Should You Force Your Kid To Attend A Camp They Hate?

So you enrolled your kids in summer camp. Last spring (or even winter), you forked over the money, filled out all the forms and patted yourself on the back for doing the work to ensure smooth sailing all summer break. Just one problem… now it’s time for camp and your kid absolutely hates it.

What now? A lot of parents don’t have a choice, camp is the only childcare option. But if you do have a choice, how do you handle it? Is day camp a battle worth fighting?

One Reddit user is in thick of the camp battle now. “I just sent my almost 10 year old daughter off to a sports day camp that she absolutely hates.”

“I am feeling guilty that I am forcing her to go again instead of letting her skip,” she confessed on the Reddit parenting forum.

“She gave me the reasons she doesn’t like it: it’s too long, it’s all boys, it’s not fun!”

So, this camp is not exactly torture. She even has “2 close friends that are doing it with her.”

When her pep talk failed to inspire an attitude change, she asked Reddit how to handle the remainder of camp, and for “Some extra insight into how I can react when she has to do something she really doesn’t want to do.”

Reddit fell into separate camps (see what I did there?) on how to handle it.

Camp U-Gotta-Go

Many readers feel strongly that attendance is non-negotiable. “We all have to do things we dislike throughout life. Allowing a kid to eject sends a horrible message. More important to learn the ‘suck it up’ lesson.”

After all, adversity builds character. “It’s about learning how to overcome our own barriers, stepping outside your comfort zone, and learning something about yourself that maybe you never knew.”

A parent who planned ahead with her daughter shared what works for them: “My daughter is not allowed to sit at home doing nothing all summer. When the camps come out in the winter, she can choose which she likes, but she must choose one. If your daughter chose/agreed to this camp, I would just matter of fact tell her that she needs to go and that’s that.”

Proponents of the ‘my parents did it and I’m fine’ philosophy sounded off too. “I hated camp as a kid. All camps. Just loathed them with a burning passion. I still had to go. And you know what? It was fine.”

Camp Go-AWOL

Over in this camp, we have the ‘my parents did and I’m not fine’ people.

“My mom made me do sports as a kid. I hated it. I still don’t like sports. I still resent my mom for essentially humiliating me by forcing me to do something I was miserable at.”

“When I was 13 my mom forced me to go to boxing classes twice a week and I absolutely hated it. The stress gave me migraines! I ended up skipping the classes and just wandering the streets.”

Others just don’t see summer camp as a hill worth dying on. “There seems to be a consensus on making older kids do recreational things they don’t want to do, and I don’t get it. Don’t make your kids do things they don’t want to do if the thing is supposed to be fun.”

“Sure, we all have to do things we dislike, but why would you use the awfulness of life as an excuse to make your daughter’s life more awful?”

If you’re worried that quitting camp will prevent your child from ever succeeding at anything in life, this comment offers reassurance: “I had a terrible time at camp as a tween and when I asked to quit, my parents agreed. Today, in my 30s, I’m probably the most efficient employee in my workplace, even though there’s plenty in my job that I dislike.”

One parent suggests the better lesson might actually be in letting her quit. “Teach her it’s okay to say no. To give her the time and mental capacity to find things she loves. I know I wouldn’t want to spend my summer vacation at a camp I hated. Not sure why my kid would want to.”

To camp, or not to camp?

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. The answer will vary by parenting style and child needs. Is the goal to build character, or to have fun? Are you looking for learning opportunities, or do you trust life to deliver plenty of lessons on its own?

Alternatively, maybe it’s not that deep. If giving in is a relief, cool. If getting the kids out of the house at all costs saves you some sanity, let’s go. A lot of us are just trying to get through the day, and that’s okay too.

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