Thursday, July 23, 2020

2001 – A Reason For The Rules

Movies we saw in 2001
(40 Summers 40 Lessons Series)

When my family and I lived "up the hill" at camp (1998-2002), we very seldom went to the movies. Every now and again, I would take my two older kids *Brian was yet to be born) to see a movie on a weekend when we did not have a group in camp. It was a 38-mile trip each way, so these occasions were special and I wanted them to be memorable.


Lord of the Rings, Shrek, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Spy Kids, Cats and Dogs, Atlantis were all movies we saw that year.

We went to a multiplex in Redlands, California and Saturday afternoons filled with families some of whom attended camp during the summer or outdoor education season.

We would watch the movies and often, Alec and Kelly (my two older kids) would want to see another movie. Our early afternoon could turn into an early evening and often times did. I make this point only to make sure that I wanted my children to understand right and wrong. So, when we would watch a second movie, I would walk them out of the theater and we would get tickets for the additional movie. Often times, the kids would complain about having to do that as they watched other people walk out of one theater screen and into another.

I have always felt that when you begin to break the rules with children (and adults), they will start to determine that they have an exemption or a pass. Therefore, they can pick and choose the rules/laws that they want to follow. After all, they are special since that time that dad (or mom) allowed them to break that rule.

My kids always knew (from me) that they had to respect the rules even more so than any other children in camp did. I have to admit that none of us is perfect and all of us made mistakes or asked for something that may have stretched the rules. I think for my older kids and looking at their second and third grade faces during those outings I tried to provide for them, boundaries. I cannot say that my children always followed the rules or that they sometimes tried to get away with “their dad is the boss” routine.

I saw a post recently on a camp community social media site from someone (a camp director) mentioning how they sometimes take “director’s privilege” with the rules at their camp. As the director, I often thought about how my family and I were literally in the picture window of camp. At that time, our home was just 32 steps from the dining hall and our front window from our dining room faced the pool area at camp.

I believe, (having learned over and over from camp examples) that we all do better when we live with boundaries in our lives. How do young brains process which rules are okay to have and which are okay to exempt ourselves?


Learning to set boundaries is a great skill and I believe that camp is a great place to do so. What better incubator than a 750 square foot cabin with 7 campers and two leaders.

Here are just a few examples. Campers and staff often learn emotional boundaries around inappropriate topics, dismissing emotions or emotional dumping. Time and energy boundaries about adhering to a schedule, lateness, or timeliness to activities and meals. Physical boundaries with proximity, touch, unwanted comments about life style and choices. Mental boundaries and the belief that one can have their own thoughts, values, and opinions. Material boundaries around stuff that each brings to camp and sharing.

I believe, like my mentor John Maxwell, that “a leader who knows the way, goes the way and SHOWS THE WAY.” You can do so by setting good boundaries for everyone you influence.

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