Let Them Fail

The current age of over-parenting has given rise to its own terminology of the “helicopter parent.” You know the type—the one that swoops in to right every wrong, lodge every complaint, and perform every rescue to be sure their child never fails at anything.

A lot of different reasons have been given for this development that point back to self-centeredness on the part of parents: dads who want to relive their own glory days on the field; moms who live to brag on Facebook about their children’s accomplishments; and so on.

However, I believe the primary reason is that parents have simply grown to care too much. It simply breaks our heart to see our children fail at anything. Moms particularly so which is why, in my observation, the Mother-copter has the most difficult time flying away from the child.

I’m not sure when this shift happened. It sure wasn’t the case when I was growing up. I was left to “learn the hard way,” and I often did. When I got a detention in school, my parents didn’t call the school in a huff, they told me I got what I deserved. When I threatened to run away from home, my parents didn’t seek counseling for me, they helped me pack a suitcase.

Since then, we’ve swung completely in the opposite direction. We spend our time finding ways to ensure success by insulating children against not only anything negative that life throws at them, but also the consequences of their own bad choices and actions.

We’ve also gone from giving teachers and other adults every benefit of the doubt to the complete opposite. In fact, my own son recently got himself in trouble at school, which generated a lengthy email from his teacher along with the consequence he would face. I wrote back in complete support of the school’s actions. When my son talked to the teacher the next day, she expressed relief that “I hadn’t been upset at her” about the situation. That is a sad commentary about how responsibility and accountability has been shifted over a generation.

Of course, as parents we need to keep our children safe. We need to look out for their best interests and guide them in their development. However, by completely insulating our children from the consequences of their bad decisions, poor preparation, and other shortcomings out of an abundance of care, we are doing them a great injustice. We all learn from failure and, most often, the lessons of failure are more impactful and lasting than those of success. Those lessons are also key to nurturing children who are truly confident, capable and, ultimately, independent.

In short, letting your child fail may in fact be one of the most caring things you can do.  

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A Season for “Tolerance.”

I readily admit to plagiarizing the following from another blog, with some minor modifications. It was just too good not to share…

I have no bones to pick over how anyone lives their life, or celebrates a season, but what I do not understand is why some types keep trying to tear down our own precious traditions, while at the same time urging others to wear their heritage on their sleeves and tee shirts.

“Are you gay? Well, be proud! You go, guy! Way to be gay! Stand up and march and get married!”

“Are you a hyphenated American? Then be proud of your heritage. Don’t forget where you came from. Speak your native language. Observe your native customs!”

But, what about my customs? I grew up as a white male who was taught that God should be an important part of my life and that I should love my country. I was taught that things are black and white; right or wrong; up or down. Not all gray and blurry! I was told that if I worked hard, sacrificed, treated people right, honored God, and  always told the truth that I would succeed. I was taught to honor our flag and our soldiers.

I was raised up loving CHRISTMAS. That is part of MY tradition. I sing Christmas songs, put up a Christmas tree, and give Christmas presents paid for by my Christmas bonus! I believe that Santa Claus comes on Christmas morning, and I read The Christmas Story from my BIBLE on Christmas Eve!!

Somehow, that makes me the bad guy to some–a very dangerous man to be avoided at all costs; I might even own a gun. Well… I do!

I have a newsflash for the loud mouths in this nation who would change every bit of my upbringing to fit into their agenda: Most Americans feel the way I do about it.

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A View from the Mountaintop

I was a Scout as a youth, and I got back into Scouting as an adult volunteer after a decades-long hiatus when my son joined Cub Scouts as a first-grade “Tiger.” Over the following years my involvement would deepen, and I’ve held all kinds of different roles within the Scouting organization.

Sometimes, in the midst of training, committee meetings, roundtables, planning, and paperwork, it is easy to forget why I got involved in Scouting as an adult in the first place–to spend time with my son. But I also realized, thanks to an exercise at a district roundtable last night, that I’ve gotten a lot more out of my second go-around in Scouting than just quality family time. Specifically, there are things that I have learned and experienced that I doubt I would have without Scouting. Just in the last year:

-I learned to downhill ski. This was always on my “no way, no how, not interested” list of things I never considered doing. But, given the chance to accompany my son to a learn-to-ski clinic through Scouting, I learned how, and I love it.

-I learned I actually like to fish. Growing up, my experience of fishing consisted of boring afternoons of dragging bullheads off the bottom of the Sheboygan Marsh and later picking bits of nearly unpalatable fish-flesh from among the bones. Scouting taught me there are things called “pan fish” as well as other fish that taste better than anything that comes in shrink-wrap, and that having a largemouth bass grab your topwater bait in an explosive dawn display is truly exhilarating.

-I learned how to backpack. I thought I knew how to do this from my first go-around, but it’s amazing how much the years take from memory and, equally important, how much the technology of backpacking gear has evolved. Even though we as a family have spent a lot of time in nature, our hiking had been limited to day trips and our camping to drive-in sites. Finally heading back into the woods with everything I needed for a few days in a pack on my back was not only a great lesson, but getting a view from the mountaintop was the highlight of last year’s adventures, and an experience that I plan on repeating.

Sometimes, as a leader, I have to gently remind a helicopter parent that it’s called BOY Scouts for a reason. However, I also have to remind myself that there’s no shame in taking joy from the same things that boys do–and maybe reliving a little of my own youth in the process.

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The Hunt for a Bogeyman

A few years ago, Wisconsin lowered the age at which youth could hunt to 10. Despite the restrictions placed on that age (youth hunters must be accompanied by a licensed hunter at least 18 years old, within arm’s length at all times, and with only one gun between them), the change was met with great caterwauling from the anti-hunting crowd. Predictions of mass carnage in the woods caused by trigger-happy toddlers were a-plenty.

Of course, none of that has come to pass, but that hasn’t stopped the anti-hunting crowd from attacking youth hunting. Now, the line of assault is that hunting promotes violent tendencies in fragile youth.

This is the typical argument by the anti-hunting crowd that is completely unsupported by evidence and experience. In fact, quite the opposite.

Hunting by youth used to be simply the way of life, particularly in rural America. Was our country plagued by youth gun violence then? No; quite the contrary. The rise in youth violence, youth gun violence in particular, and Columbine-type incidents are all recent phenomena.

Perhaps we should be pointing the finger for a rise in youth violence to a culture that celebrates random, masochistic, and de-humanizing violence. To “torture porn” movies that glorify it. To video games that let you emulate first-person killing in a frighteningly realistic, yet bloodless and painless and disconnected manner.

In contrast, in hunting there no mistaking or disguising the true effect of pulling the trigger or releasing a bow. The connection is real and visceral. Combine that with the direct, hands-on mentoring required in the field for youth under 12, and the extensive hunter education required for 12 and above, and quite the opposite of the above quote is true: hunting sets youth on a path to develop an appreciation of life and its fragility. Anyone who claims that hunting is about the “joy of killing” has  obviously never spent any time in the woods.

As the American family has disintegrated over the past decades, and as the constant visual stimulus, entertainment, and cultural messaging to your youth has become more and more violent, perhaps it’s time that our children spent more time with their fathers hunting in the woods.

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Utterly Predictable

Could anyone possibly be surprised?

Anyone who understands anything about basic economics knows that the ironically-named “Affordable Care Act” is nothing but, and was doomed from its conception.

You simply cannot change the laws of economics by fiat.  When you increase demand for a commodity (insuring more people, thereby putting more people into the system) while not increasing the supply (the number of physicians), the cost of that commodity will go up, not down.

So what have we seen in the early days of failure of the ACA?

We have seen costs skyrocket. Our household premiums are already 150% of what they were this time last year, and we are by no means an outlier.

We have seen employers cut workers’ hours to avoid ACA mandates.

We have seen medical professionals leave the profession rather than deal with new mandates, thereby constricting the supply even more.

All these outcomes were predictable, and all were preventable. The question remains whether one more prediction will come true: that the ultimate total failure and collapse of this legislative monstrosity will be blamed on conservatives, the very people who tried unsuccessfully to stop it in the first place.

When that collapse happens, it will lead to a certain outcome: politicians will attempt to fix the problem as they always do—by nationalizing the system and throwing money at it, thereby ensuring that our future health care will forever be characterized by middling mediocrity.

Again, utterly predictable.

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Let me start by saying that I will never wish that my children would be older than they are. Our time on this planet is too short, and our time with our children when they are young is too little, to wish any precious moment away. But I do have one wish.

I wish my children could drive. Or at least my older child. After all, she is 14, already taller than her mother, and undoubtedly quite capable of handling the controls of a vehicle.

The reason is our family schedule: a Google calendar that sports an amazingly dense rainbow of colors, each representing a different person, entity, activity, and timeline. Even though we have always been careful to heed the advice given us before we became parents (“never let them outnumber you”), it doesn’t seem to make any difference.

Would someone explain to me this: how can 2 children require more than 2 chauffeurs? I mean, it is only physically possible for two children to be in two different places at once. Yet often it seems we must enlist the help of grandmother or a friend ride-share to make it all work. It’s as if our children live in multiple dimensions that span space and time, where Lego League melds with Boy Scouts that twists into Girl Scouts which merges with cross country that mixes together with guitar lessons and three different jazz bands plus pep and marching band and of course football and tae kwon do and youth turkey and deer hunting.

I can’t recall what we must have ever done with all our time before we had children. Heck, I can’t recall what we must have done without sharable Google calendars.

So, I would really, really like it if at least one of our children could drive. Of course the problem with that is we’d need first need a new color on the calendar for driving lessons……

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The Problem With Boy Scout Uniforms…

Scouting has an image problem. And no, I’m not talking about how the program is perceived or the impact of ongoing controversies. I’m talking about the image of a Boy Scout: how he looks in uniform.

Let’s face it, the Boy Scout uniform is simply uncool. It’s been that way for some time; back to the knee-high-socks days of my youth tenure and continuing to the Ralph-Lauren-designed tan shirts we are stuck with today.

But it wasn’t always that way. When Scouting started, it was essentially a military prep program, created to combat the problem of doughy British boys being ill-prepared for service. And, the Boy Scout uniform reflected the military uniform the program was modeled after:

351fc_British_Soldiers_Uniform_4457349635_267663ed13A 1910-era British soldier

boy-scouts-2s1910-era Boy Scouts

And, here’s how the situation stands today:

acuA modern army field uniform (BDU)


A modern Boy Scout uniform.

The modern military uniform conveys the image of “ready for action.” The modern Boy Scout uniform conveys the image of “I’m ready for a meeting.” It is corporate-casual garb that is as impractical as it is uncomfortable (ever wear the shirt in hot weather?), complete with the neckerchief holdover that serves as much functional purpose as an appendix.

If scouting wants to improve its image–and create a uniform that boys won’t be embarrassed to wear around their non-scouting friends–it needs to do a major overhaul of the uniform. I’m not saying we need to look like a paramilitary force, but we need draw on the wealth of modern fabrics and designs in use by those who love and play in the outdoors and, once and for all, ditch the Boardroom Look in favor of the Backwoods.

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