We all get to a point when we hit the wall, reach the point of diminishing return, stop having fun. Teen age boys seem to hit that point way before adults and that my friends seems to be normal. So know what we know, how do we deliver that promise without loosing our cool, making Scouting painful, and zapping the fun out of it.
I have been giving this subject a lot of thought lately and it pretty much came to a head for me the other night at our Troop meeting when I had a little chat with a Scout and his Dad. This Scout is a good kid, he is growing up and seeing where he can push and pull on the limits with his parents, school, etc… that to seems to be pretty normal, I mean, all kids test the waters. They see were they can get away with things and what they will be allowed to do and not do. But that is not really here nor there in the conversation other than to say, this young man is testing where he can and Scouting is becoming a push and pull point between his Dad and himself.
I remember when this young man entered our Troop, he was gung ho about Scouting and dove right in. He quickly worked his way through rank and never missed a good Scouting opportunity. Went to the National Jamboree and Philmont and has by and large been a good Scout. But now he has a driver’s licence, a girl friend, and Scouting is not cool among the crowd he is hanging with at School. Again, normal… right?
Like I said, this all has come to a head this week, the discussion about how we maintain a good balance for our Scouts without compromising the program. How do we keep older Scouts engaged and how do we keep it fun and adventurous for them while we compete with the rest of their worlds? How is that we keep them from reaching that point of diminishing return and get them to continue to make a contribution to the Troop? How do we assist them in staying active as a member and leader in the troop?
Well, I may not have the answers, but I am willing to try to at least offer solutions.
I am, as you know, a big believer in the Patrol method. I think that the Patrols are a big piece of the puzzle here. Allowing the Scouts to maintain the Patrols of guys that they want to be with, share common interests and likes and dislikes. Maybe if they stay together, they will rally around each other. To much moving around and the Scouts start to lose interest in going through the stages of team development and maintaining that high performance attitude.
So let them pick and keep their Patrols and Patrol mates. When they invite a friend, let that friend be in their Patrol.
Leadership is always an issue also. We expect our older Scouts to be leaders. And I agree, but to what end? When they start to hit the wall, they are not affect leaders, they tend to go through the motions and develop bad attitudes. If they don’t want to lead, don’t make them. They will get their leadership time and I would much rather have a leader that wants to lead than one that is being forced. Leadership comes in many forms and maybe just their example can be enough till they are ready to step back into the spot light of Troop leadership.
Attendance. This one gets debated over and over again, and everyone has an opinion. By the way, I am interested in yours.. leave a comment. Here are just a few thoughts of mine regarding this issue. I am not a big proponent of forcing Scouts to be there. I want them to be there. I also understand that life for these kids (and adults) is busy. Sports, homework, vacations, friends, other clubs all pull at the Scouts and their families. Don’t let Scouting be the thing that becomes the bad guy. Make Scouting something they want to be at. I have said it before, Scouting may not be for every boy and as their world pulls at them it provides an opportunity for choices to be made. The more they understand the value of Scouting and the fun, the higher on the priority list it goes. Attendance at meetings, outings, and other unit functions needs to be the choice of the Scout and the family.
But Jerry, how do you determine what “active” means? Well, I always go back to what the Boy Scouts of America has determined as the standard. Here is how the BSA defines “Active”:
A Scout will be considered “active” in his unit if he is;
Registered in his unit (registration fees are current)
Not dismissed from his unit for disciplinary reasons
Engaged by his unit leadership on a regular basis (informed of unit activities through Scoutmaster conference or personal contact, etc.)
In communication with the unit leader on a quarterly basis.
(Units may not create their own definition of active; this is a national standard.)
So that’s it. That is active. I may or may not agree with it, and I am sure that there are some of you that feel that this standard is a bit chinsy.. but it is what it is. That is how the Boy Scouts of America define it and that is what we must comply with when determining the activity of our Scouts. That is the standard.
And so that is what I use as my guide. Now, during the Scoutmaster conference I make it a point to ask what the Scout is getting out of the program… typically, you get out of Scouting what you put into it. So once a Scout gets to that point where Girls, Gas, and Goofing off start taking a priority and troop meetings start to take a back seat, what is he getting out of it. Does he still camp with the Troop? Does he show up for service projects or courts of honor? That would make him active, right? I think it may. The Scout will let you know how he is doing in the program, but we all know that forcing the issue on a teen-aged young man will result in push back. And then you are back at square one. The fun will officially be zapped out of it.
So what now?
First, know your Scouts. What they like, dislike, and what makes them want to be there.
Second, use the Patrol method. Enough said about that.
Finally, be flexible. It’s only Scouting. There is much to be gained in our organization, but if you are not happy here, or not here at all, you won’t get anything out of it.
Don’t be a Troop dictator. Be as Baden-Powell said in Aides to Scoutmastership.. “To get a hold on boys, you must be their friend”.
Build trust in them and let them set their course for adventures in Scouting.
Hope that made any sense… Don’t zap the fun out of Scouting.
Thanks for hanging in there and reading the blog.
Have a Great Scouting day!