Adult Involvement: How much is too much?

Even though Boy Scouts is boy-led, adults are absolutely essential for the program to operate.

However, it’s very easy to cross the line between boy-led and adult-led, just by doing things adults would normally do without thinking about it.

Even something as seemingly minor, helpful and innocent as a stage direction during a flag ceremony, or injecting information into an announcement by the SPL, can send the message to the boys that they really aren’t in charge of the troop meeting.

Go back and re-read chapter 3 of the Scoutmaster Handbook, where it is stated that “The Senior Patrol Leader is in charge of the troop meeting, from beginning to end.”  This means that adults are guests at the meeting, and any participation by adults needs to go through the SPL.  It’s been said that the ideal troop meeting is one where no adult voice is heard until the Scoutmaster Minute at the end (and the Scoutmaster is invited to speak by the SPL).

When adults speak out of turn, or correct a Scout in front of the troop when he is doing something wrong, it negates all the lessons we are trying to teach about boy leadership.

In a larger sense, it sends a deeper message to the boys. When an adult interrupts a youth, it tells the youth that it’s OK to interrupt, and they won’t respect each other or adults when it’s our turn. One of the issues I hear from our boys is that everyone’s too noisy and it’s hard to get them to quiet down, so in a sense the adults are part of the problem, not part of the solution. (Especially when the adults are off to the side having conversations of their own when the boys are trying to conduct their business, or – worse yet – when the boys have signs up and the adults keep talking.)

Unless the building is on fire, or a boy is about to put someone’s eye out, the adult role is to stay out of the boys’ business during the troop meeting.  The adult job is to make sure that the boys are properly prepared to run the meeting themselves.  As Baden-Powell said, “Train the boys to do a job, and then let them do it.


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