What adults don’t do

I’m always fiddling with our troop website, adding file downloads, updating news and external links, and revising and expanding our FAQs. Currently, I’m working on a section to be called Adult Scouting to serve as a guide for adults as to what our role is in a boy-led troop. I point out the things the adults are responsible for – safety, training boy leaders, and support.  Some of the inspiration for these ideas came from great resources such as Florida Scoutmaster Larry Geiger, who posted his ten rules for adults attending Scout camping trips on Clarke Green’s blog, and a similar article on the website of Troop 97 in Ft. Collins, Colo.  These are both great reading in themselves and I recommend you do so.

One of the sections that’s gotten quite wordy is the one on what adults don’t do. I wanted to go beyond campouts and cover how adults behave in general, such as at troop meetings. I’d like to let you read some of these points and leave me your thoughts on whether I’m on the mark, a bit overboard, or not going far enough. (These are pruned a bit to leave out some explanations that are fairly clear to us as Scouters but might not be obvious to new parents.) Please read on and leave a comment or a question. I’d also like to hear your suggestions for additional points. And, of course, feel free to adopt what you think is useful in your own troop.

  •  We don’t interrupt their meetings.  Adults are guests at troop meetings and have no place mingling among the patrols, interrupting their skills instruction, games or planning sessions, yelling at them to be quiet, or pointing out things they are doing wrong. Adults are expected to stay in the back of the meeting room and conduct our own business in a quiet and non-disruptive manner. When the boys put “signs up” to call for order, the adults also put signs up and observe quiet.
  • We don’t camp with them at campouts.  We set up our own campsite, far enough away to not be an intrusion but within range in case they need us. And, of course, parents don’t tent with their sons.
  • We don’t answer the boys’ questions. There is a definite chain of authority in the youth leadership. Each patrol elects a Patrol Leader to lead and represent them. The primary connection between the youth and the adults happens between the Senior Patrol Leader and the Scoutmaster, and any other routine adult/youth interaction circumvents that chain of authority. So, if a Scout asks an adult a question, the answer should be “Go ask your Patrol Leader!” If adults routinely answer their questions or help them out, we lose a chance to reinforce the patrol method and employ youth leadership.
  • We don’t tell them what to do. If an adult sees something that he or she thinks should be brought to the Scouts’ attention, such as a messy picnic table or a tent flap unzipped, mention it to the Scoutmaster, who will take it up with the SPL.  The exception, of course, is in a matter of immediate safety.
  • We don’t act like their parents. In a patrol, the boys function together, rely upon each other and make their own society for an evening or a weekend. Parents acting like parents gets in the middle of this and can damage the patrol ecosystem. Absent any special needs, let your son be with his patrol mates, carrying out his duties (without your help), and learning how to lead and get along with others.
  • We don’t do the skills instruction. Whenever possible, Scouts should do the instructing. Reason: The best way to learn a subject is to teach it, and by teaching it, the Scouts are reinforcing their own knowledge. If an adult does the teaching, it deprives a Scout of an opportunity to lead, become a better communicator, and feel a sense of accomplishment. Do you really want to take that from your son?

I welcome your suggestions and feedback along with things you’ve found useful to tell parents.


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2 Replies to “What adults don’t do”

  1. Well said. Those are great rules to keep the troop Scout led.
    I am not a big fan for written rule books in Scouting, I think the Oath and Law are enough, but what you are doing to increase the awareness of the role of the Adult within the context of the Troop is spot on.
    It is important for parents, adult volunteers, and those wearing adult positions of responsibilty patches to understand the way it supposed to work so that it can work.
    Train ’em, Trust ’em, and let them lead!

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