Does Singing About Friendship & Self-Esteem Create Those?

Hi hzbyysnsan
Folks – This piece about child friendship is fascinating to me. I’d love you to ponder what to me is the main point: Isn’t it easier to make a friend while working on something together (especially something big), than while simply talking about  friendship?

A parallel thought: If you’ve ever taken a class on writing novels, plays, or anything dramatic (for me it was musicals), you know the credo: “Show, don’t tell!” Don’t have Romeo just yammering about how much he loves Juliet and wants to spend his life with her and how really sorry he’d feel if anything bad ever happened to her…  SHOW their passion. Have them DO things. Have them change their lives, not just chat, chat, chat.

In the letter below, by Lisa R. of Arlington, Mass,  it feels like we are replacing the “showing” part of life with the “telling” part. It’s passive, it’s dull, but boy is it safe! – L

Dear Free-Range Kids: I signed up as assistant troop leader of my daughter’s Daisy troop as soon as she turned 5.  She lasted half the year (I wouldn’t have let her quit mid-year, but we moved).  Our friends in Boy Scouts, at the same age, were going camping and hiking.  The Daisy troop was doing arts & crafts, earning “petals” by things like tracing their body on big paper and writing/drawing things about themselves, and other silly things.  Yes, the troop is what you make of it, but the organization is set up to focus on very different things than I had expected.  If you read through the Daisy handbook, you’ll see that there is almost nothing about traditional scouting skills.  Lots of singing songs, talking about self-esteem, talking about friendship, etc.  Yes, those things are important, but I expected my daughter to make friends by DOING exciting activities in scouts — not to skip the activities and TALK about being a friend.

The biggest thing they did, in three months, was to put together little bags of snacks with a small craft, that an adult then delivered to a nursing home.  Mind you, they didn’t actually cook anything — no measuring, using the stove or oven, etc. — they just put snacks in bags. Sigh.  – Lisa


78 Responses to Does Singing About Friendship & Self-Esteem Create Those?

  1. Highwayman February 24, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    At the risk of sounding unduly controversial, why are girls, of whom many will experience childbirth, are assumed to be overly delicate, high-maintenance, Ming vases? Nothing wrong with being downright dirty and smelly while romping outside or camping in the woods. Nothing wrong with them even playing with the boys.

    How much more perspective are we robbing ourselve of? And how many skills are we unduly depriving girls of.

    Even Home Depot, a warehouse home-improvement chain headquartered out of the State of Georgia, knows to cater to women by packaging and resizing tools to suit the smaller hands of women.

    It’s high time that Girl Scouts and its chaperones within their ranks update their assumptions about girls. Home Depot did so for women.

  2. Jennifer February 24, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    I found that American Heritage Girls is a lot closer to a “Boy Scouts for girls” than Girl Scouts, Brownies, Daisy, etc. Lots of emphasis on serving the community, being a good citizen, and learning survival skills. I looked into Girl Scouts for my daughters, and was frankly disgusted by the heavy emphasis on self-esteem in the curriculum. You learn self-esteem by going out and doing, not by sitting around and talking about it! American Heritage Girls is very much modeled after the Boy Scouts, and is affiliated with Boy Scouts of America. (PS – no overpriced cookies made with crap to force on your friends and neighbors!)

  3. Emily February 24, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

    @Highwayman–I’m from Canada, and we have Home Depot here too, but our Home Depots don’t sell “tools to suit the smaller hands of women.” Now, I know that Home Depot probably isn’t being sexist on purpose by making and selling these tools, because it’s a physiological fact–I have smaller hands and feet than most men my age. However, I’ve used regular, “androgynous” tools from time to time over the course of my life (as a child, spending summer days with my brother, making “improvements” on our treehouse out of scrap lumber, as an adolescent in the scant “shop” classes we had in school, and as an adult doing minor home repairs, or assembling a canvas during painting class in university), and I’ve never had a problem with them. The thing that bothers me about the idea of creating “smaller tools for women” is that implies that “conventional” tools are, by default, designed for men.

    Anyway, I will admit to purchasing a “womanly” tool on one occasion, but that was because I had no other option. I was at Western, and I’d somehow managed to get a DVD stuck in my DVD player. I’d exhausted all other options, so my plan was to dismantle the DVD player and attempt to extract the DVD (in the end, that didn’t even work, and I had to replace both). So, I was planning on a trip to the hardware store to buy tools, when I found something else at the school store, where I’d generally go every morning for a post-workout “breakfast” of a Power Bar, a piece of fruit, and a diet pop, before heading off to rehearsal/painting class/whatever. Anyway, right near the Power Bars, there was a shelf of small hammers. Upon closer inspection, the hammers had hollow handles, with screwdrivers inside them, that could be “screwed” out for separate use, and then “screwed” back inside, like a lid on a glass bottle. Anyway, they happened to be decorated with flowers, painted all over the outside of the handle, but it was exactly what I needed, so I bought it. I don’t think buying a small, “dainty” flowered hammer made me any less of a feminist; it was just the best option available for the project I had in mind, and it saved me a trip to the hardware store.

  4. Emily February 24, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    P.S., I’ve asked this before, but what’s the deal with Daisy Scouts? On the one hand, each petal represents a certain aspect of the Girl Scout Law, so you’d think you’d have a fair bit of freedom and flexibility in planning the activities to accomplish each goal/petal (with input from the adults AND the Daisies, of course), but on the other hand, people keep talking about the “Daisy Handbook,” as if that handbook specifically states that all of the activities have to be crafts, or singing, or all-indoor, all-safe, no-fun kind of endeavours. Is there any rule that you have to follow that book to the letter? I mean, I could see doing a scavenger hunt for “courageous and strong,” and maybe making up a bike safety course with cardboard street signs, and sidewalk chalk on an elementary-school blacktop, for “respect authority” (which would also incorporate a hands-on lesson in bike safety, with the added benefit of fresh air and exercise). I don’t know what the rules are in the States, but in Canada and Australia, scavenger hunts and bicycle safety are very normal Girl Guide activities, with varying levels of supervision according to the age of the participants. So, anyone who’s involved with Daisy Scouts in the States–is the Daisy Handbook really the law?

  5. Stephanie February 24, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

    The Daisy troop my daughter’s friend is in has has three “princess teas” this year and the tiger scouts who are the same age have gone on two winter hikes and worked with tools. I am looking into 4H Cloverbuds for my daughter for next year.

  6. Eliza February 24, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

    This article reminds me of the Simpson episode where the new principal divided the school into a boy’s school and a girl’s school. During maths the girls were discussing how numbers made them feel.

  7. Susan February 24, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    I am a Girl Scout leader of 2 troops. My older girls, now 6 grade, have learned how to cook(stove and campfire) lead a hike and start and manage a fire. They have been doing this for years now. My 3 grade troop is a bit tougher as they are very babied by their parents , but they will be doing the cooking and learning how to start a campfire this year. With Girl Scouts its up to the leader to decided which direction the troop will go in.

  8. Yan Seiner February 24, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

    @Emily: I work in an industry where we use a lot of tools. Tool ergonomics is serious; a lot of our men have hand problems after 20 years of using wrongly shaped tools. So tools made “for smaller hands” are perfectly OK in my book, if it keeps a tool user from being disabled and unable to do their job at 45. (and yes, these guys *want* to work outside, they hate office work, but they aren’t able to perform their old job without pain.)

    Actually I’ve noticed a lot tools today come in a variety of handle sizes and shapes; framing hammers for example have a huge variety in the size and shape of handles. I dished out almost $30 for a framing hammer that I picked up, it fit my hand so well.

    I’m not hot on “pink” and “camo” colors (and don’t get me started on pink camo!) but nothing wrong with ergonomic tools, especially if it makes life easier.

  9. Emily February 24, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

    @Stephanie–Why is the Daisy group repeating the same event three times? Also, do the girls say they want to do all girly activities, or do they express wishes to go hiking, play outside, learn to make campfires, etc., only to get shot down?

  10. JJ February 24, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

    I dunno–Daisies are Kindergarteners. I’m not sure how much besides crafts and singing you are going to get out of a group of 20 5-year olds.

  11. Captain America February 24, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    The general philosophies of the organizations are quite different: the Girl Scouts expect to adjust, and be flexible to, the evolving needs of modern girls. The Boy Scouts, in contrast, feel they have a treasure chest that people will come seek. The first organization will change its appeal and its direction; the second believes it has very basic and essential offerings that have a timeless value and appeal.

    Interesting that Peter Drucker, the old Austrian business guru, remade the Girl Scouts into a consumer friendly entity.

  12. Captain America February 24, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

    Interesting about the different sized tool. I’ve found that cheap Chinese tools are usually smaller than the US made stuff they replaced (by cheaper price, not better value). Irritating, especially when using a little boy sized rake to rake leaves.

  13. Emily February 24, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

    @Yan Seiner–Fair point; I wasn’t thinking about people who use tools day in, day out, in the context of a career, but more about just average people who keep a basic set of tools around the house in case something breaks. Actually, the flowered hammer/screwdriver set was pretty useful, and I wish I still had it, but it mysteriously went missing when I moved out of my townhouse after I finished at Western. But hey, maybe someone else moved into that house, found the set, and got some good use out of it.

  14. Betsy February 24, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

    I was a Girl Scout 40 years ago, and we did an awful lot of macrame and what-not in our troop (but i remember the multi-troop Daddy/Dgtr. dances being fun). I think it’s probably true that a troop’s character depends on the leaders/parents. We did go weekend camping once a year, but it was in the 1 and 2 week summer camps that I really got the essence of what Girt Scouts were at the time (can-do attitude and campfires). I did a mother-daughter GS camping weekend with my daughter a few years ago, and was appalled at what the common denominator is forcing the organization to become. One duo couldn’t even handle one night in the big ‘ol platform tents and went home (tents -horrors! And there were lots of modern flush toilets, unlike the olden days of pit versions). Unfortunately it’s a panty-waist world for lots of folks out there. My family calls them the Disney/soda pop/reality TV crowd (not that a small amount of either is probably harmful).

  15. fred schueler February 24, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    Scouts may have been going downhill for some time. I was never attracted to them, despite a boyhood-long subscription to a scout-oriented magazine from my Grandfather, who had been a Scoutmaster for my Father in the 1930s. But in the early-1960s my younger brother made a short trial of the Boy Scouts, and found that as a ‘tenderfoot’ he had to teach the whole troop how to make a campfire – in Connecticut where there’s always the dead branches of a White Pine close at hand. Also there was something about smoking on Scout time…

  16. Susan February 24, 2013 at 9:31 pm #


    As with all levels if Girl Scouts there is a handbook with ways to run the troop but you can modify it. When I had Daisy’s we did trips to the fire station, the nursing home and hiked. As long as you stay in ratio (for insurance reasons) they can do lots of thing. At Brownie level we’ve done different sports, including swimming and horse back riding

  17. bmj2k February 24, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    Isn’t this the way with society in general? We are encouraged to make people feel validated, feel good and happy, all of which are good things, but it is done simply by saying so, not by discovering it.

  18. Jenn February 24, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

    My daughter is in Sparks (Girl Guides for 5 and 6 year olds) and my son has been a Beaver and is now a Cub (with Scouts). I am a leader with Beavers and our unit has been awarded the top colony in Canada. I was at first very unimpressed with the Sparks unit and ended up switching my daughter to another unit mid-year. She was used to coming to my Beavers meetings and I wanted her to join but she wanted Sparks with her friends. We were all disappointed because for four months, 25 girls discussed being healthy (one of the keepers) in a half gym. Switching her to another unit was the best decision I made. They do things like having a tea party or a spa camp but also participated in challenges with the Great Shoreline Clean Up and Habitats for Humanity. They have made cookies, learned karate, and visited a senior’s home. It is a well-balanced program, much of what I’ve come to expect from my experience with Scouts. Her sister unit with Guides made camp blankets to fundraise for a trip to camp in Finland. I hope that she will grow through the program with her leaders, as it is the volunteer leaders that make the program what it is.

  19. Jenna K. February 24, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

    If it’s any consolation, in talking with some of my sons’ former cub scout leaders, I recently learned that at their cub scout day camp in the summer, all they do is crafts and a lot of sitting around. It didn’t used to be that way–when my brothers were cub scouts 20 years ago, they did a lot more hiking and nature exploring at day camp and hardly any sitting around. I was really disappointed to hear that’s what the boys were doing. My boys never said anything to me, except hinted that they didn’t have very much fun. I’m trying to decide if it’s worth sending them back to day camp this summer. I do like the cub scout program here but that was a huge disappointment to hear about.

    Maybe we free range parents need to organize some activities for neighborhood kids ourselves that involve more skill-learning, kind of like how girl scouts, etc. used to be? Or encourage our kids to do it–I remember when I was 9, 10, and 11, my friends and I put together all sorts of “clubs”, a sewing club, a hiking club, a bike riding club, etc., and invited anyone in the neighborhood to join. It was so much fun.

  20. ebohlman February 24, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

    Jennifer: American Heritage Girls has an explicit conservative Christian focus (much more so than the religious aspects of Boy Scouts); see their Wikipedia entry. So they’re not an alternative for everybody, as they qualify as a “religious youth group” rather than a “general youth group”.

  21. amy February 24, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

    A lot of kids develop social habits in the course of “parallel play,” a term my daughter’s teacher used to describe my daughter. That is, they play next to each other, maybe doing two different things, with little or no interaction. They’re content without all the feel-good chit chat. It seems like they have good instincts, for the most part, if we just let them do their thing.

  22. steve February 24, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

    ebohlman said:

    “American Heritage Girls has an explicit conservative Christian focus (much more so than the religious aspects of Boy Scouts), So they’re not an alternative for everybody,”

    I’m wondering – what part of the AHG oath and creed would not be for everybody?

    American Heritage Girl Oath:

    “I promise to love God, cherish my family, honor my
    country, and serve in my community.”

    American Heritage Girl Creed:

    “As an American Heritage Girl, I will be
    compassionate, helpful, honest, loyal, perseverant,
    pure, resourceful, respectful, responsible, and

  23. Yan Seiner February 24, 2013 at 11:31 pm #

    @Steve: Considering that their oath begins with: “I promise to love God” and that they say they “embrace Christian values” and condition their membership on believing that “the Holy Scriptures (Old/New Testament) to be the inspired and authoritative Word of God” pretty much puts them in the conservative religious organization corner, and not a scouting organization.

    I looked into them as I thought their range of activities would be interesting but their beliefs and requirements that everyone toe the religious line drops them from my world.

    I’d love to see an outdoor scouting organization for both boys and girls that’s not obsessed with God, gays, etc. but rather focuses on – surprise – the outdoors and independence.

  24. Amy T. February 24, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    The part that’s not for everybody is “I promise to love God.”

    Not every girl believes in God, or believes in just one. Can’t we have a scouting type group that teaches camping and outdoor skills without being religious? Why is a discussion on God necessary for sleeping in a tent?

  25. Rachel February 24, 2013 at 11:39 pm #

    The “loving G-d” part might cause problems for atheists. Also, I’m Jewish, and I can honestly say that many things that Christians view as “neutrally religious” still have a very Christian bias. Now, as a Girl Scout, I participated in Christmas parties, decorated friends’ trees, and so on and so forth-I’m NOT one of those people that gets offended by casual invocations of others religions. Not once have I yelled at a person who has wished me a Merry Christmas.

    That being said, a Christian organization, regardless of how inclusive they claim to be, is STILL a Christian organization, and it’s the million and one little things that make non-Christians uncomfortable or feel unwelcome. There are certain phrase-ologies that are associated with Christian prayer phrases that can make a “non-denominational” prayer a Christian prayer. There’s the knowledge that most Christians think I’m going to Hell. Things like that…

    I’ve never heard of American Heritage Girls, but knowing that they’re a Christian-based organization, I highly doubt that I would let a daughter of mine join.

    I hope that helps answer your question!

  26. Amy T. February 24, 2013 at 11:46 pm #

    Anyone have experience with these programs?
    Founded in 1910, Camp Fire USA builds caring, confident youth and future leaders through leadership development in an inclusive community, welcoming children, youth and adults regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation or other aspect of diversity.
    Navigators USA mission is to introduce boys and girls ages 7-18 to the great outdoors through camping, hiking, skiing, canoeing, rafting and other adventure activities, meet weekly to learn and practice wilderness skills and safety procedures, participate in group games, sports and community service, take youth on trips outside the city once a month during the school year, and help them get into summer camp programs.
    SpiralScouts International is a program for girls and boys of all faiths working, growing and learning together. Making its public debut in February of 2001, SpiralScouts International has grown into an expanded program available to anyone world wide. SpiralScouts is based on the idea of children and parents of both genders working together. The program encourages girls and boys to learn, play, and work together under the direction of leaders of both genders as a way of showing by example that both men and women are capable and cooperative leaders.

  27. Puzzled February 24, 2013 at 11:50 pm #

    People the oath above is not for:
    Oath: Atheists, orphans, children of abuse, the anti-war, and Objectivists
    Creed: Atheists, sex-positive people

    There’s nothing wrong with an oath and a creed that isn’t for some. There’s nothing wrong with different organizations having different oaths and creeds. From what I’ve read here, one of the things that has done in the Girl Scouts, from a free-range perspective, is the belief that the organization must not exclude anyone – so it needs activities and beliefs that everyone can agree with. That’s silly – a big thing we need to teach our children is that it’s ok for different people to have different beliefs, and to act differently, join different groups, etc. – and that they can still be friends.

  28. B February 24, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

    Writing for theatre and novels is heightened reality but
    yes I see what you mean by getting more creative and active with kids.

    Adults sometimes tend to forget how to make friends, children seem to do it naturally from my experience so I’m not sure why they would spend time talking about it.

  29. Puzzled February 24, 2013 at 11:57 pm #

    Singing about friendship and self-esteem reminds me of education and the emphasis on talking about critical thinking, democracy, and other things that cannot be learned by talking. You cannot teach democracy by standing in front of a classroom and forcing people to memorize its virtues for a test. You cannot teach critical thinking by talking about why it’s important.

    Actually, it all reminds me very much of the worst educational experience I have had – my EMS and fire training. Some classes were great, and some teachers were great. Some were less so. For instance, my critical care class was taught mostly by a rotating group of instructors who simply read powerpoints. What was ironic was that the lead instructor was a great teacher, yet he seemed ok with letting the other numbskulls into his class. The issue, though, is that the curriculum for anything – from a 2 hour awareness seminar to a paramedic program – seems to include a very long portion on the importance of having classes on the subject, the requirements for such classes, and other things that have no place in a classroom. The epitome is the awareness level classes, which teach little else other than these topics. That and a history of the teaching of the subject eats up most of the class, with the conclusion being “and remember, the point of this class is that this stuff is scary and you should call for someone who knows the subject to come.”

    So, it seems that what happened is that the ethos of this sort of CYA pseudo-vocational training penetrated education, at the same time that some good ideas, like emphasizing critical thinking (although I hesitate to call that a good idea – where have you been for 200 years?) made their way into education – and the resulting mixture was a potent dose of nonsense. That ethos, then, penetrated the general society, particularly things for kids, since those can always claim to be doing right by imitating the state of the art in education.

  30. Donna February 25, 2013 at 12:28 am #

    “From what I’ve read here, one of the things that has done in the Girl Scouts, from a free-range perspective, is the belief that the organization must not exclude anyone – so it needs activities and beliefs that everyone can agree with.”

    As I said in the other post about Girl Scouts, this appears to be the real problem with Girl Scouts. They no longer have a central purpose. Several always say when this topic comes up “Girl Scouts is what you make it.” But that makes absolutely no sense. While troops will obviously vary based on the personality and skills of the members and topography of the region, an organization should have a central focus – outdoors, spas, etc. There should not be troops that go hiking, camping and rock climbing while the troop down the street does nothing except arts and crafts and talking about feelings.

  31. hineata February 25, 2013 at 1:05 am #

    Am with JJ on this one – really, without a lot of adult help, I cannot imagine taking 5 year olds into the bush, or camping in tents. Maybe I am missing something here…….Do the Daisy girls ‘go bush’ with older girls? Our girls do a fair amount of camping, but not at that age. They do do a lot of crafts etc from 5 to 6.

  32. Donna February 25, 2013 at 4:13 am #

    5 year olds could definitely go hiking (more nature walks at that age) and do other outdoorsy stuff. We had a group of 1st graders roasting marshmellows over a campfire on the beach today – where they also went swimming and hunting up sea life with the biologist parents of the birthday girl. So little kids need not be limited to arts and crafts. Camping is going to depend on the kids and parents though. Many kids are too afraid to sleep away from their parents at that age, so unless one parent for each kid was willing to come, I’d probably defer it until older.

  33. suzyq February 25, 2013 at 6:20 am #

    This is why my daughter is leaving Girl Scouts…she watched her older brother in Boy Scouts (and even participated in some family events), and always wondered why the girls “got to” scrapbook, learn to SAY NO, and cook over a campfire (but not use a knife). I’m almost ashamed to say I was her troop leader, but when you try to follow the parameters of the manuals and make sure they earn their petals or other badges, it’s hard to give them both kinds of experiences…So we provide opportunities for her to use tools, hike, camp, etc. with our family…

  34. sue February 25, 2013 at 7:58 am #

    ..i teach riding..and i can imagine 5 yearold…brushing their ponies and cleaning their feet, putting their tack on, riding[and paying attention] and taking care of the pony after.and putting everything away. and claening the aisle. etc. children live up [or unfortunately down] to what you expect of them. these are not little robots but children who have fun and have learn respect and responsibily and have EARNED their self esteem.

  35. JJ February 25, 2013 at 8:16 am #

    Maybe my own experience is an outlier but I was in Girl Scouts for about six years in the 70’s and we rarely (maybe once a year) hiked or camped. We did all other kinds of activities–we had a newspaper, we leaned dances, did crafts. In retrospect it was so corny but I loved it. My point is why are we assuming that Girl Scouts central purpose *should* relate to camping, etc. when At leart in my experience it hasnt been in at least 40 years. The vast majority of the time you are meeting in a church basement or something after dark, anyway sometimes in the middle of the city without any green soace near. By necessity the activities need to focus on indoor stuff. Also we shouldn’t compare it to Boy Scouts. They are completely different organizations.

  36. Bernard Poulin February 25, 2013 at 8:31 am #

    Bravo to you Lisa, (volunteering mother who’s thoughts revolve around the inanities of singing and being as alternatives to actually doing .) You are the one who is the sane adult in this bizarre scenario. And bless you. . . (I am so giggly!!!) You vindicate the premise of my last book – that being is overtaking doing with devastating results. But we adults don’t seem to get it. . . Doing builds souls, hearts, minds and bodies. “Being” does nothing of these. Being simply creates an illusion that all is well – with no effort required.I am beautiful therefore accomplished. Whether we know it or not, we are deluding our children into believing that feeling wonderful is tantamount to achievement (without the (ugh) process. In essence, we are living in an era where nothing has become something. And , for all intents and purposes (and sadly for future generations) that is considered “awesome”.

    To end my diatribe, I leave you with the following : Being a good parent does not mean encouraging our children to be something. It is encouraging them to do something – and to cheer them on when difficulties arise.

  37. JJ February 25, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    I must have missed something…when did singing become so evil?

  38. lollipoplover February 25, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    For some reason, this group reminds me of a 12 step program. 5 yo girls are capable of so many things but they will never find that out just talking. Self esteem cannot be given or taught. How would you know you can’t do something if you never even tried it?

    On a fishing trip last year, my youngest daughter (5 at the time) was helping the 12 yo boys get the hooks out of their fish (some had never fished before). Her little hands were very adept at removing the hooks and she’d hand the fish back to the boys to toss back in. She’s hiked up steep mountains and run a10k (though she stopped at EVERY water station) benefiting a boy in our town who died. She likes crafts and drawing but does them when the weather is crappy or there’s no one to play with. She currently jump ropes everywhere- indoors and outdoors and has energy to spare.

    We encourage our kids to try EVERYTHING- you never know whether or not you like something (and who cares if you’re any good at it) if you don’t try it first.

  39. Earth.W February 25, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    Sounds boring as.

  40. Dana February 25, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    If you’re in the New Jersey vicinity, check out Children of the Earth Foundation. My son did a weekend survival camp when he was eight and loved it. They actually came to a DCR site here in Massachusetts to do the program for our homeschooling group so it’s possible that they will travel.

    It seems like they’ve now expanded and have a curriculum for Scouts.

  41. Another Jennifer February 25, 2013 at 9:19 am #

    This reminds me of a party my daughter was invited to as an elementary school kid. The invitation said it was a “Cheetah Girls” party, and the girls would learn about self-esteem by listening to the songs of the Cheetah Girls, and participating in activities to boost their self esteem. My daughter went because a BFF was hosting the party, and when I asked her how it was, she said it was okay, she was mostly interested in the food, but she already knew she was a good softball player so she didn’t need the songs. I agree with the others who say that doing, not talking, is what creates good self-esteem. For several summers, our daughter ran a lemonade stand on our street corner, and to hear her talk, she was a lemonade tycoon, although she probably never made more than $10 in an afternoon. My 10 year old, who has significant developmental disabilities, thinks he’s awesome because he can buy his own Tru-Moo at the gas station without any help from me in conducting the transaction. In my opinion, there’s no song in the world that can accomplish that.

  42. Susan February 25, 2013 at 9:50 am #

    I was a girl scout in the 1970s when I was in 4th through 7th grades. I remember it being mostly about crafts and first aid. We went on 2-3 “camping” trips a year. We all stayed in a large cabin together. The main focus was preparing for the trip by making meal plans and grocery lists. I do remember enjoying those trips though. It was sort of like a large slumber party with lots of rules.

    I attended girl scout camp for two weeks one summer and we did bike, swim, and canoe, but I remember the main focus being singing and cleaning. It wasn’t for me, but I did know many girls who loved that camp.

  43. Jenn February 25, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    Scouting is unique to the troop. If you want your girls to participate in camping, crafts, fishing, science experiments, or something else that’s not being done, you have options. Offer to head a few meetings, become a leader or a co-leader yourself, do a family activity, offer a non-scout outing in which families participate.

  44. CrazyCatLady February 25, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    If this was the focus that the group wanted to have (all the other moms) I would have no problem with pulling my child and letting them know why.

    Yes, there are lots of things that they could do. If they wanted “girly” skills – teach them to sew – at least a button if not a toy. My sister made lots of money in college sewing buttons back on shirts. Outside of that, girls can go on walks or hikes, observe the seasons, go birding, go swimming, play active team building games, visit seniors at a senior center, learn to crochet, make a scarf for someone who who needs winter clothing, write letters/draw pictures for service people over seas, tie a fleece blanket for the hospital to give to a baby or child, build bird houses to put up, learn how to change cloth diapers on a real baby, make some food or do yard work for a shut in. And, so many more things. That will actually build their self esteem and friendship instead of talking about it.

  45. Lark February 25, 2013 at 10:12 am #

    (About tools and hands – I used to date a guy with smaller hands and feet than I have. I’m a woman with relatively though not freakishly large hands and feet plus wide shoulders and….a giant head! I actually wear “men’s” shoes a lot of the time (Converse, penny loafers) because they’re better made and, as a woman’s size 10 I take a men’s 8. There are lots of women who wear women’s 9 and 10 and even 11 shoes and women’s large – xl gloves…and whose hands and feet are therefore on the small to medium end of the “men’s” size spectrum. And there are certainly short or small-boned men who wear men’s 6 or 7 size shoes and smaller gloves. There’s a lot of overlap in body size and body strength between men and women – the idea that men are virtually always bigger and virtually always stronger is ideology, not fact. (When I worked in Asia and had to buy some shoes, I took the biggest men’s size they had, but that didn’t mean that Asian men are less manly.)

    My point is that it makes much more sense to market tools in two sizes rather than in two genders….especially since IME most of the “women’s versions” of things are cheaper and break more easily.

    Although I also wonder – just how much of this “women need tiny tools for our tiny hands” is really true? When I was a kid and had actual tiny hands, I did a lot of woodworking with my grandfather using his tools, and I had a whale of a time. It’s not that people shouldn’t have tools sized to fit their hands….but I’d want to do some really good comparisons about the experience of using tools in different sizes before getting all carried away.

  46. Captain America February 25, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    I think Jenn above is right: scouting ends up relying tons on the local leader to provide a good program.

    So does Little League baseball, etc.

    You get a good leader, you get a good program. That’s that.

    Our Cub Scout pack recently “graduated” the older Cubs into Boy Scouts. There are a couple of local trips. . . so the boys made the rounds, visiting each troop, and opted for the one they thought provided the best program. So it goes.

    If you want a better Girl Scout troop, volunteer to be a leader.

    With respect to oaths of the organizations, if you don’t like them, don’t join them. Perhaps it’s harsh, but they’re not the local mall. Or build up your own organization: in our big country, it’s possible to do this. Particularly if this matters to you, go for it.

  47. BMS February 25, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    I am still a registered life time member of the Girl Scouts. My mom was a leader for ages – well after my sister and I aged out and went to college. What eventually led her to quit was a combination of the parents and the aforementioned lack of focus in the program. However, for her the parents were the worst of it. When I was in scouts we went camping constantly, in tents, cabins, whatever, cooked on open fires, worked with knives and axes, did archery, etc. Enough adults came for insurance purposes, but otherwise, the grownups were as hands off as possible. Now, every parent wants to come, because they don’t trust anyone to look after their little darling without them standing right there. The moms are all “Ew! Dirt!” and so their kids learn that getting messy is bad. The girls are allowed by their parents to bring cell phones, even when expressly forbidden, and the parents have a fit when the leader takes them away. My mom finally threw in the towel. She loved the girls, but the parents were more trouble than they were worth – never willing to help, always willing to whine.

    I was blessed with boys, so I am a cub scout leader. I have seen some dens that do very little hands on stuff. Others (like ours, I am proud to say) are in it for the hands on experiences. I warn parents when sending them in full dress uniform is a bad plan because food/mud/paint will be involved. I’ve taught my boys to use knives, bake desserts, start fires, sew buttons on, demonstrate Bernoulli’s principal, and do woodworking, among other things. I have been very fortunate to have parents who were willing to let go and not hover and that has made all the difference.

  48. Alaina February 25, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    I think a lot of it depends on the exact troupe you get into.

    I was a Brownie. Our troop did a secret santa and yankee swap, two different years, and discussed the meanings behind the traditions. Our badge for helping people had to be worn upside-down until we did three different good deeds. We did lots of craft projects, yes, but they included using hammers and screwdrivers. We went for walks around the neighborhood and identified all the different plants we found. And then we went camping.

    Like my sister, when I graduated to girl scout, I lasted three weeks. That troupe met once a week for an hour. They were welcomed, then they picked up litter in the park for an hour, then told they did good community service and sent home. I saw them in different parks for months after…. still picking up litter. What’s that supposed to do?

    Look for better troupes, or form one yourself.

  49. mollie February 25, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    I’d like to see someone start teaching kids (and adults) the sorts of skills that would come in terrifically handy if some of our large-scale corporate providers disappeared.

    Part of why no one learns mending anymore is because we discard clothing so quickly. We feel it’s cheaper and easier to replace it than to patch or repair it. The same goes for all electronics and most everything else in our throw-away economy.

    So. Mending, mechanical skills, a basic understanding of electronics, growing food (especially permaculture), and, I must say, cooperative communication skills and empathy would come in handy too, if we all need to start sharing more in the future.

    I’m not so sure how much I care about “camping” and “hiking” per se, I do believe that outdoor experiences have merit, and that most of us are severely nature-deprived. In terms of building a sense of confidence and competence, though, it would be nice to see time devoted to building a skill set that would actually be serving kids… if there is any possibility that they might not inherit the abundantly comfortable world we live in now.

  50. BMS February 25, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    The thing about camping and hiking, if done right, is that you can learn a lot of those hands on skills. For example, I went on a week long wilderness camping trip to Canada in high school. First night out there was a terrible windstorm and our tent pole snapped. Well, there wasn’t a tent store out there in the Boundary waters, and going home wasn’t an option. So I improvised with a bandana, a stick, and some tape from the first aid kit, and by God I got that tent to survive the rest of the week. I have learned a number of things that can be cooked over a fire. Believe it or not, that has come in handy at least once during a power outage, when I had a fireplace, but no electric stove. Getting one of those @&*(^#& white gas Coleman stoves to work requires mechanical know how and infinite patience. It requires cooperation too – a lot of camping is much, much easier if you have someone to help you pitch the tent, carry the canoes over a portage, keep the fire going, and all that stuff. There’s also the knowledge that yes, I can live for a week with only 3 pairs of underwear if I packed poorly, and the world will not end. Life is possible without curling irons and make up. Those sort of lessons are pretty necessary, and camping is a fun way to learn them.

  51. Cara February 25, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    I know exactly what this poster means! I joined the brownies gosh, 24 years ago now, because I saw the ads for Boy Scouts on TV hiking through canyons and I wanted to do those things. We learned how to properly set the table (with a ruler to make sure the dinner plate was 1″ from the edge!) and did lots of crafts. I hated it and quit after a year. I had hoped things had improved!

  52. BL February 25, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

    “I must have missed something…when did singing become so evil?”

    Singing isn’t evil. Pretending that singing is a substitute for action is evil.

    After a full day of action, singing around a campfire (oh my God they could all burn to death!) is fine.

  53. Suzanne February 25, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

    First, unless you buy only organic and all natural foods and NEVER buy store bought cookies girl scout cookies aren’t made of “crap” as Jennifer suggested and they aren’t “forced” on anyone – if you don’t like them then don’t buy them. I agree that after looking at the American Heritage Girls site they are a religious group.

    That said, “girl scouts is what you make of it” is only true to a point. With all of the time it takes to conform to the guidlines to earn badges, even if you alter them to be “better” it is very hard to fit in more stuff and the GS regulations and rules for everything are over the top. I’ve been a leader for 5 years and it really isn’t what I expected it to be. There is more talking and crafts than doing of anything. You can camp but that is not the focus, if I had to say what is the focus I’d pick community service. You spend a lot of time trying to find community service projects for the girls to be involved it. Overall, boy scouts do learn more useful skills and I would like to see ore of that in girl scouts. They recently completely overhauled the girl scout program and I don’t really think it was a good change.

  54. Puzzled February 25, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    Ironically enough, singing can be involved in actions that relate to friendship and self-esteem. Friends sing together, and those who sing together might become friends. However, that seems unlikely when the singing is forced and inculcated too consciously with values – like songs about friendship and self-esteem.

  55. Captain America February 25, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    It’s interesting to hear the comments about community service. I was a Boy Scout in an era in which no one, no school, forced youth to do community service.

    So for me, the whole concept was new and mind-boggling! I remember one thing we did was to reset cemetery markers in a old forgotten cemetery. Heavy stuff!

  56. grant February 25, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    Friendship Play

    The Kid Version
    The Kid goes over to Sally and she in a mood and doesn’t want to play so The Kid goes to Jane and they play.

    The Adult Version
    The Adult calls Sally and she is in a mood and doesn’t want to talk so The Adult calls Jane and asks why she is in a mood and what is wrong with her and what is wrong with the Adult and Jane and The Adult talk and talk and talk until they get caluliflower of the ear.

    The audience is thrilled and delighted with the action of the Kid playing with Jane and then Dick and then back to Sally(it all blows over in a half and hour)

    The audience is asleep in the adult version or they went out for popcorn and never came back.
    There is music in both versions.

  57. hineata February 25, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

    @Lollipoplover,Donna,Sue and others – fair enough points. Yes, five year olds are capable of doing many things, including hiking and looking after horses etc. I was feeling a bit cynical yesterday, imagining myself as usually happens, one adult in charge of 25+ five year olds, many of whom I can’t trust to go to the toilet by themselves without attempting to escape the environs we’re in.

    Obviously you would have a much higher adult/child ratio if you were doing exciting outdoor activities, and this could be the issue with the ‘Daisies’. I doubt, Sue, for example, that you would be teaching 20+ kids to groom horses at once. Though, seriously, maybe you have more relaxed horses than I’ve met…

    My own kids were camping/bushwalking/riding (the riding occasional – darned expensive around here!) at that age. The difference being that I had a group of three to six max to keep an eye on at once….

    Take a big group of other people’s kids out bush or camping without heaps of help – no way, unless I owned a couple of good sheep dogs 🙂

  58. hineata February 25, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    PS Lisa – am not sure why you couldn’t take the girls out yourself, or see that more outdoor stuff was put into the programme, seeing you were an assistant leader. Down here we too have handbooks, but we pretty much bend things to suit. For example, no reason why you can’t talk about self esteem while setting a trail in the bush, using real leaves (or flower petals, if there are any handy). Was your troop leader very inflexible?

  59. Donna February 25, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

    I think the comparison to Little League is apt. When you join Little League, you know you are going to play baseball. Various teams may be more or less competitive, or more or less inclusive. Some coaches may be more or less skilled and more or less organized. But, at the end of the day, every group still plays baseball. You don’t have one Little League team that plays baseball and one that does arts and crafts and one that does community service and know way of knowing until after you’ve joined which group you will be a part of.

    Cub/boy Scouts seems equally single purpose. Of course, you have well run troops and troops that suck, but everyone still has the same general purpose. If you join the Boy Scouts, you’ll be doing outdoorsy stuff. Maybe well and maybe badly, depending on the troop, but outdoorsy stuff nonetheless.

    I’ve never been a Girl Scout, but from everyone’s descriptions here it runs the gambit from manicures to rappelling down a mountain. There is no central purpose. No way to determine if Girl Scout activities, in general, are something that you want to do since there are no general activities. And a whole lot of “Scouting is unique to the troop,” with no acceptance that no other organization is run that way. I can’t think of single other organization that seems to have gone so far in the way of inclusiveness that anyone can join and do whatever they feel like doing and still claim to be part of the organization.

    I don’t have particularly care as to whether Girl Scouts wants to be a group that does community service and arts and crafts or camping and outdoors activities, but it should pick one or the other. I have no interest in letting my daughter join any Girl Scout troop because I have no idea what she will be doing. Is it going to be something I want her doing or something she will enjoy? Who the heck knows since I have absolutely no idea what Girl Scouts is supposed to stand for. And I don’t really have the time or energy to devote to trying every Girl Scout troop in the area to determine which are doing manicures and which are going camping. I should be able to tell that from the name of the organization.

  60. JustaDad February 25, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

    Here in Canada there is an option for the girls who want to do the same things the boy scouts are doing. the can join, in Canada it is called Scouts Canada and the program is co-ed notice that the “boy” has been dropped. As a longtime leader of all groups(beavers 5-7,cubs 8-10 and scouts 11-14) there is a huge difference in programs from place to place. the solution is to ask the leaders, When parents ask me I will usually tell them that the program is designed to give kids valuable skills for around the home and the outdoors. The scouts have a voice in their program and we try to gear it so they can get the badges and still have a program that they want.

  61. Let_Her_Eat_Dirt February 25, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    As a dad with two daughters approaching “Daisy” age, I would love to find a hard-core Girl Scout troop that would take the girls camping, have them learn to hike, boulder, and raft, show them how to tie knots, and do all kinds of outdoor things. I already to those things with them, but being part of a troop would be much more fun.

    Interestingly, the original Girl Scouts were very different from what some of the comments describe. The founder of the Girls Scouts, “Daisy” Gordon Low, was a tough girl, through and through — she bucked convention and got girls (in Savannah, GA, no less) to defy the turn of the 20th century standards of ladyhood. The original Girl Scout handbook taught girls how to cure hams, tell the time by the stars, tie up a burglar with a rope, and other crazy things. (See Shana Corey’s new kid’s book on Low). It’s too bad the current version has fallen so far from the original ideals…

    Let Her Eat Dirt
    A dad’s take on raising tough, adventurous girls

  62. JJ February 25, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    And I don’t really have the time or energy to devote to trying every Girl Scout troop in the area to determine which are doing manicures and which are going camping.

    Donna, the kicker is that you are not even allowed to choose. You are assigned based on neighborhood (at least here).

  63. hineata February 25, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

    @Let Her Eat Dirt – why don’t you start one? Seriously? If the regulations involve needing a woman to be the ‘frontman’, there must be a woman around somewhere who could be the token ‘head sherang’ while you organised all the fun stuff you’re talking about. It sounds really cool.

    Part of the problem with organising any of these groups is, as discussed before on another thread, getting leaders. We have enough trouble down here, and we have a culture and economy based on ‘volunteership’ (put at $5 billion + per annum a few years back) as well as fewer restrictions on who qualifies as a leader.

    You should give it a go (the troop leadership, that is). Sounds like you have the skills for it.

  64. Susan February 25, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

    @let her eat dirt

    You can be a Girl Scout dad!! My hubby has assisted with my troops.


    In my community you are usually match with a starting troop but can always swap if the troop in not meeting your daughters expectations. I have gotten quite a few girls from other troops.

  65. lihtox February 25, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    There were an awful lot of arts and crafts when I was in Cub Scouts, which didn’t start until 3rd grade at the time. We did some hiking, but only 5th graders could go out camping. (There were optional summer camps for cub scouts run by the council, but kids went individually, it wasn’t our whole pack going at once.)

    But program differs greatly from pack to pack and from troop to troop. Even in Boy Scouts, there are some troops that run multiple weeklong trips in remote areas during the summer, and go camping every month and all that, and other troops which only go camping once in the summer (at the council camp where meals are provided) and focus on getting kids the merit badges they need to advance.

  66. lihtox February 25, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

    @Suzanne: When I was in Boy Scouts (15+ years ago now), the weekly program could be whatever we wanted it to be, it didn’t have to be focused on a specific merit badge or on advancement in general. When I wanted to earn a merit badge, I usually had to go out and find a merit badge counselor and work with him or her independently.

    The program you describe sounds like it’s “teaching to the test”, and I wonder if that’s the choice of the local troop, or if it’s Girl Scout policy, or if it’s infected the Boy Scouts as well.

  67. B February 25, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    Caught that one Grant.
    Its so arrogant and then asking for background checks.
    Now they’re singing about friendship and self-esteem!
    You can’t make this stuff up.

  68. Emily February 25, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    @Let Her Eat Dirt–If I lived in the States, I’d totally start a Daisy troop with you, on one condition–I wouldn’t want to be just a figurehead; I’d want to help plan cool activities too.

  69. Hellen February 26, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    @Dana. My son has attended weeklong COTEF programs twice and had a blast walking barefoot in the forest and being able to carry and use a real knife. He can make fire without matches, camouflage into the field, hike blindfolded and find his way, build his own shelter and sleep in it. He is a very active Boy Scout but this was even better. The best part was meeting other kids that had the same interest. They are based in NJ but their summer program runs in Holmes NY.

  70. Tsu Dho Nimh February 26, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    Lots of singing songs, talking about self-esteem, talking about friendship, etc. Yes, those things are important, but I expected my daughter to make friends by DOING exciting activities in scouts — not to skip the activities and TALK about being a friend.

    This is like the “bonding exercises” and “team building” crap that I’ve had to put up with in the workplace. You can’t build real trust with fake activities.

    I don’t learn to trust co-workers because they catch me when the session leader shoves me over backwards … I learn to trust them when they hand me their deliverables on time so I can do my own work.

  71. Emily February 26, 2013 at 10:56 am #

    @Tsu Dho Nimh–I’ve always opted out of the “fall backwards and let someone catch you” activity, either by putting my foot down as I fall, or just refusing to do it in the first place. First of all, I wouldn’t let a stranger put their hands on me, let alone “shove me over backwards,” and second of all, no matter how much I trusted the people I came to the session with, there’s still the simple fact that I’m bigger than the average woman. I’m no longer morbidly obese, like I used to be, but I’m around 5’10”, and big-boned. So, I wouldn’t want to fall backwards and “trust” someone to catch me, because I wouldn’t want to hurt them.

    P.S., I also agree with B. I’ve never been involved with the Girl Scouts in the States; just Guides in Australia and Canada, but……sheesh. Australia is fine, but Canada background-checks and screens every applicant within an inch of their lives, to the point where, in the interest of “building self-esteem in girls,” they make the prospective adult volunteers feel like criminals, for daring to want to give their time to help.

  72. Tsu Dho Nimh February 26, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

    @Emily –
    I was usually working with a group that could subvert those stupid wastes of funding.

    One HR guy came up with a plane crash scenario and we were supposed to form teams and pick leaders and plan how to get back to civilization. Should not have done that with experienced back country exploring people in the group. We opted to gut the plane of all usable items, especially the booze and food, make shelters, then burn the plane the following day to attract attention with the pillar of smoke and wait for civilization to come looking for us when they realized the plane was overdue. As we waited, we would be swilling first class booze and lolling about in our comfy shelters made of evacuation slides and flotation cushions.

    That’s why you file flight plans!

  73. sue February 26, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    hineata…maybe not 20 but during camp 6-10 at a time, and on a regular lesson basis any where from one to four in a lesson plus older kids free riding in the ring. i like 3 ring circuses[smile]

  74. hineata February 26, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    @sue – sounds like it, LOL! But good on you….. 🙂

    To me, that sounds like heart attack material, but then I don’t know that many horses. And I do know the particular kids I was thinking of. I could just imagine the horses having enough thirty seconds into the lesson, ditching the kids/crushing the kids to death, and retiring to the Bahamas….

  75. Allison February 28, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    I have a daisy and junior troop. For my daisy troop, trying to get 20 five year olds to do anything as a group can be a little like herding cats. I hope to do more with them as they get older but now we are limited because I only have so much time to commit, trying to schedule anything around my family’s schedule, and trying to get enough other adults to take the girls anywhere. We were going to take our junior troop camping last year and of the ten or so girls, one wanted and/or was actually available to go.

  76. Michael Alford March 5, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    We had remarkably similar experiences with Cub Scouts

  77. Win Quibids April 9, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

    Surprise! You actually covered this subject well. Are there other alternatives that i will must examine out?


  1. Free Range Kids » Does Singing About Friendship & Self-Esteem … | Self Help Talk - February 25, 2013

    […] Lots of singing songs, talking about self-esteem, talking about friendship, etc. Yes, those things are important, but I expected my daughter to make friends by DOING exciting activities in scouts — not to skip the activities and … Read entire story here. […]