Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

April 20, 2012

The Scout Motto and Being a Prepared Parent

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts — by Life's Toolbox @ 3:08 pm
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     Over the recent spring vacation I ate in dining rooms, flew on planes, waited on lines and shopped in stores.  In all cases, as a parent of adult children, I had plenty of time to observe the parents who had little ones at their sides, on their hips, and pulling at their skirts.  I must admit, I enjoyed my relaxing vacation, as I watched so many parents run after children who would not sit still, shush those who would not be quiet, try to reason with those who refused to wait patiently, and mopped up after little eaters with lousy table manners. I was not surprised by the difficult to manage behavior of the infants, toddlers and children surrounding me.  What did amaze me was the unreasonable adult expectations and total lack of preparedness I witnessed in so many parents.

Idle hands really do make for trouble, and the smaller the hands, the less time it takes for the trouble to reach disturbing proportions.  Young children can’t be expected to tolerate adult places and problems without our support.  They can’t wait quietly and patiently, or tolerate long, formal meals, unless we give them the tools to do so.  My weapon of choice for such events was always novelty.  Throughout my years of raising young children, I routinely squirreled away every cereal box prize, party favor and other nifty items from the dollar store.  I would not go to a restaurant, doctor’s office, and certainly not on an airplane, without a tote full of goodies – puzzles and sticker books, travel games and color changing markers – all designed to engage and entrance.  When the goodies ran out, I had a mental equivalents, occupying my children with “I spy with my little eye” and 20 questions.

Over last week’s vacation I routinely observed parents scolding children for their impatience and “inappropriate behavior”.  Yet it is not age-inappropriate for a three year old to run through a large hotel dining room during a adult focused, boring, 1 hour meal – especially if the only items parents provided to occupy their child is the silverware!  Whining and tantrums at long waits and standing in line are inevitable, if parents respond to children’s mounting impatience with loud and threatening statements rather than offering a great book, a mystery to solve or a new game to play.  When parents follow the famous scout motto . . . be prepared . . . they allow children to manage even challenging situations.

Why, I wondered, were parents so poorly prepared to support their children through challenges. I wonder if it is a matter of poor investment decisions. Being prepared requires an investment of thought and time well before problem situations.  When parents decide to gamble – thinking there is no need to  spend time before vacation, dinner, plane trips collecting age-appropriate stuff and activities- betting on good fortune or their child’s ability to handle challenges, they are often rewarded with melt-downs and tantrums that take extensive time and effort to manage.  They also give parents and children a bad name!  I recently heard of a movement to create child-free airplanes, offering grown-ups a more peaceful airborne experience.  I have seen much worse behavior by adults on planes than by children.  But parents allow their children to serve as ambassadors of childhood, showing us the delight, pleasure and benefit of having children in our world . . . and on our planes . . . when they plan ahead and give children the tools they need to be good.

I well remember the day I hung up my diaper bag and toy totes and realized that my children had grown past needing me to so directly support their good behavior.   Travelling last week with my husband and adult children, I still packed goodies for the plane, made sure everyone had their earphones and reading material, along with boarding passes and ID’s.  It turns out, being prepared is not a bad habit for a grown-up to have.



  1. Here, here! I think prepared parents become prepared grandparents–and chaotic parents remain—unprepared, without understanding of their inabilities. I still pack for those moments of boredom and spillage–using my “kit” quite frequently to help others. As much as I shake my head at the wonderment of unpreparedness–I enjoy being helpful–hmmm. Maybe we are all puzzle pieces helping each other. Thanks for this post, Barb

    Comment by dearfriends — April 20, 2012 @ 4:13 pm |Reply

    • Although not in the Grandparent stage yet, I still find myself tempted to hoard interesting items for small hands and down times. Being a child psychologist, I know they will always come in handy in my office, if not in my personal life!

      Comment by Life's Toolbox — April 20, 2012 @ 5:05 pm |Reply

  2. You do know how to “tell it to the troops”…. (It is a battle zone, at times!) I have been called, mainly by Dad, the “babbler”, “distracter”, etc; as he would observe my attempts to quell any meltdown. Didn’t he know that it wasn’t meant for his ears??? Dad had to tolerate “Geography” on long car rides, as well as other nonsense “games”. Hopefully, I’ve become the grandmother of “distraction”, with the same silly babble… just as annoying as ever!! Be prepared by being “engaged” with the little ones, when in their presence. S. Milch

    Comment by Life's Toolbox — April 21, 2012 @ 6:07 pm |Reply

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