we’re here. Working in the sun with your friends is so fun, but when it really comes down to it, we do this job for the difference you can make in a kid’s life in just a week.
Walking the Walk
Many of our counselors know and appreciate this impact because the vast majority of Minikani counselors were once campers themselves! I personally have vivid memories of looking up to my counselors like they were the coolest and most amazing people ever. I remember a time when a kid was being teased and called names in my cabin. My counselor Max called everyone out of the cabin one by one and when he talked to me, he wasn’t mad, he just said, “I was so sad when I heard you were a part of this. I know you’re not this guy and can be better.” Wow. As an 11-year-old kid I was expecting to lose my dessert at dinner or have to sit out of evening activity. Max didn’t show anger, just redirection and support to be better. Needless to say, under his guidance everyone became friends in the cabin and there wasn’t another incident of teasing. And all my counselors were like this- so accepting, mature, and loving. These incredible, cool, big kids become your best friends. It feels so special as a camper to be celebrated and adored by your role models.
The Tradition Continues
Learning from that experience and so many other training sessions during the LT program helped me feel extremely comfortable accepting and loving all kids. We can understand where the kids are coming from, being there ourselves not too long ago, and get to give that same relationship that we had with our counselors to our own campers. This beautiful cycle of supporting the future and passing down the love and care that was shown builds up across generations. It ingrains the Spirit of Minikani into each and every camper and counselor. As a counselor, I saw so much of myself in my campers, and was able to play these crazy imaginative games with them I hadn’t played since I was little. You want to do everything you can to give them as incredible of an experience as you had. You get to go back and relive your fondest memories from childhood with kids who are right where you used to be! So, it can be as beneficial for the counselors as it is for the campers. This deep appreciation goes both ways between the two, allowing that unconditional positive regard to come into play. It gives counselors the patience and care to be intentional and loving towards their campers, while encouraging their campers to heed their counselor’s advice and be the best they can be. This two-way street of care and respect, both here at Minikani and in camps around the world, can be found when counselors really care about their campers. We don’t work 22-hour days for six days a week in a stinky, stuffy cabin for the money, or to set us up for some future financial analysis job. We do it because of the bond that we create with the kids, and then, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll get to see your campers become counselors themselves. Your campers will then pass on what they learned from you, with a combination of their own experiences and values, to their own campers. Then, the tradition continues.Tags: camper, counselor
17 May, 2022
Character Building, Counseling, Minikani Magic