The Fine Line

Some say there is a fine line between being the Scoutmaster and a Dad when your boy is in your troop.
I think this is an interesting discussion and one that I live with every day.
I have two sons that are in my troop and my Jamboree troop also.  So when the subject of the “Fine Line” came up at a Jamboree meeting a while back it got me thinking, is there a fine line and if so, where is it?  What is it? and how do we deal with it?
So the Fine line, Where and what is it?  I suppose the line is one that real from a few perspectives, first from the view point of those not in the relationship.  The folks that look at a Father that is his sons Scoutmaster and wonder if there is favoritism being played or lesser expectations toward the son.  Then there is the point of view of the Scoutmaster that has his son or sons in his troop, how does he maintain a Father/Son relationship while not playing favorites or giving his boy a break.  Then there is the point of view of the Son, the Scout who has his Dad as his Scoutmaster.  This must be the toughest position of all.  This young man is constantly bombarded with peer pressure and the comments of “he’s the Scoutmaster’s son”…
So there is the relationship issue, in all of these cases.  So the question then is how is this dealt with?
First, I will tell you that every Scout needs to be treated equally, even the Scoutmasters son (s).  This is the best way to make everyone Scouting experience fun and without to much drama.
So here is where it gets sticky for the Scoutmaster.  No one has the right to treat the Scout with anything but respect and equality.   Just because the Scout is the Scoutmasters son does not make him a target for comments or unequal treatment.  Now the Scoutmaster has a big part in making this happen.  He can not treat his son with any favor, that is not to say that he dismisses his son, but he needs to maintain equality in the treatment of every Scout in the Troop.
Leadership positions, elections, awards and advancement all need to be conducted by the book.  I was asked once if the Scoutmaster should conduct the Scoutmaster conference for his son, I say yes.  After all he is the Scoutmaster, the Scout (his son) does the work and they have a conference… there should be no issues there.. as long as it is done by the book.  The conference should be completed just like every other conference, in the open, scheduled, and within the appropriate conditions of youth protections and BSA policy.
On camp outs and other troop activities it is OK to be a Dad with your son, but the fine line would dictate that be a Dad, but not at the expense or neglect of the Troop.
Your son is part of a Patrol, he is hanging out with his patrol mates and you should encourage that as much as possible. 
I have made it a point to spend time with both of my sons in a Father/ Son relationship throughout their Scouting lives.  We do this by hiking together, jumping in a canoe together and I make sure that while at summer camp I sit with them during meals on occasion.
There are times and places that the Fine line can be crossed, but never if the troop is effected in a negative manner.  A good rule of thumb is to think about the Scout.  If he is made to feel uncomfortable or picked on, then you need to back off.  I have seen Scoutmasters that spend too much time with their son and the appearance is that of playing favorites.. “Little Johnny does not have to collect fire wood.. he’s the Scoutmasters son”.  That kind of stuff will rip at the patrol and troop and the Scout will start to feel rejected by his peers.
I would just say that there may be a fine line, but it is not one that reduces the Father and Son experience in the Scouting program… when the leader understands this and watches out for the good of the Troop.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

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4 thoughts on “The Fine Line

  1. Thanks Jerry. Being a (soon to be) Scoutmaster – and father, this addresses a number of questions i've had. Honestly never thought about the "pressure" on the Scout/son but certainly will going forward.

  2. My son will be 13 in August and I have been his Scoutmaster for 7 months. Something he did on his own about 3 months ago was to start calling me Mr. Mitchel during campouts and Troop meetings. The rest of the Scouts call me that and he wanted to feel more like he was a part of them. The rest of the time he calls me Dad. I have tried to be sure an call him by his name during campouts and Troop meetings and call him son the rest of the time. It has actually been pretty neat for both of us.

  3. What about the opposite of favoritism? What if someone says "Boy, little Timmy's dad is really hard on him." I have that issue with my son in the troop. I pull all of those scouts back and treat them equally, but sometimes, I cross that fine line of being overbearing with my son…and that may be a result of not wanting my son to have LKS…Leader's Kid Syndrome.

  4. As a Scoutmaster and Jambo Scoutmaster with my own son in the troop, I know how this can be a challenge. As a youth I worked in my Dad's office and that I believe is where I learned my methodology (for good or bad) in maintaining a balance in these dual relationships.My Dad always had the highest expectations/standards for me. Moreso than other employees. I never got out of work – I got extra work. I never got to slack, I had to exceed expectations, or do it over.With my son, I find I'm very demanding and whether to ensure we're not accused of playing favorites, I do my best to make sure he's carrying his share of the load, and then a little more..I also make sure we spend some quality time together. My son is an amazing young man and I'm blessed to be his Dad. He makes me proud constantly, and exceeds the performance, behavior, and expectations most of the time. (He is still a Young Man after all..so he's not perfect!)

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