Kevin Hellriegel's Blog of Worthless Advice

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Why Scout Camp is Awful for Helicopter Parents….


Ah, Boy Scout camp….the dirt, the camping, the lack of good bathrooms.  It is all the experience of growing up and not having your parents hovering over you every minute of the day.  Some parents enjoy sending their child off to summer camp (hey, free babysitting and they get fed three times a day? What isn’t to love?).  Others are quite anxious that their little baby is headed off to summer camp.  I can understand that.

 Compared to school, summer camp is the helicopter parent’s worst nightmare.  At school, the parents know what their child is doing.  They can view their child’s grade online.  They can volunteer to be the room parent.  If their son messes up, they can email the teacher, then do a follow up voicemail to make sure the teacher received the email, and then write a note to the teacher (and send it back in the child’s homework folder), and to make sure the teacher got the note in the homework folder, the parent can come to the classroom before school starts.

What do you mean my son didn’t earn anything while at Scout camp?

Of course, it doesn’t matter that the email the helicopter parent sent was at 4:30 pm on Friday afternoon, the voicemail they left was at 4:35 pm, and the note they wrote was at 4:37 pm, and when they show up at school 35 minutes before school on Monday morning, they wonder why the teacher hasn’t replied yet.

Now, these helicopter parenting skills just won’t work for summer camp.  Scoutmasters don’t answer emails and they don’t return voicemails.  At the last summer camp this past week, I had no Smartphone coverage.  And I like it that way.

During summer camp, helicopter parents don’t get a daily report from their kids about how their day went, they don’t know what they are eating at every meal, they don’t know what their bunk looks like, and they don’t know what they are working on.  It is a wasteland of no information, a fog bank of the unknown, and a storm of mystery.  Their helicopter is grounded.

What happens to the poor scout when their helicopter parent isn’t around?  They survive.  They wear the same clothes all week long (using these clothes as a bib, towel, and Kleenex).  They don’t think of showering, they spill numerous food items on themselves and others.  Brush their teeth?  What is that?

Now what kind of Scoutmaster would let this “Lord of the Flies” attitude prevail?  The same Scoutmaster who gives up his vacation time to go to summer camp with your child.  The same Scoutmaster that pays to attend summer camp (yes, I pay to watch your son be a screw up).

Our job as Scoutmasters is to remind your son to put on sunscreen, drink his water, get to his merit badge classes, and wash his hands.  If your son chooses not to do the fore mentioned items, that is his choice.  Yes, it is a stupid choices but it is his choice.  We’ll ride his ass and remind him about ten times a day but it comes down to him doing it, he has to be self managed.  I’ll tell him to take a shower but that doesn’t mean he’ll do it.  And when I ask him if he has taken a shower, he’ll say “yes” but that shower was the one back at his house three days ago.  When I see him on the trail, I’ll ask him if he has been drinking his water (from the water bottle he left back in his cabin) and he’ll say “yes”.  And when I see him sunburned and ask him did you put on sunscreen, he’ll answer “yes” (he put in on yesterday….doesn’t it last three days because he didn’t take a shower?).

A Boy Scout's bed...a helicopter parent's nightmare!

A Boy Scout’s bed…a helicopter parent’s nightmare!

We are constantly reminding them to do things for their well being but that doesn’t mean they will actually do it.  They’ll walk off and pretend to do something but they don’t.

Now we all know that the helicopter parent would be hovering and following their scout back to their tent, making sure they grabbed their toothbrush and toothpaste, escorting them back to the water spigot, watching them brush their teeth, and then walking them back to their tent and carefully instructing them how to place their toothpaste and toothbrush away.

Will they die if they don’t brush their teeth?  Probably not.  Will they be shamed into brushing their teeth after EVERYONE tells them that their breath smells like the inside of an outhouse?  Yes, most likely they will brush their teeth after other scouts say they can smell their stinky dead rat breath from across the table.  Peer pressure can be a wonderful motivator.

As I’ve said before, not letting your child do things on their own will lead to their failure in school, at Scout camp, and in life.  Scout camp is the week long test of how you have failed as a parent.  Does your child come back from summer camp smelling like the sewer plant down the street?  Does your scout come back with no merit badges completed because he can’t do them without you?

One of the worst mistakes you can make is packing your scout’s backpack for summer camp.  If you pack it, how is he going to know where anything is in his backpack?  Have him lay out his clothes, you double check, and then he can pack his own bag.  Then he can find everything at summer camp and his Scoutmaster won’t be asking him where his toothbrush is.

Land that helicopter now.  Let your son do things on his own and learn from his triumphs and failures.  Let him be peer pressured into doing the right thing.

 As always, your witty comments and vast knowledge are welcome!

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8 responses to “Why Scout Camp is Awful for Helicopter Parents….

  1. rockettattoo July 30, 2013 at 11:10 am

    My wife’s sister is an excellent helicopter parent. She could possibly be held as the most extreme example of hellicoptery. My wife and I don’t have children so I guess that makes it ok that I most certainly hope her children develop a authority questioning rebellious personality despite all of her efforts to the contrary. I picture her young daughter (now in her tweens) at age 17 on a the back of a motorcycle with a grotesque looking young man covered in tattoos taking her away from controlling mamma while afore mentioned daughter brandishes a rude hand gesture. Bye bye controlling helicopter mommy..bye bye

    • Kevin July 30, 2013 at 1:53 pm

      Most likely she’ll end up living at home well into her early thirties because her mom took care of everything. But that assistant manager job at The Gap is probably worth it. 🙂

  2. strawberryquicksand July 30, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    I love it. no wonder some kids are SO eager to leave for summer camp, and others loathe the very idea. 😀

    • Kevin July 30, 2013 at 2:38 pm

      I must admit that this was the best summer camp I have had with our Boy Scout troop. Like you said, some kids do love it and others can’t handle it. But they all survived and are now home with their family.

  3. honeydidyouseethat July 30, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Yuck! Made me kind of sick. Dealt with those parents for thirty years. Here’s another one, Snow plow parents. 🙂

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