First let me be very direct with parents who are reading this column:

Your kids learn how to make good decisions by observing you and by testing their boundaries.  

What does this have to do with summer programs?  Everything.  You see, too many parents today make a critical mistake with their kids when it comes to decision-making.  Though well meaning, it is damaging to their child’s long-term development and success.  The mistake is simply trying to be more of a friend to their child rather than being a parent.  By this, I mean that they 1) leave the decisions in the child’s hands and 2) allow the child to determine when they do and do not go to an activity.   Every time I see a parent turn over decision making to an 8 year old, it pains me.   How can an 8 year old make a good decision on what will help them reach their long-term goals?  I’m not saying that a parent shouldn’t ask the child what they like or if they enjoy something…but at the end of the day, the PARENT(s) should make the decision.
For the second part I’m referring to when a parent decides not to take their child to an activity or a commitment they made because the child says “I don’t feel like going today.”  This is a teachable moment for helping a child understand commitments, goals and perseverance.  Or it ends up being a situation where the parent conditions the child to believe they can get whatever they want by whining and complaining.  It shocks me when I’ve had conversations with parents who complain that their adult child has now quit four jobs within a year—and who don’t see the correlation to the fact they let that same child quit most of the activities they were ever involved in earlier in life because they didn’t “feel like going.”  If you train your child to quit whenever things aren’t perfect or they feel less motivation then don’t wonder why they continue this pattern in all areas of life.

So the above two points are major issues to conquer before even looking to the activities themselves.  When you commit to being a parent that is willing to give your child the support and extra push they need at these critical times, the next step is selecting the right activities to match your goals.  If you put your kids in activities without first having clearly set goals, you are wasting your time and money.  Set goals, objectives or more simply just write down what you are looking to accomplish with a summer activity.  Otherwise you are hiring programs to be glorified babysitters with no real additional value to you or your child.  Many programs are just that…they keep your kids busy being busy….but in the end your child has made no real progress in any measurable way to achieve any real goal or skill.  Lots of programs advertise they build a child’s self-esteem or confidence, that they will help them get better grades, that they will help them achieve better fitness levels.  But then when you ask them HOW they do that, they can’t really explain.  It’s because they DON’T; they just know good buzz words to put in marketing.  The programs that CAN do it are able to explain exactly how their programs accomplish the stated goals and benefits.  Finally, ask about the training or qualifications of those left in charge of your child.  Do they have background checks?  First aid and CPR certification?  Training or credentials to teach what they are doing?  You would be surprised how many programs, if telling the truth, would answer NO to some or most of those.

To summarize, I encourage doing the following things when choosing the right summer program:

1. Write out the goals/what you are looking to accomplish.  Match this to the program selection that YOU (not the child) make the final decision on.

2. Ask questions on HOW programs achieve/teach these goals and skills.

3.Check into credentials, background checks, certifications etc.

And finally, BE A PARENT!  Your child is counting on you and will thank you later in life for doing the right things!!

by Jeff Dousharm, President

Tiger Rock


For additional information, contact Jeff Dousharm at