Life at Doglando: Adversity, Kids, & Lessons Learned

Let’s Talk About Something Important: Learning How to Deal with Adversity

Everyone experiences adversity in their life. Adversity can either help shape us or tear us down. This is due, in large part, to the fact that every single one of us must learn how to cope with adversity at some point in our lives.

Last week, Camp Doglando 2017 Session 1 ended. I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t feeling more emotional than usual. I may or may not have hidden some tears during and after our graduation ceremony… There’s a really good reason for it, though!

You see, I personally feel that my life purpose is to drive change in a generation. To pour that purpose into kids and make them better every moment that I can. Camp gave me that opportunity, and at the time I didn’t realize how important it would be and how much of an impact could be made.

Dog training is NOT easy. If it was we’d all be doing it as a career, right? It takes a certain level of tenacity to become a successful trainer. A degree of stubbornness is required. This is because of the levels of adversity the dogs bring into our minds.

What is adversity?

Adversity is defined as:

Adverse or unfavorable fortune or fate.

Basically, when things become hard for us in some area of our lives we can safely say that we’re facing a form of adversity.

During the second week of camp, Teena explained to the campers what the feedback loop is:

Picture a figure eight drawn vertically with a line where the two loops meet. There are two more lines drawn above and below the line in the middle. The middle line is where we’re at mentally. This line is in constant flux in one direction or another and our minds do their best to keep this line within the other two lines, or our window. We call this homeostasis. It represents when our minds are at balance and filled with a sense of peace.

Now we have that picture in our minds, so let’s talk a bit about stimuli:

Stimuli are anything we can potentially come into contact with in our environment. (There’s a whole lot of new stimuli in the photo below, from our Lowe’s field trip!)

When a stimulus comes into contact with our internal environment (our minds) we call it an interaction. Most often we’ll take the path of least resistance, or least stimuli, in order to achieve homeostasis and stay there.

Why is it so hard for today’s children to cope? They haven’t learned how to face adversity

What happens so often with our kids, though, is that they’re never allowed to develop coping skills. Despite the best of intentions, parents and other adults often inhibit interactions in our kids’ lives that would have helped them develop in the face of adversity.

As a result, many kids can’t develop a healthy history of overcoming adversity.

Facing adversity = growth

Camp forces interactions between kids and their dogs for the two weeks that they have them.

What’s really neat is that we as “counselors” allow the kids to face these interactions on their own. We allow our campers to face adversity in order to grow in a coping manner.

Camp Doglando campers overcoming adversity on their own

For example, we had a camper who was having trouble teaching her dog to walk on a loose leash. We needed this camper to succeed in order to go on outings with her dog.

At first I wanted to jump in and do things for her. But, as I learned more I also realized that me helping would do nothing for her. I had to allow her to face this challenge alone. She cried, thought about giving up, and even wanted to quit. Despite all of this the camper decided to stick it out.

Fast forward to graduation. What do you think happened?

Spoiler alert: I got to see this girl show off her skills with confidence!

The camper pushed through her challenges with her dog and they both grew because of it. She had to ride out her adversity in life in order to grow. When things got hard, we didn’t allow her to give up, but encouraged her to push through. I’m so proud to say that I know she grew because of this.

Hardship helps all living beings grow

While it’s still somewhat vague, I’ve gotten to learn how hardship can grow students and young adults. If we all decided to give our kids more opportunities to overcome the world around us, we’d see so much more confidence in them. We’d see this posture of triumph become evident in their lives.

Next week I’ll get to be a bit more specific in what this looks like for our staff at Doglando. We’ll get to look at how Doglando shapes its staff into the successful people that they are today. Adversity will always be present in life. It’s how we handle it that makes all the difference in where we go.

I’d love to hear about adversity in your own life. Whether it’s been a personal obstacle, a struggle with your dog, or your child’s own experience overcoming adversity, share your experiences in the comments! I’m always so inspired to hear these types of stories, and I know others will be, too.