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FireKat

How do you help kids get out from under helicopter parents?

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In reading some of the threads and watching a few good eagle candidates suffer under their helicoper parents, I starte wonder what an outsider can do to help these kids do more on their own. An ideas would help as I am watching it happen again.

Some background:  I watched a very good scout allow his dad to forceably take over his Eagle project as Dad said that the boys was not doing 'X' right. Son balled up his fists and glared but then shrugged his shoulders and walked away. He then sat back and watched as his Dad ran the whole show. The scout was an excelent scout and very good eagle material but Dad wanted everything perfect. Dad cheated the boy out of the learning experence of solving the diffuculties encountered in any project.

Fast forward to now:  Another upcomming scout is streching his wings but Dad wants all perfect. Scout gets a POR and as all new scouts, strugles with some parts of the position. When young scout turns to an older scout for help, Dad jumps in to tell son what to do. Again, I see the balling fists and glare, but son allows Dad to take over. This scout has good potential but needs more time to mature. Dad wants him to be one of the youngest eagle for the troop. Dad has also treated Boy Scouts like WebelosIII. Has gotten mad when son did not get a MB for sitting through a short interduction to a MB (as would a cub). Dad has been very active in the troop and a registered leader, he just has not grasped the boy-lead concept, even after a couple of years in the troop. (he still thinks the adults pick the summer camp although the boys have always picked it themselves from a list collected by the committee).

I would like a good way to open these parents eyes to the joy of sitting back and watching their boys struggle (and sometimes fail) learning new things. They are missing out on seeing the joy when their boy masters a skill on his own; the interaction of an older scout teaching and helping the newer sccout learn. To me, that is the best thing about Boy Scouts: a change just to saver my sons growing up.

Most parents never get to see the changes in their childern as they are too involved in making the changes happen. Scouts has given me the chance to see that magic. I want to share this with those parents that have not has the courage to sit and watch and let things happen. They are missing out on one of the great joys of being a parent.

Thanks for any ideas. K

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Great thread, Firekat.

 

I think da biggest thing is communicate, communicate, communicate and nip this stuff in the bud when folks first join. Right from the start, with new parent orientations and how you respond to adult behaviors your first few outings. If you're firm and informative (in that order) at the beginning when they're new, it's much easier than havin' to step in and be firm later on. Action and example more than words, of course. And give 'em something to do that keeps 'em busy and away from the lads. That way when they start interferin', the SPL or SM can ask them how they're doin' on their job and order 'em back to work. ;)

 

Beyond that, I'm an old codger, eh? I'm not shy. If a man starts takin' over a boy's project, I usually just pull him aside and let him know that things can be done perfectly the way he wants, in which case his son doesn't get Eagle, or they can be done imperfectly under his son's direction, in which case he does. Then I offer either to drive him home or let him use my camera as "official photographer" for da rest of the day.

 

Or, alternately, yeh pull the guy aside and get him involved in some annoying make-work problem that yeh know will take a while. Durin' that time, you comment on how well his son is doing, how he'll be a fine leader, how much he's learning from being given the chance to lead without us adults, yada yada.

 

B

 

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This thread is so remenicent of the dad's building the Cub's pinewood derby car. This process starts early and sometimes never goes away. As a SM, I start right from the beginning announcing to all parents and leaders that I expect the boys to be running the show, for good or bad. If a parent has a problem with the progress of the boys, they talk to me and I'll handle it. If they choose not to follow this plan I'll visit with them about it individually. I don't know how many "If you do it for him how's he going to learn?" lessons I have had to repeat over the years. Unless the parent wants to keep their boys from growing up, they normally see the benefits of such an approach. I do this as part of every parent/leader orientation. If a parent interferes, my ASM and/or I step in. If they don't like this approach, I have suggested enrolling their boys in another program where growing up isn't expected. So far no one has taken me up on that option.

 

As a scout leader it is my responsibility to help these boys mature and grow into productive adults. If this goal interferes with the goals of a parent, they are free to choose another program.

 

Have I signed off on an Eagle project hand-written with poor spelling and incorrect grammer? Yep. Surprisingly the Eagle Board appreciates such projects because they know that it is really the boy doing the project and not something that has been reviewed and analyzed to death by a handful of adults.

 

When a project comes before me 100% correct, I will allow that little red flag in the back of my mind to question more about the project and assure myself the work was really done by the boy.

 

Stosh

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I don't know if you can get the kid out! I think the key is to stop the parent from hovering!

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our troop I think handles this very well.

 

1 thing we do is have a parent meeting right after crossover - this allows us to explain how the troop is run and that as a parent there role is mainly "what did you do tonight? hey, I heard x is going on next weekend what requirements could you complete if you went?"

 

another thing we do is try to teach the boys who have parents as leaders to go to a different leader, so that they aren't always running to mom or dad for help or guidance. it took my son a little while of coming to me to open jars and being told to ask someone else first before he caught on - he never asks me for anything except for rides and money now LOL

 

someone mentioned the eagle project with misspelled words and such... my son always gets questioned because he types all his work - you can tell it's his words though because he has short little to the point answers to everything... but no one can read his handwriting (even I struggle LOL) so he won't get misspelled words thanks to spell check, but he will often have the wrong word used (there their they're) but he tells all his mbc that if something needs writing he'll have to type it if they want to be able to read it. one told him to go ahead and write anyway and asked him to read it to him - mbc told me even my son couldn't read his own handwriting LOL * and yes, at every parent/teacher conf I have to ask "other than his handwriting what does he need to work on? LOL then they show me something I tell them "hey, his handwriting is actually improving" LOL

 

 

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LOL! When I was in grade school I had terrible penmanship and my mother made me practice for hours until it met her expectations. My only regret is everyone picks on me now because I "write like a girl!" Thanks for the "fond" childhood memory refresh! :-)

 

Stosh

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We talk to the new parents, and have them repeat after us "Dad's / Mom's not here!" and then we tell them "the flip side of that is even if your scout is trying to cook the chicken in the oven he didn't turn on....you're not there!" it sometimes takes a couple of sessions before some of the hardcore heli-parents are grounded, but usually not more than 3.

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The question is...

 

"How do you help kids get out from under helicopter parents?"

 

Answer (ready for the Joke)

 

A good anti-aircraft missle.

 

I have been helping out our local Boy Scout troop. The one that my son will have the oppurtunity to cross into.

 

They were getting ready for the upcoming camporee. They had to make meal plans. Last week they started with the large butcher block type paper. This week I handed the PL a few printouts that had Patrol duties, menu planning, and shopping lists. I showed him how they were set up, but i did not do it for him. he had some of the other patrol members work on it too. If they had questions I guided them. But they did the majority of the work. THings like, what do we need for this meal? They figured out all of the ingrediants. They also remembered that they had some left over supplies from the last campout. One of them was thinking and probably saved the group about $15. Then they made their shopping list. They decided who would be doing the shopping and gave the shopping list to him. Just happened that the volunteer was the PL.

 

Why was I doing this, becuase they were looking for guidance and only asked when they needed help or could not figure it out. THe parents and other adult leaders were going over some things for the upcoming summer camp. So that freed their time.Not to mention I enjoyed it.

 

If a parent hovers, try seeing if there is something else they may be interested in doing.

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Put me down in the non-writing kid column. He can't write worth a lick print or script. He does on the other hand type 50wpm in this age of computers which is the more useful skill?

We also stress to new parents and to new scouts that their advancement or lack thereof is on their own shoulders. I just did a conference with two of last years new scouts for tenderfoot no less and as part of the next step portion was inquiring as to how many activities they had recorded in their book. They both have been active and on most if not all of our outings and should be completed with the 10 activities. You guessed it the answer in both cases was there were no activities recorded in their books. Now they get to run around and attempt to reconstruct their past year. After this I had group meeting with both new scout patrols and managed to point out the activities list to them we will see next year how many really paid attention. The idea of first class first year is more to push the troops program to the level where that is attainable i.e, monthly camping with other activities sprinkled in in addition not instead of the camping trip. We had an older brother of one of our scouts join at 15 and make first class in 8 months but he had a high motivation level. Sibling rivalry can work wonders if you let it. The helicopter parents soon get tired of trying to keep up with the schedule and the cost. If you are one of the two required leaders on an outing you go for free if you add yourself to the mix you pay your own way. Most of the trips only have two adults with the troop.

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Good question, with no single answer. It is an extremely frustrating problem, and unfortunately in my experience I have seen it drive away some good leaders and almost ruin a unit.

 

Best advice, based on experience, is to be very candid, frank, and open. Make the whole issue transparent to all parties concerned, especially Council. Get your UC involved from the start.

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My wife has this issue in her GS troop. When half the troop moved up my wife took the Junior troop. The Brownies leader wants to mother them and cook the food before the camping trips, have every mother come along on the outings and doesn't let the girls plan, fail, or struggle. My wife on the other hand is of the philosophy that it called Girl Scouts because the girls should run it. Now that the other leader and many of the girls are moved up there is a constant struggle. My wife told the parents and the other leader staright out, this the girls troop, we are only here to advise and teach. They do the planning, will do the cooking(supervised), and if parents are needed to keep the correct ratio they will be selected via lottery. The girls love it in spite of the parents.

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Thanks all for the suggestions.

I knew when I had kids I would probably be a bit over protective (read, helicopter) so I trained myself to stop and let my boys mess up. When it came to some of their activities where I might try to interfer I took my camera. Instead of trying to fix it I took photos of them learning. I ended up with some great pictures of them. The camera kept me feeling like I was part of their experences without interfearing. Besides, they now have photos they can show to their friends and laugh over. 

Our scoutmaster does a great end of year photo presentation of different things using these types of photos. The boys and the families all enjoy seeing how they grew over the year. He also does this for ECoHs. It is great watching how the boy grew in scouting.

I try to encourage parents to get behind the camera and learn to watch the boys grow.  Candid photos mean so much more than the posed photo and make the best montages.

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Here are a few things we use.

 

1. We have a Parents' Handbook that has a section called "You and Your Son" and this very subject is addressed. Visiting Webelos Parents get a copy before their son ever joins, we leave out the members only stuff.

 

2. The Scoutmaster and assistants usually perform a short skit utilizing role play and humor at each Troop Committee meeting to shed light on "the topic of the month" and hopefully teach those who need the lesson. It seems every couple of years this subject is the topic.

 

3. Our Parents' Handbook actually has an adults' rule that says at Troop events, a Dad will NOT be his own son's diciplinarian, another Scouter will do this and he will return the favor for the other dad and his son. The book explains that most Scouts do not have a parent along and so that boy's parents will never know what transpired at the event unless it is misbehavior that warrants the parents' knowledge. So, do not penalize your son for having an active parent; you could drive him away from Scouting.

 

4. Of course, if all this does not work, a one on one talk with the Scoutmaster should work.

 

BTW, our "Troop Parents' Handbook & Troop Committee Guidebook" is available digitally in MSWord, just drop me a note with email address.

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We've had this problem a few times as it's hard for many parents to shift gears from micro-managing to mentoring. We solved it by having an "expert consultant" come in from outside. What we actually did was have a very forceful, but positive, speaker from district appear at the camporee and gather up all the adults for nightly coffee. He would start off on a positive note on Scout led Scouting, give examples of when it worked well, and when it didn't. He was told about the problems well before hand so he could ask a few "innocent" questions without picking on anyone.

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Have an adult Patrol on outings.

We had in the past a helicopter parents that would even make his son's sandwiches! I remember the first time I went on an outing with my oldest son and the SM came over and gently told me that this was not cub scouts and to step away. Me being a Mom was so used to doing the things my son is going to learn that I hadn't even realized I was doing it. It was actually really nice for a change not to have to do the cooking! So every once in a while when I wondered over there you can bet the SM was watching me and gently reminding me to step away.

Then I started seeing it with other parents in the Troop. By now I was on the Troop committee and suggested to form our own Adult Patrol. I pointed out that how are the boys going to learn if we keep stepping in there. Besides our rule at the time was to eat with our son's patrols and adults were allowed to eat first. After I suggested we could eat better since the guys didn't have the cooking skills yet and we always got the uncooked or burned stuff the adults all agreed to try it. That was 5 years ago...We have little or no helicopter parents since they now enjoy the good eats and the wonderful fire we make!

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