I’ve written before about the so-called “helicopter parent” phenomenon. Some parents are so concerned with keeping their child from failing that they practically do everything for them so they won’t fail at the tasks at hand, but with adverse consequences. Helicopter parenting often results in children who are ill-equipped to handle situations on their own once they finally break free of their parents’ influence – if that is even possible. Tales abound of parents who go so far as to represent their children in college, calling professors and registrars to intervene in what their kids really should be doing.
So what’s so bad about making sure your child is successful? Don’t we all want to have children who are successful?
Of course we do, but the mistake we make is in confusing our vision of success with what success really is. All too often, we view a successful child as one who gets good grades, participates in outside activities, has lots of friends and can get things done at home and at school.
These are terrific attributes and abilities for any child, but they are really only the outward sign of something much more important: the ability to be self-initiating and self-reliant. Any parent can “help” with their child’s homework such as rewriting papers, correcting math problems or doing an adult job on a display board assignment. Parents can push their kids into extracurriculars, arrange play dates and social events or lay out their child’s clothing and schoolbooks so they don’t have to remember in the morning.
This isn’t helping; it’s creating dependence, and that’s the last thing you want to do if you’re trying to raise a self-reliant child.
Educator and author Annie Fox reminds us that even though learning to be self-reliant can take many years,
when we require next to nothing of our kids until the time when they can do everything on their own, we are teaching them to be helpless.
In her article The Real Reason Helicopter Parenting Is A Bad Idea, Fox asks if doing everything for your child is necessarily a good idea. It hurts to see your child fail, but it is by failing that he or she will learn what doesn’t work and hopefully will realize what not to try the next time. Our job as parents is to help our children see that failure is an option if it leads the way to success. And the way we do that is through reflection and guidance – not by doing things for them when they get it wrong.
Scouting works the same way. Adults don’t do what the boys are capable of doing, and as Scouters (and parents of boys of similar age), we know what they can do – whether we want to admit it or not. Scouters who work directly with Scouts – the Scoutmaster and assistants, merit badge counselors and occasionally committee members – should learn to guide and mentor these young men. This is done by asking questions rather than giving direction, by helping them to reflect on experiences without imposing our own thoughts, and by giving responsibility and holding them accountable. We recognize every boy is different and will develop at a different rate, so finding out what a boy is capable of requires some observation and evaluation.
Fortunately, not every child has a helicopter parent, but for those who do, Scouting provides a way for them to discover just what they can do for themselves. Make sure they have the opportunity to develop into independently functioning, capable young men.
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