I believe girls are inherently resourceful. They’re adventurous and insightful and capable and strong…often much more than we give them credit for. But, as a counselor for over two decades, I believe that the resourcefulness of girls today is a disappearing commodity. What’s happening? What’s changing? And why? Again, as in many of these milestones, some of it has to do with them…and much of it has to do with those of us who love them.
Stumbling Blocks for Girls
Stumbling Block #1: Paver Parents
Each fall, we have a fundraiser at Daystar called The Bike Thing. Families ride twenty miles along the scenic Natchez Trace to raise money to underwrite counseling for families who otherwise couldn’t afford it. It’s a beautiful event, with the fall trees showing off their glory and children from eight to eighty pedaling to raise money for something that they believe matters. At the end of the day, we gather for a picnic lunch where everyone celebrates the hard work in funds raised and energy expended. All, that is, except one twelve-year-old girl that I (Sissy) remember vividly from last year’s ride.
I happened to be behind this young girl for a majority of the day . . . behind her, because I was behind most people for the majority of the day. The Bike Thing seems to have gotten longer and more uphill with every year of the twenty in which I have participated. I was worried about myself, as I always am in athletically industrious endeavors. And the mom of this girl must have been worried about her, too. My concern for myself was answered by pedaling slower, walking up a few more hills, and eating a few more candy bars—I mean, granola bars. The mother of this girl’s answer, however, was different . . . and one of the primary reasons I believe girls struggle in developing resourcefulness.
My Bike Thing friend, in her mind, probably had a great thing going. Her mom would follow her closely down each hill. Before the rise of the next hill, her mom would pull her car over. She would proceed to load her daughter’s bike in the trunk. They’d ride to the top of the hill where her mom would pull her car to the side of the road again. Her mom would unload her daughter’s bike. She’d get back on, and pedal hard all the way downhill. On each and every hill.
Can you guess why this girl didn’t have much reason to celebrate at the end of the ride? What was her mom communicating to her?
A like-minded mom brings her eight year-old to counseling at Daystar for anxiety. This young girl meets weekly with our art therapist, Molly, and has been doing so for several months. Her anxiety is of the separation kind . . . she feels safest when she’s in close proximity to her mom. In the beginning, she wouldn’t even go into Molly’s office without her mom. Gradually, she felt as if her mom could sit in the lobby during her sessions, although her mom would still walk her to Molly’s door. The girl recently told Molly she didn’t need her mom to walk with them anymore. She was okay to go by herself. The mom, however, was not. “She still needs me to. She’s not really ready. She just thinks she is.”
What is this mom communicating to her daughter?
What are you communicating to yours?
In today’s day and time, we’ve all heard about helicopter parents and tiger moms. These parents, however, are what I would call pavers. When I recently spoke to my cousin Blair, a great dad to three boys, he told me how important he believed it was to let his boys struggle. “I believe in preparing the child for the path, rather than preparing the path for the child.” More and more parents today spend a great deal of time, energy, and even money paving the path for their child. They value their children’s happiness over their character, often without realizing it.
Meg Meeker, a pediatrician and author, puts it this way: “We’re setting our kids up for failure when we teach them that what they really need is more of us and less of themselves,” she says. “A great parent finds ways to allow children to fall so that they can teach that child one of the most important lessons in life: You can fail, but Mom and Dad will never stop loving you. We’ll show you how to stand back up on your feet and try again. If you really want to teach a child how to succeed, you have to teach them how to plow through failure.”
C.S. Lewis said, “The proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift.” Paving leads to more paving. And the child whose road is paved becomes less resourceful, more dependent, and more entitled.
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