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How much underachievement should I tolerate?

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  • How much underachievement should I tolerate?

    I'm a mother of 6 and a 2nd year wolf/bear DL in Greenville, Mississippi. I use the title loosely though. Our pack did so little last year, I went to training again because I couldn't remember what I was supposed to do.

    Our CM will not require much of anything from the parents, for fear of them leaving. His philosphy is "at least they're here". The boys don't have books or uniforms. The uniforms I understand as we are a pretty small, poor town. But books don't cost very much and the boys are not getting any achievements done at home. The CM confirmed that he expects me get all their achivements done in the den meetings, although the books clearly say otherwise. I am unable to do much of anything fun with the boys since we're trudging through achivements in our meeting. The CM dismissed my concerns by telling me all the things that the boys had already done. Like on the campout......they made difference stick configurations for fires, hiked, and fished. Hiking is a bear requirement, but I don't think the others are. He told me that my boys satisfied their cooking achievement because we made popcorn balls............. yeah.

    A parent in my den is very angry with me, although I don't think I've ever spoken directly with her. At a campout, I expressed the opinion to the CM and other DLs (and I admit it's possible another parent or two heard) that I found it shocking that she and her son were sleeping in their suv and that I didn't think they should be doing that. I feel strongly that the boys should all participate in the same activiities, together, and that was my point. In addition to sleeping in the suv, they drove to the very nearby bathroom, the mom drove behind the rest of us to the fishing spot, and watched a movie before bed while I shooed all the rest of the boys away from their windows, back to "camping". I only became aware of her anger toward ME when the CM explained to me why she was rude to HIM over a week later during a pack discussion of Christmas activities. All this seems like such a big deal, yet the CM told me not to even appologize to her, and to just let it blow over. I believe if she's THAT angry that this issue needs to be resolved and not shoved under a rug. But I guess that would violate the CM's philosphy.

    The CM and I have only resolved one issue, and that happened when he agreed to stop hitting the boys with a ruler. At least two parents had given him permission to do so, one being a relative. That is common practice in the public schools here, which is why I decided to homeschool. My son, who had the highest GPA in all of 2nd grade was threatened with the ruler once for answering a question wrong! The CM already knew my stand on that from a lengthy conversation we had about the teachers. It was explained to me by the principal as a "cultural difference". This is a bit off subject, but sheds some extra light on my dilema.

    The boys miss out on a lot of things because the CM fears their parents will leave. We settle for less, just to have a larger crowd; quantity over quality The boys missed out on being in the Christmas parade because last year afterward half of the boys didn't return. I thought that was because they had a bad experience. However it is supposedly common knowledge in our pack that some parents will do that, even buying a uniform just for the parade, so that they can be seem by their friends and family, only to quit after. Sadly, that is the mentality I've found since moving here from Florida.

    There is a possibility of the CM taking the SM's place next year and I let him know that I would be happy to become CM if he decides to. He and I have peacefully discussed our differences and he is aware that I would run things quite differently. I told him that if things stayed as they were, I would likely start another pack at the church my in-laws started. He basically told me not to stress over things i.e. be happy to underachieve, that I would run everyone off as CM, and not to start my own pack because it would be exactly the same since all packs pretty much are.

    Am I missing something or is this all wrong? I see this as any other activity a child would be a part of. Parents pay a lot more money for many sports, yet have to adhere to far more strict rules than we are requiring our parents to comply with, and almost for free! What should I do?

    Erin

  • #2
    I forgot to mention one other problem I have with our pack is that we do not have "pack meetings" as I was instructed to at training, nor do we have leader meetings. Our pack meets together every single week, before splitting up into dens. But we never do skits or sing songs or anything like that. Is it normal and acceptable not to?

    Comment


    • #3
      In my experience, normal is a pack meeting once a month and den meetings weekly.

      It sounds like your CM needs to go to training or needs to be replaced. Talk to the committee chair or the COR.

      Badn-Powell said that Scouting is a game and indeed it is. Like most games, it has rules and ways that things should be done.

      If your son played soccer and the coach said that it was okay for the boys to pick up the ball and run with it, would they be playing soccer? They'd be having fun but they wouldn't be playing soccer.

      Scouting is the same way. You're not doing Scouting if you don't follow the Scouting program.

      As for the uniforms, there are things to do. A fund raiser in town to raise money just for uniforms (following BSA guidelines, of course) that would create a uniform bank and when boys outgrow their uniform, they turn it in and draw a new one. Uniforms can be found at great prices at yard sales, rummage sales and on ebay.

      Or just say, "since we can't afford BSA shirts, we'll all get Pack T-shirts and that's what we'll wear for meetings.

      Like a soccer team, the uniform gives a sense of belonging to a group. That's why gangs have colors.

      As for losing boys, my son's troop lost about 50% of the boys when the new Scoutmaster wanted to start following the program. The troop became stronger as a result. Paring away the deadwood can be a good thing.

      Comment


      • #4
        The main thing that bothers me in your post is the statement "he agreed to stop hitting the boys"...

        Thank God you got him to agree. Corporal punishment has no place in Scouting...even in Mississippi...even if the parents give their "permission"...even if the public schools "allow" it. There is zero tolerance for child abuse and hazing in the BSA. I assume all of your leaders have taken the required Youth Protection training? It's available free on-line.

        Comment


        • #5
          Wow, I agree with scoutldr. That comment about hitting and worse, with an object, really caught my eye. I know parents who would have aggressively pressed charges of some kind, maybe child abuse, even if it didn't involve their own son. Wow.

          I agree with Gold Winger. TRAINING! New CM if you have a better one available. Get with the program. I am an old CM and cub scouts are really easy if you follow the program. You don't have to do anything fancy but it IS supposed to be fun. The boys are supposed to WANT to be there. And I agree, if they can't afford the uniforms, then go with the t-shirts. We did something similar.

          Comment


          • #6
            Faithhopelove, I think you have a choice here. I think you have to content yourself with small, incremental changes or yeh have to go start your own pack (and then your own troop). Your vision is right, and your heart is right. Poor kids need people to believe in them, and to expect 'em to achieve! Lettin' them by with gross underachievement is just another way of keepin' 'em in poverty.

            Beavah

            P.S. Next time, though, start by approachin' a parent on the side yourself (about sleepin' in an SUV). Give 'em a campout or two to think about it and change. Only then go to the CM or a bigger group. Just plain courtesy. Never say behind someone's back what yeh haven't said to their face.

            Comment


            • #7
              Thank you all for the responses and great ideas!

              I think my CM knew deep down he was wrong for the hitting, because he was squirming when I told him that had to stop. It only happened one day to my knowledge. But he waved the ruler around in front of the parents and said maybe he'll have to bring it with him camping. Some of the parents snickered. It boiled my blood. Where I'm from you wouldn't think of laying a hand on someone else's kid for fear of a lawsuit. Besides that, it's just not necessary.

              I've asked many times to have a fundraiser specifically for uniforms, but the CM doesn't feel that's important. Do I have to have his permission? =)

              Beavah, when I said what I said about the mom camping in her car, it wasn't so much about the mom, but rather that the CM was once again letting someone do whatever they felt like (but I didn't say it like that). My hope was that the CM hearing my very apparent shock and amazement would push him in the right direction for the future. And I found out that she went on campouts all last year, in a tent. Honestly, I never would have considered talking to the mom myself. I have no authority beyond the work I do with the boys on their achievements in meetings. The parents don't participate and I don't know any of them. I wish things were different, but unfortunately, it never crossed my mind.

              I really don't want to "ditch" the boys that I've gotten to know in this group, but I'm really thinking that it might be for the best to start a new pack, or at least join another one. I hate to give up on anything, but maybe it's best to leave before I get in too deep. If I stay I have to be willing to accept things the way they are with only hopes of a better future. I'm praying for a sign!

              Thanks again to all,
              Erin

              Comment


              • #8
                Erin, do you know who your Unit Commissioner is? Give your council a call and find out if your Pack has one assigned to them. If they do, get his contact info, or the contact info for the District Commissioner if you have no UC.

                Give them a call and explain the situation in your Pack to them. Invite them out to one of your den/pack get togethers so that they can observe. Helping out Units in trouble is part of what they do.

                If you can't get this Pack moving toward a BSA program again, I would move on.

                BTW - Uniforms are not required to be a member of the BSA, but they are encouraged to bring a sense of belonging, community, to the boys. There are many ways to find low cost shirts. What does the Pack do about awards? If they have no uniform where do they display rank and elective awards?

                The "no corporal punishment" rule is a basic Youth Protection rule that is stressed in all BSA Youth Protection trainings. It sounds like your CM is not trained at all.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Hitting boys with a ruler?! At a cub scout event?! Egads. No, this most definitely is NOT "typical," nor is it tolerated by the BSA policies.

                  A couple of questions for you:
                  1) How large is your den?
                  2) How well do you feel you know the families in your den?
                  3) How many other den leaders are there in your pack and how well do you know them?
                  4) What would happen if your den started holding your own, separate, den meetings at other times besides the annointed pack night? I don't see why you couldn't do this (say, hold a den meeting on a Saturday afternoon or something and do something FUN) and in doing so, you may be a catalyst for some changes in other dens too.
                  5) About the books - could you simply ask the parents in your den (forget the other dens for now) to purchase the books? You do not need the CM's permission to do this. If they truly cannot afford to buy them new, you may be able to get slightly cheaper second-hand copies online (ebay, etc.), or you might try contacting your council and asking if there is any financial assistance available. Or I suppose you could have a master copy or two of the book for the den. Send it home with a different family each week so that they at least can use the book as a reference while they work on activities. Then you could use a simple wall chart, brought to weekly meetings, to record the actual advancement for each boy instead of signing off in their individual books. Your council scout shop should have a wall chart for each cub scout rank and they are only a couple of dollars.

                  While the way you describe the pack's group meeting nights and lack of an actual monthly pack meeting is not in keeping with how the cub program is designed (which I'm pretty sure you knew already from training, right?), you may want to consider your priorities in terms of how to change things. It could be that you decide to focus primarily on providing a quality program within your den, and set the pack meeting issue on the back burner for a bit. Once you have a great den program up and running, you may find it easier to get support from others outside your den for other pack-wide changes.

                  As a den leader, there are lots of things you can do without requiring explicit "permission" from the CM. You run your den, not the CM. However, making any sort of change is going to be far easier if you can get buy-in from the parents in your den. So be sure to take a few minutes to explain to your den's families why you are doing things differently from other dens. This needs to be framed in a positive way that keeps the focus on your den(ie, "Here's how the Wolf den program is set up and these are some of the really neat things we can do this year with our boys." as opposed to "those other dens/leaders aren't doing it right").

                  If you are unable to muster support from the families in your den or if the CM goes ballistic or something and the other pack leaders support him, then I think you're in a position where either you go along with "the way things are" or you leave the pack and either find another one you feel is a better fit, or start your own.

                  Starting your own pack is a lot of work and depending on the level of commitment you're able to give it, this might not be the best solution for you. So before going down that road I'd really recommend you visit a few of the other packs in the area to see if they truly are all the same, as your CM claims. He may be badly misinformed about that, or he could just be saying that to keep you from leaving.

                  Hope this helps somewhat, and thank you for your dedication to scouting.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    "I've asked many times to have a fundraiser specifically for uniforms, but the CM doesn't feel that's important. Do I have to have his permission?"

                    The decision to have a fundraiser is up to the Pack Committee, not the CM. It must also be approved by the COR and the Council. You could contact your Pack Committee Chair and volunteer to organize the fundraiser. The CM really doesn't get a "vote" in this.

                    (I realize this is the "book" answer...it sounds like your Pack leadership is in desperate need of training, to learn the "BSA" way of doing things. This is where your Unit Commissioner should be helping out and "mentoring" in a friendly sort of way. As a DL, you really don't have much power, other than to volunteer to help do things the "right" way.)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Thank you all so much for your advice.

                      Honestly, I don't even know what a Unit Commissioner is.....but I'll be finding out! lol

                      I didn't know that we had a committee either. I know of only one person besides the CM; am elderly woman volunteers and comes to all our meetings. She handles the money and popcorn. But I will check into that to see if we can get some money raised for pack t-shirts or something.

                      LisaBob, you've given me some great ideas. I will try to implement some of them.
                      Our pack always meets together. I believe we have about 20 boys. I think my den is supposed to have at least 6 boys. I don't know anyone in the den well at all, not even DLs. Besides myself there are 4 other trained DLs. Two are the daughters of life-long hard-core BOYscout leaders (don't know actual titles). When they show up they're fantastic. The other two, I don't really know their stories, but I'm often the only DL to show up, as was the case this week. I strongly suspect that's because we feel useless - I do anyway. I feel like we are one big waste of delegated responsibility.

                      I realized today, after the Christmas program practice at church that I don't only have this problem at scouts. I am from a whole other world it seems. I moved from S. Florida to Mississippi. In most aspects I love living here and greatly prefer it to the busy life in FL. However, very often the slower pace of life here seems to inevitably lead to being satisfied with less. Sometimes that's good - when you simply can't have it any other way. It just kills me to know what potential for fun and learning the BSA program holds, and that our pack is just content to never realize it.

                      I honestly don't think that I will ever see much change. Most likely I will scout out other packs for next year. But, if I don't find anything better, I will just find something else to do with my time. I don't want to fight with anybody, but I also just can't bring myself to settle for far less than we could have, when it is within our reach to obtain so much more. I plan to move half-way across the country in 2-3 years and maybe I'll find a better pack there.

                      I love the cub scout program so much! Thank you all for taking the time to help me out! I appreciate you.

                      Erin

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        faithhopelove,

                        Has there been any improvement?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Erin,
                          I know how you feel. When my husband and i joined Scouts this past September our Pack was well almost shameful. Many leaders were not trained and the ones that were didn't act like it. Everyone seemed happy to be underachivers. Our son was given the option to fundraise popcorn, whereas there was only two weeks left. He really wanted to do it so we spent about 2 hours going down one side of a street in our neighborhood. His only goal was to Fill up one page. He did so! His total sales amount was $610. He was the top seller of our Pack. I felt that was quite sad. Out of 32 registered boys who had months to sell popcorn. A Tiger Cub in for only two weeks, who only put in 2 hours of work became the Top Seller.
                          Our Pack meetings were a bore. Our Cubmaster, just stands at the front of the room and reads out of the Program Helps quide. My husband was in Scouts from Tiger through Eagle, and he couldn't stomach it, so we went to a Committee Meeting, where the atmoshpere was very simular to the Pack meetings. Only a few people showed and they acted liek zombies. Being 'the new guys in town' we sat back and remained quiet for the first one. The second one we showed up with Books and things we found online. Our Tigers did a skit or audience participation song whether or not anyone liked it. But "Amagingly" the parents and boys did like it. We personally purchased our Dens awards and handed them out. Soon parents we're complaining and stepping up and saying, "Well why isn't my boy earning awards?" Then suddenly we found out we had an Advancement Chair, we had thought he was only a den leader. People started listening, reading the newsletters that I faithfully made to hand out at every pack meeting and mailed to those that disn't show. Our Pack has apparently been around for ten years and even with 30+ registered boys never had more than 30 people show to the Blue & Gold Banquet. This year we had 75.

                          Change can happen. It only takes one person changing one den, for people to start asking "How'd you do it?" Then other Dens and the Pack will compete. No one like to be shown up by the "New Guy". All people children and adults alike crave structure. Yes you will loose people, but they are probably not people you want involved anyways.
                          This is BSA where we teach our boys how to grow up Doing their Best to set goals and achieve them. Don't let others discourage you. Whether you try to turn your current Pack around, or start a new one, or find a good/better exisiting one. Do not give up.
                          Another option that I have not seen anyone mention yet is the option to Lone Scout. I strongly suggest looking into other Packs or forming your own before you look into it, expecially whereas you are already homeschooling. But Lone Scouting is where it is just you and your boy completeing the requirements, directly under your District Executive and Commissioner.

                          As the wife of an Eagle Scout and the friend of many Star - Eagle Scouts, I can tell you that this organization teaches boys what nothing else can teach anyone. Boy Scouts walk, talk, and act differently than any other supposed men I have ever met. If you give up completely you are giving up on giving your boy the most important education of his life.

                          DO YOUR BEST! for your boy.

                          CarlaB

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            HOLY MOLY BATMAN. Hitting a child. Something that should only be reserved for the parents in the privacy of the home. And that is for constructive spanking only.

                            On to other subjects.

                            I saved a pack this fall. The CM was going to take his Webelo 2 to another pack for the last year. But he agreed to keep going if I would take over as CM next year. A lot of things to learn I have found out. But I am getting there.

                            Sometimes you have to look at the boys that you are responsible for.
                            Look for the ways to get your Tigers what they need, and ask the other den leaders if there is anything that you can help with. Maybe you shoudl look into takeing the CM if he leaves.

                            If the parents are going to leave because they do not want to help thier Cubs, then do they really have an interest in the program. Or are they using it as a baby sitter service. I know that sounds harsh but there are some parents out there.

                            Keep trying to get your Tigers through and help those that want help. As for the camping trip. I put in the list of things to bring, a list of things not to bring. Video Games, DVD players. Stuff like that. If they want to bring a MP3 pplayer (Not Video) that is fine. I even asked the parents to try to avoid constant cell phone use. I put in there, we are going camping and lets try to get away for ust one day. We will also be parking the vehicles away from the camp site. So that will prevent some problems, I hope.

                            As for the Pack meetings. Most of the parents in our pack wanted to go to everyother week for the meetings. I agreed. We have den meetings every other week and our pack meetings are about every other month or so. This also gives the boys a chance to earn some awards. That is how we do it. That is what the parents wanted and truthfully, All they had to do was show up. As den leader I was doing the planning, so their decision has made my planning eassier. I told them that we would just have to work harder on some of the achievements.

                            Hope this helped

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              In South Africa we have similar problems.

                              Any form of physical hitting is construed as abuse and here if one is witness to it they have to report it, even once. if not they are liable for disciplinery. we have to take strong lines due to past transgressions.

                              parents camping we hugely discourage, it doesnt give the boys or girls a chance to expand and be themselves. children behave a certain way infront of parents and another way when folks are not there. be firm and polite and explain when planning for an outing drop off is this time non-participants leave this time and collection is this time. if they want to see how things are going they contact you, all cellphones and such are handed in. and the spirit of patrols and sixes is lost if each person sleeps elsewhere. most of the bonding between the guys is done in the tent after lights out when the adults go to bed, what a shame to deny this.

                              if you feel your cm (i assume you are saying Cub Master) is not performing then take the initiative. the unfortunate thing in scouting is once they have passed the age requirements then one cant go back to complete awards. our programmes are balanced between games and activities and everything is geared toward advancment. there are many games out there that can be used.

                              people like to see action and if you dont like an under acheiver dont be one. by saying the cm is happy where he is then it says he cant be bothered to put the effort in. we spend two hours a week runnin our programmes and around six a week planning and preparing for them. it is a big task but the rewards are enourmous. what ever we do though is always done in the light of fun etc.

                              hope it helps from a different perspective

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