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Be an Adventure Enabler

Last January I was helping out at a Cub Scout Winter Camp that was being held at Camp Sheppard. The camp has an excellent inner tubing hill that Scouts love sliding down in the winter. Unfortunately, I happened to overhear a visiting adult leader talk a Cub Scout out of trying the hill. The adult said, "You don't really want to have to walk all the way up to the top, over and over again, do you?" Well, if I know anything about Cub Scouts, I know that their natural response would normally be, "YES," and they would be off like a flash. However, since a trusted adult phrased the experience so negatively, the Scout said no, he guessed that he didn't want to do it, so they went off to some other activity.

As adults, in general, and Scout leaders, specifically, it is our role to enable kids to try stuff. Scouting is a great place to do this because we do our best to manage the risk, and let the Scouts explore new adventures without risking life and limb. I often joke that my own son, an Eagle Scout, does not believe in gravity, and never passes a stream or river without falling in, but a bit of falling down is good for kids. I have every confidence in him when he goes off on a high adventure outing because I, and other leaders, have let him try things, guided him, and occasionally administered first aid when needed. The result is that he looks at a trail and says, "I want to hike that," and I know that he can.

Let me give you another example. My three year old and I drove out to Camp Sheppard to pick up my Eagle Scout one afternoon. The little one looked up at the snow covered, Cascade Mountains and said, "I want to climb those." It would be easy to say that they are too high or too snowy or that he is too small, but I know that he looks up to his big brother so I said, "When you are a big Boy Scout like your brother, then you can do that," and I know that it's true. Sure, it can be terrifying to think of either of my kids scaling some mountain peak, but those are my problems, not his. I know that kids can learn the skills, and qualified leaders can help them do it, and come home safely. I am not advocating sending a three year old on a mountain climbing expedition, but I am advocating that we should never tell them that it is impossible. We might not know how to do it, and the thought of them up there might be scary for us, but we sure can show them the way to get there. We fear for our kids safety because we love them, but when we enable them, instead of shutting them down, we set them up to believe that they can do anything - and they really can.

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