Just about all of us Scouters are also parents. As parents, we want the best for our kids, and some parents go a bit out of bounds to make sure they get the best and do their best – even if it isn’t really their best, if you know what I mean.
As Scouters, though, we really need to put some of these parenting instincts aside in order to make sure that we not only deliver the Scouting program as promised, but also to help our kids do their best by not helping them directly.
A recent article on My Daily Moment, a website for active women, described three things you should never do for your children. The article is similar in vein to others we’ve discussed that explain the dangers of “helicopter” parenting and other mistakes that parents make when raising their kids. The article reveals some startling statistics about extended childhood, young adults living at home, parents taking on debt to finance their adult children, and the consequences of failing to envision your children as independent adults.
I’d like you to read the article, as it has some great insights into parenting, but I’d also like to offer some examples of how we can take the advice in the article and translate it into Scouting:
- Don’t teach Scout skills - If adults take over the teaching of Scout skills, such as knot tying, first aid, plant identification or compass skills, the skills will get taught – and probably very well – but we miss a golden opportunity for the Scouts to teach these skills themselves. They might not do as good a job as an adult would, but teaching of the skills is less important than the Scouts learning to teach, thus reinforcing their own proficiency. It’s also a way of involving young people in interactive situations. Likewise, parents who overly involve themselves in their children’s advancement take away that opportunity for their sons to learn from one another.
- Don’t interrupt them at troop meetings - Troop meetings are for the boys, led by the boys, involving only the boys. They are not an adult-led teaching session. If troop meetings don’t meet your standards, maybe your standards are wrong! The object of a troop meeting is not to follow an orderly agenda and start and end on time. It’s to give young people learning experience in leadership and managing their own affairs. If we hover over them, jumping in when we feel things aren’t going as we’d like them to be, we destroy their confidence and take away their chance to lead for real. Scouts become puppets of the adults, much like in most other youth activities. Any corrections to their meeting plans should be made before or after the meeting, as the Scoutmaster reviews plans with the senior patrol leader. Once the meeting starts, though, adults should get out of the way and let the boys run their troop. All adults – I mean it, even the Scoutmaster. Just go sit in the back and watch. Make notes on what goes on so you can talk to the SPL after the meeting, not during the meeting.
- Don’t manipulate youth leader selection or patrol makeup - You can’t choose their friends for them, and patrols are basically groupings of friends. You also can’t choose who you feel is the best leader and put him in charge of his patrol or the troop. Leaders are elected and selected by the boys. Like it or not, as Scoutmaster, your job is to work with whoever the boys elect, give him your best effort, and give him the skills he needs to lead. Likewise, let the boys choose their own patrols. Don’t make up rules for adult convenience. If the boys want to reorganize or rename patrols, give them a chance to do it. If a boy wants to move to a different patrol, he should do so as long as it’s OK with the patrol leaders. Let him be with his friends! He’ll be more enthusiastic and engaged if he’s happy.
Adults need to know their role and respect what belongs to the boys. This is certainly not a comprehensive list of things to avoid but it should get you started thinking. As Scouters, we need to be looking for ways to empower the boys, not take that power away.