Regardless of how hard you try, you just can’t please everyone. The sentiment goes all the way back to the Greek slave Aesop, whose fable about the miller, his son and their donkey concluded with “he who tries to please everybody pleases nobody.”
I enjoy reading each issue of the Scouting advice blog Ask Andy as soon as it comes out, much the same way that I put other reading material aside to read through Scouting magazine when it arrives in the mail. Andy deals with a variety of thorny issues, many of which involve parents complaining about the way things are done in their pack or troop. (Andy does try hard to please everybody who writes in with questions, and while some may not like his advice, it always rings true.)
The latest Ask Andy addresses a question of whether a troop can require Scouts to attend a court of honor. (Apparently the troop’s court of honor isn’t compelling enough for the boys to attend voluntarily, and Andy’s advice involves ensuring that boys are advancing and are recognized at the court of honor.) His advice in extreme cases is usually to find another unit to join, but discussing the issue with the Scoutmaster or the troop committee is often advised first.
Certainly nobody likes to complain, and those of us who volunteer many more hours than the traditional one per week don’t like to receive complaints, yet for some who don’t understand and apply Scouting’s methods correctly, complaints sometimes arise from parents and youth who don’t feel they are getting what they expect to get out of our program. In all too many cases, the intuitions of these parents are right and the adult volunteers are wrong about something, and most often they are wrong about not listening to the right way to do things.
A fellow Scouter likes to say that her troop’s complaint form is the adult application. It’s very astute – if a parent is involved enough and interested enough to complain about the way the unit is running, these are the parents you want to get active within the volunteer structure of the unit. In the case of the parent asking about mandatory court of honor attendance, a solution might be to invite the parent to volunteer for the troop committee and work with advancement, or helping with court of honor planning.
Troops and packs which make up lots of rules and regulations to govern the way their Scouts and families behave or to establish procedures need to ask themselves if they are doing so to further the aims of Scouting, or to merely justify their existence as a committee. Most of the rules we need to follow are in the Scouting literature and in the oath and law itself. The misapplication of Scouting’s principles through rules that we devise are bound to be in conflict with the true nature of Scouting, and are certain to rankle some parents who have a good sense of what they expect for their sons.
Next time one of your parents has a complaint about some aspect of your unit’s operation, go back to the ideals of Scouting and consider whether you’ve inserted unintentional roadblocks along Scouting’s intended path. And, look for an opportunity to leverage that parent’s ideas and talents for the benefit of your pack or troop.