On my first night at Army Basic Training, we where lined up, marched around and screamed at from the second we got off the bus to the second we went to bed. I do not recall being aloud to talk, only spoken to with short sharp clear commands. We spent the most of the evening in the The Lines, with our four Non Commissioned Officers (NCO’s) learning the daily routines and protocols. The Lines are like dorm rooms, with a long hallway the length of a basketball court and 4x4m rooms to either side. I remember we where all standing at our doorways while the NCO’s paced back and forth, up and down the hallway. The NCO’s where searching for any imperfections, a piercing, long hair, untucked shirt, designer cloths, a side ways glance, a fidget, anything they could find. They would then proceed to letting you know exactly what they thought of it, loudly, up close and personal. As I stood at attention against the wall, heals together fists clenched at my pockets, thumbs pointing towards the ground and looking directly to my front. I was starring blankly at the Recruit standing across from me. I could hear the NCO Marching closer towards us, barking out commands “DON’T LOOK DOWN, I HAVE ALREADY PICKED UP ALL THE MONEY”……The sound of his boots got closer…… “WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT SNOWFLAKE, EYES FRONT” I noticed the man standing directly in front of me started to cry, I thought “shit, don’t cry its just gonna make it worse” Tears running down his face and sobbing the NCO approached us. I thought “here we go…. he’s gonna get it now” The NCO Snapped his boot to the ground coming to a halt directly between us, he turned his head to the right, looked the Recruit up and down, snapped his head back to the front and kept on marching down the hall way to the next recipient of verbal abuse. The Recruit in front of me was already broken, the NCO did not have to say anything. The next morning our platoon was cut from 52 down to 46, the sobbing man across from me, was one of the 6 that disappeared over night, never to be seen or spoken of again.
I was 18 years of age when I packed up my bags and hopped on that bus to The Army’s Recruit Training Centre, Kappoka in Wagga Wagga NSW. I barely had a few whiskers on my chin, I was short skinny and shy. For 12 weeks I was told daily that I was no good, a disgrace to the ANZAC’s and had no place in this professional Army. I never received positive feedback, only negative. If I done something good I would not hear a peep about it, but the second my shoe laces where done up incorrectly, I would have four NCO’s storming towards me ready to rip me a new one. It was intimidating, scary and daily battle of did I really want to continue. Once I overcome the first mental and physical challenge the next one was easier and then it got easier and easier.Not long after I completed basic Training I retuned home to visit family and friends. They all noticed how much more confident I was. It was seen in the way I presented myself and the way I spoke to others. Kapooka had changed me, for life.
Children need to be challenged and they need to learn how to overcome challenges. I did not build confidence because someone was telling me how good I was every day, but because I was physically and mentally challenged and was forced to overcome these challenges in order to survive. Kapooka is an extreme way of building confidence and a lot is done in a short amount of time. I do NOT think the extreme challenge of Kapooka is necessary for kids to build confidence. For our Kids, we have there whole lives to build confidence, but we need to present them with challenges so they can do so.
Exercise is great physical and mental challenge, there is no other age group with more self doubt than kids. When presented a challenge they are more likely to respond with I can’t or I don’t want to. With coaching and incorargment kids will overcome challenges and build confidence. If we allow that self doubt to overtake and for them to shy away from a challenge, the doubt will foster and kids will lack confidence later in life.
Start young, present challenges to your child and let them overcome. This maybe not picking your 14 month old up off the ground every time they fall, let them get up on their own. It may be allowing your 5 year old to climb the tree or climb the fence, yeah they may fall but they may make it to the top. It may be encouraging your 7 year old to go over a bigger jump on their bike, the worst that can happen is they fall off. It may be signing your 9 year old up for Martial Arts, learning to defend yourself and not shy away from an attack. It may be not letting your 11 year old sit at home because they don’t feel like going to footy training. It maybe doing a half marathon with your 13 year old. The harsher the environment the more resilient a child will become.
Humans are built to adapt the environments we are in. Place a child in a soft and cossy environment with no challenges and they will come out, unconfident and full of self doubt. Place a child in a harsh environment of physical and mental challenges and they will adapt to become confident and healthier adults.