Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mindful Parenting: Valuing Independence

One of the biggest challenges I’ve had as a mother, and as a leader of a Girl Scout troop, is to let the kids do things for themselves. It begins when they are little, as it’s just so much easier to cut the paper for the art project for them. We’re often in a hurry and things take less time when an adult lends a hand. But when the kids make choices and do things on their own, they take ownership, and it is truly theirs.
I was reminded of this recently when my kindergartner helped me plant sugar snap pea and green bean seeds in our family’s garden.  It was taking a while, the rows were uneven, and the dirt was not replaced exactly how I would have done it. But, I tried to be patient and I saw she was enjoying herself, and was enormously proud of her planting. She will, I know, take great joy in picking, eating and even helping me cook those peas and beans.
In Girl Scouts, this is called “Girl-Led,” and it is a practice that has been encouraged since Juliette Gordon Low founded the organization in 1912. One hundred years ago, Low, who was called “Daisy,” would often say “Let’s ask the girls.” As Girl Scouts get older, they start to lead meetings and teach the younger kids. It’s a great lesson for them, but also for us.
Shannon Henry Kleiber is the author of the new book On My Honor: Real Life Lessons from America's First Girl Scout published in 2012 by Sourcebooks. She is a former staff writer and columnist for The Washington Post. Shannon lives in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband and two daughters, and is a Girl Scout troop leader. Her web site is

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