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by Abigail Van Buren

Winners of Cub Scout Derby May Have Lost Larger Lesson

DEAR ABBY: Recently my son entered a derby car race at his Cub Scout meeting. He left the house proud of the derby car he fashioned from a block of wood. My husband had shown him how to use the proper tools, to sand and paint the car -- but it was our son's design.

When my son and husband arrived at the race track, it was obvious many of the fathers had done far more than supervise the making of the derby cars. In fact, many of the fathers bragged about how they had designed, cut and painted their sons' cars -- even going so far as adding "hidden" weights so they would go faster! One of the youngest boys in the pack won a huge trophy for "best in show." His car was elaborately carved and decorated far beyond his capabilities.

We told our son he should be proud of his car because he had followed instructions and created it himself. Unfortunately, some of the other boys made our son feel their dads loved them more because they had made prettier, faster cars for them.

Abby, I am afraid this is another example of parents reliving their youth at the expense of their children. The fathers should never have taken over this project. What did these boys learn? That it's OK to cheat? I'd love to see this addressed because I know it happens all over the country. -- PROUD MOM IN OHIO

DEAR PROUD MOM: You are describing parents who are determined to make sure their children succeed even if it means cutting a few corners. And you're absolutely right -- I doubt that a trophy a child hasn't earned and knows isn't deserved will make him or her feel like a winner. The prize becomes meaningless. The child's abilities are diminished, and the youngster is left feeling that he or she can't perform.