Apparently, it's that time of year again. I know this not because I've seen Girl Scouts out and about, actively developing business, social, and communication skills... but because I've seen parents posting links on their Facebook accounts.
All I can say is, "DON'T DO IT."
I mean, unless your goal is to stunt these girls' social and professional development, and to positively reinforce toxic parenting practices that leave kids (and young adults) having meltdowns and panic attacks for the most innocuous of reasons.
See, the point of selling Girl Scout cookies isn't for parents to spam their friends and coworkers. It is for girls to learn to feel empowered and assertive. It's to foster a competitiveness that will serve them well, academically and professionally. It's to help them learn how to develop strategies and set goals for themselves.
And, win or lose (Scouts are rewarded for selling the most cookies in their group), taking charge of their own project, feeling a sense of purpose, accomplishment, and ownership, is great for their self-esteem. Many schools mistakingly think they can "teach" self-esteem -- but they're completely wrong. Self-esteem and self-respect aren't things that are given to you. They are things you develop by setting and achieving goals, for and by yourself. Or, if you fail, knowing you did your best, and learning from your mistakes and doing better next time.
Selling Girl Scout cookies is supposed to help girls become smarter and stronger. It is supposed to help them develop important life skills.
Spamming friends and coworkers about Girl Scout cookies is like sending your kid to Habitat for Humanity... and then having them sit in the shade while you use the tools and do the building.
It defeats the purpose.
Yes, service and fundraising matter. But these projects are supposed to be mutually beneficial. In fact, putting mindless, meaningless service projects on your college application doesn't impress admissions officers -- like, at all.
But more important than how it looks on your college app... is how it feels. Through Paved With Verbs, I've worked with some teens who have amazing accomplishments on their resume. But when I ask them about it, their tone is completely flat.
Their eyes don't light up. They feel no sense of pride. Sometimes, if I don't bring it up, they forget to even mention it.
No wonder children and teens are more depressed and anxious than any generation before them. In fact, one of the major gender gaps girls are closing right now... is the suicide gap. Boys still commit more suicide than girls, but girls are catching up fast. This is horrifying.
But not entirely surprising.
Between helicopter parents (who give kids cognitive, social, and emotional problems), over-scheduling (which makes kids feel frazzled, stressed and empty), and the total major disconnect between an accomplishment (like selling the most cookies) and the self (because you had little to do with selling those cookies)... why would a child feel happy and proud?
Another thing that really bugs me about parents selling Girl Scout cookies (or doing any project) on behalf of their kids... is that it robs today's children of one of the things they need most: practice communicating with other people, face-to-face.
Language is one of the most natural things in the world. There was a strong evolutionary pressure to be natural language learners... but actual communication is much more difficult. Language means understanding vocabulary and syntax. Communication means clearly asserting your boundaries, being able to ask for things, and saying things you know other people might not like. It means understanding when someone is oblivious versus ill-intentioned. It means responding in the moment, instead of reading a text and responding at your leisure, after consulting with friends.
It's hard! It's really hard. It takes a ton of practice. And today's youth get less practice than ever, as more and more of their interactions happen online.
They have stunted communication skills, and they have stunted negotiation and confrontation skills. Helicopter parents make the problem worse by handling conflicts for their kids. Whether they're mediating a conflict between eight-year-olds instead of just letting them figure it out on their own, or confronting a teacher over a late slip or a bad grade, they are producing kids who don't know how to have a difficult discussion.
Now, let's fast forward a few years.
Your daughter is at a party. Everyone's doing drugs -- and everyone wants her to do drugs, too. After a lifetime of having mommy and daddy handle all of her stuff for her, is she magically going to be able to "just say no"? (Answer: no. "Just say no" is the unwisest campaign ever, because that's not how saying no works.)
Your daughter's crush has offered her a ride home -- but he's been drinking. Is she going to feel confident and capable enough to say, "How about I drive you?" or, "Thanks, but I'm going to take a Lyft -- can I drop you off on the way?"
Or, to use some timely examples. Your daughter has invited a guy friend to sleep over in her dorm room so they can get an early start on their road trip tomorrow. While in bed, he begins kissing her, taking her clothes off, and giving her unwanted oral sex. After muttering, "I think we should just be friends," will she have the communication skills and confidence to say anything more... or is she going to lie there passively while he prepares to penetrate her?
Your daughter has gone back to a man's apartment with him to have sex... then decides he's fat and gross and she doesn't feel comfortable and she doesn't want to have sex with him. Is she going to say, "Hey, Cat Person, I changed my mind. I'm not ready to do this yet."... or will she lie there and wait for it to be over, his gross sweat dripping on her every thrust of the way?
Your daughter has gone on a date with Aziz Ansari. He repeatedly tries to initiate sex with her. She "mumbles" and sends "nonverbal cues," which she "[doesn’t] think was noticed at all." When he whips out his dick and motions that she should give him oral sex, is she going to complacently put his dick in her mouth, because she isn't sure how to speak up for herself... or is she going to communicate, in no uncertain terms, that this is not happening?
(Obviously, each of these examples features a man who is behaving badly. Yes, men shouldn't act that way. But there will always be some who do. I'm all for enthusiastic consent and "teaching men not to rape," but I am also all for women feeling sexual agency.)
Your daughter has a great idea for a thesis project -- and now she's got to convince a busy professor to be her advisor.
Your daughter has landed a great job offer, and now she needs to negotiate her salary.
Your daughter wants to start a blog, and now she has to be willing to promote the hell out of herself to get readership and start making money.
Your daughter has taken her car to the mechanic, and the guy doesn't want to honor her warranty.
Obviously, using your words to stand up for yourself in any of these situations is going to be uncomfortable. Obviously, selling something -- your product, your idea, your worth -- is hard. But it's going to be virtually impossible if you've spent very little time communicating with people and standing up for yourself in other situations.
Is it a huge leap from Girl Scout cookies to academic and professional success to teen suicide, mental illness, sexual assault, and the pay gap?
Kind of... but not really.
These are all hugely complex issues, but good communication, sales, and assertiveness lie at the heart of each of them.
So don't buy cookies online. Buy them in person, so girls can develop these crucial skills, and begin learning how to talk to strangers and adults.
Don't buy cookies from parents. If the kid is not the one spearheading the effort, move along.
Don't sell your child's cookies online, stealing their autonomy, agency, and ownership from them. Don't sell your child's cookies in-person. This is equally counterproductive and destructive.
DO show interest in their project. DO help them brainstorm great ideas, and provide scaffolding to help them bring their ideas to life (for example, check out this girl, who set up outside of a pot dispensary, and sold 117 boxes of Girl Scout cookies in under two hours). DO share stories, examples, and role models that might help spark their drive, resilience, and creativity. DO tell them you believe in them and their ability to execute.
Resist the temptation to help kids take the easy way out. But definitely indulge on Thin Mints and Samoas.
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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