The Leading Question?

The other night at our Troop meeting I was approached by a frustrated parent.  He asked why I continuously gives the boys the “run around”.  I asked him what he meant, even though I kind of knew where he was going.  He told me he has been sitting back watching over the last few weeks as Scouts come to me with questions.  He wanted to know why I never just answer the questions that the Scouts have.  I asked him to give me an example.  He stated that a young Scout came to me with a question about meals last week, he wanted to know how many they needed to plan for.  Apparently my answer to the Scout was, “Have you talked to your Patrol leader about meal planning for the next camp out?”  The frustrated Dad wanted to know why I didn’t just tell him that he needed to plan 4 meals.
He went on to ask why I didn’t answer another Scouts question when I was asked about an activity.  Again, he says “you pawned it off on the Patrol Leader”.
The straw that broke the camels back however came when a Scout came to you, he said, asking if I could show him how to tie a certain knot.  Frustrated Dad threw his arms up when again I called the Patrol leader over and asked him to show the young Scout how to tie the knot.
“What is it that you do?” he asked.  I teach leadership I replied.
“How is this teaching leadership?” he asked.  Well, its like this.  If I just answer the question, then why do we need Patrol leaders?  If we don’t have Patrol leaders, how does the Scout learn to lead?
When we are camping for example, there are countless opportunities to use leading questions to teach leadership, skills, and camp craft.  Questions that get the Scout to think and act. 
On our last camp out, the Senior Patrol Leader gave direction to the Patrol to camp in a certain area.  One Patrol chose to camp on the slope of the hill on little plateau’s created on a trail.  This was fine as it practiced good leave no trace, but I had a few questions for the Patrol leader regarding placement of a few tents.  I did not tell the PL to move the tents, but did take the opportunity to talk about terrain and ask him what he thinks might happen if it started raining.  We talked about it for a minute and he came up with a solution.  He was hell-bent on not moving the tents.. so they dragged some downed logs over and placed them in front of the tents across the trail creating a break or diverter should it start raining.  He did tell me that they had made sure that the doors of the tent were facing down hill and away from the possible flow of water.
It rained like cats and dogs on Friday night.. and sure enough, their plan of pulling logs over the trail worked, not a single wet sleeping bag. 
It is the leading question that teaches.  Allowing the Scout to think a problem through and not just giving the answer.  This empowering of the Scout to think and act is a valuable lesson to him.  Sending a Scout to his Patrol leader for answers is just as powerful.  It teaches that we have leaders that have purpose.  It makes the leader stronger, because at the point that another Scout comes to him with a question he must do something… lead.  He needs to have the skill sets and knowledge to answer the question, solve the problem or seek help.  These are great tools in teaching leadership.
So frustrated Dad, there is a method to our madness…
And what do I do?  I teach by example.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

One comment

  1. Yes! Just frustrate that guy all day. I love it. Maybe someday he will get it.

    You are also teaching Scouts to rely on their peers. Why did the Scout go to you with the question in the first place? Because his dad and school and sports and, and, and, etc all taught him to go to the first adult available. As he begins to rely on his peers, their leadership skills grow. One of the hardest things for a PL to do is wrench his new, young Scouts away from Webelos dads.

    And eventaully, perhaps, sometimes, he will not even bother with the SPL or PL and he will solve a problem himself!


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