Selling Scouting: Teaching Resilence

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If you are like me, you are constantly reading random articles on the internet. Most are pop-psychology hogwash: “5 Ways to Become the CEO Tomorrow!” (Never forget the exclamation mark!)

Every once in a while, you find a good article. Generally, the quality of the article is best when it is a summary of monograph a/k/a a book on a single subject. One article I saw fits that description.

It is written for the stressed out helicopter mom that wants her child to be perfect and will stress the child out until perfection is attained.

The article is from Fast Company. It focuses on “teaching your child resilience.” (Which begs the question, how do you “teach” adaptation to stress.)

The introduction to the story says,

When you’re trying to be an exemplary employee and a rock-star parent, things can get hectic. In fact, November 2015 Pew Research Center analysis of Current Population Survey data found that roughly four in 10 parents in two-income households have a tough time balancing their home lives and responsibilities at work. And that can be stressful.

Amid all the hustle there are some worries parents can let go of, says clinical psychologist David J. Palmiter Jr., PhD, and author of Working Parents, Thriving Families: 10 Strategies That Make a Difference. Forget the concept of work-life balance, he says. It doesn’t exist. And the worries that you’re giving your kids the short shrift because both of you work? There’s no evidence to support that either, he says. In fact, there are many things that working parents worry about that aren’t really a big deal. But cultivating resilience is something that shouldn’t be overlooked, he says.

How important is resilience? It could have long-term health implications. A study published in the February 1, 2016, issue of Heart found that young men with low stress resilience scores were 40% more likely to develop high blood pressure later in life.

So how can you teach your children to bounce back—especially when you’ve got limited time?

The key points that it later goes on to develop are that parents should

  1. Don’t Just Focus on Grades
  2. Be Present
  3. Give Authentic Praise
  4. Don’t Monitor Them too Closely
  5. Let Them Fail
  6. Model the Adult Behavior You Hope They’ll Have.

For any scouter who has been through a recent University of Scouting class, the odds are some presenter listed the Methods of Scouting. They are

  1. Ideals
  2. Patrols
  3. Outdoor Programs
  4. Advancement
  5. Association with Adults
  6. Personal Growth
  7. Leadership Development
  8. Uniform

What you won’t see in the BSA literature is a less marketing-friendly way of making some key points.

We teach ideals in small groups called “patrols” in the outdoors for a reason. The boys in small groups are more likely to be themselves. All the “roses and thorns,” the good and the bad, of that boy’s character will be exposed. There is no shelter of a roof over their heads. Frustration with the weather will cause most younger scouts to vent frustration or have an outburst. The senior boy present or the scoutmaster will likely have to remind the boy of the ideals of the Scout Law: “Now, Johnny, it is okay to be frustrated that you are wet and cold. Remember the Scout Law tells us that a ‘Scout is . . . friendly, courteous, [and] kind . . . .’ It is often the most difficult time to follow these rules when we are uncomfortable.”

Johnny is failing to keep warm and dry. He needs help solving the problem. He needs timely guidance. The calm lesson in the face of adversity is the ultimate modeling of behavior.

What the article linked fails to emphasize is that resilient boys learn best from well-modeled behavior of their peers. His parent maybe modeling the behavior well, but it won’t sink in for the boy. Instead the boy’s best friend may end up admiring the adult’s conduct and emulate. Then when the boy sees his friend emulate it, the boy may, too, emulate it. The boy thinks he is modeling himself after his friend rather than a copy of a copy of his own parent.

Now try an exercise: imagine you are faced with a prospective Tiger Cub parent and are trying to explain why scouting is different than most any other extracurricular activity. How would you use resilience to explain the power of scouting? (This is part of the reason that Cub Packs that camp regularly retain and recruit members. Yes, they offer fun. They also allow the Cubs to discover their own resilience and self-confidence.)

We don’t teach resilience. We offer scouts opportunities to develop resilience at their own speed in a fun environment. Resilience is a part of character. It cannot be taught. It can be explained. It can be modeled. Resilience only comes when the boy acts in a calm and controlled manner in the face of adversity.

Resilience must be learned, but it cannot be taught. Scouting allows a boy to discover that he, too, can be resilient.