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Getting kids into Scouting - Choice vs. parental influence

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  • Getting kids into Scouting - Choice vs. parental influence

    Hi folks. New guy here. I'm the father of a 2-year-old, and although I've got a few years before my son is even eligible to join a Pack, Scouting is already on my mind. I'm an Eagle and I regard my days in Scouting as some of the best I had as a youth, and so I have high hopes that my son will get the Scouting bug as well.

    Although we live in a "Main Street" kind of town, I'm already trying to instill a bit of an outdoorsy spirit in my son, and it's not hard to do with him. He loves being outside, far more than being inside. I think he gets worse cases of cabin fever than I do. My parents live in Vermont, so he's already had lots of exposure to the outdoors up there, seen lots of animals, etc. Around home we spend lots of time in parks and playgrounds, and in the spring we'll be doing our first family campout in the woods, although in a pretty not-roughing-it sort of campground with showers, toilets, etc.

    In the coming years, I'm sure I'll always be hoping to hear him say that he wants to be a Scout, and I won't hesitate to sign him up. But I also know that there's probably an equal chance that he won't ask about it, and I'm wondering if it's the right move to still put him in it.

    Anyone have experience with this? I know parents who put their kids in Scouting (both BSA and GSA) just to try it and see if it was something their kids took to. I also know parents who prefer to put their kids in things that the kids request. Which is usually whatever their friends are into. A friend plays soccer, they want to play soccer. But everyone plays soccer, so it's a likely request. Scouts isn't as popular.

    Would you (or did you) put your kids in Scouting at their request? Or was it something that you decided for them? Any thoughts on the effects of either choice? Are kids who express an interest more likely to see it through to the end? How much (or little) should my own history with Scouting and my love of the organization weigh into any decisions about whether my son should join?


  • #2
    Much to my wife's chagrin, we took the kids on camping vacations before they could walk. Son #1 asked to be in cub scouts the minute he got the tiger cub flyer from school. Never had to push him to keep signing up year after year (including helping start a crew) until he went to college. Daughter didn't like girl scouts, so she waited until she could be a venturer. Likewise, she enjoyed it until college. Son #2 started as a tiger and is likewise enjoying troop and crew life. Makes me wonder if I should let him go to college?

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    • #3
      Cool to see someone so excited about getting their kid into scouting.

      Our position has been (prior to about 12 yo or so) is that our sons don't know what something is until they try it. How would a 6 year old boy know what cub scouts (or fiddle, or soccer, or Sunday school) is like unless he does it?

      In the early years parents lead their children into activities and programs that the parents value. The trick is to watch your child's response to these things and encourage what they enjoy and have aptitude for.

      But, don't wait for a flier....go find out what is going on in your neck of the woods. Perhaps you have a spare evening or weekend to give a hand now? Wouldn't that be cool if by the time your son was a cub you had some experience as a cub volunteer?

      Think about it.

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      • #4
        I'd second what AKdenldr has to say... how does the lad KNOW what he wants to do for an activity if he's never tried it before. As a parent, you lead your kid towards things you value, be it scouting, church, a musical insturment, football, or dance.

        The trick is to give the kid a chance to expirience it for themself and then let them decide if its a good fit. It doesn't really matter the activity so long as the child is having a good time, learning some life skills, and is there because HE wants to do it. I have two sons. Older boy, tried a couple seasons of little league. Did OK, but it was like pulling teeth to get him to play catch or take batting practice to improve his skills... he now does scouts, band, and soccer because thats what he likes.

        Little brother - you can't get him to take off the glove and put down the ball long enough to come in and eat dinner. Maybe its a phase, but maybe he really has a liking for the skills of the game... time will tell. He can't wait to join cubs because he's watched his older brother go through 6 years of cubbies and Boy Scouts now. Was camping last weekend with both boys and younger one asked me to open a bag of beef jerky he couldn't rip open... I pull out my pocket knife to cut a slit to make it easier and he starts giving me a hard time about not making sure he was outside my "blood circle" before I took the blade out !! I have a feeling he'll have as much fun in scouting as son #1 is having.

        The trick is to embrace whatever your KID embraces. The trouble starts when a parent either wants to relive their own glory days or pushes a kid to an activity the parent wants more than the child does (for whatever reason). Be less concerned about WHICH activity the child chooses and more concerned for their motivations and what life lessons they can learn from the activities they participate in.

        Welcome - and enjoy the ride... if you think its a challenge at 2, just wait for 6, 12, or god forbid the teenage years

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        • #5
          I've never been an outdoorsy person myself, but my son decided he wanted to do Cub Scouts as soon as he was able to. He's in his 2nd year and now I'm a DL for Wolves and Bears here. We had a campout set up on a day where we had a sporting event and he decided he wanted to go camping more than sports. Heck on the way there he told me that he wants to go canoeing. I've never done it and now wish I would have done Scouts when I was younger so I could help him out even more.

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          • #6
            My experience was like Bookemdano. Me and the mrs are bookworms but our boys were always outdoorsy. So we did start Tigers and went on every campout we could. I became a leader and havebeen at it now 6-7 years. If our Pack was having a Sat-Sun campout and the leaders were allowed to come out Friday night I always went out Friday night and I think my sons enjoyed that as a perk.

            I think when they were little they just enjoyed the time with my dad, the uniforms and trips, and trying bigger boy stuff. Then they started liking the awards and recognition and eventually the camaradrie of being in a group of lads. By that time they are in Boy Scouts.

            The main thing is to keep it fun and at their age level. Boys who are "camping experts" by 10 can get pretty bored with Boy Scouts.

            Another thing we did was make it a priority. So we bump a lot of other activities in favor of scouts. Kids figure out that you think it is important.

            It took a while for my younger son to get into it but now that he is a Boy Scout he finally got to be around other boys and start exhibiting natural leadership.

            I am a bit jealous that some of you guys are former Eagles. I never developed those skills and while it is easy to bluff them a bit as Tigers it gets harder and harder

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            • #7
              Thanks for the replies, everyone. Lots of good info here. I think the point made by several folks about kids at that age not really knowing what something is, and therefore not knowing whether they'd like it, is an important point. I guess if we only let our 5 and 6 year olds do things that they volunteered to do, many of them wouldn't do much.

              Originally posted by DeanRx
              ...The trick is to embrace whatever your KID embraces. The trouble starts when a parent either wants to relive their own glory days or pushes a kid to an activity the parent wants more than the child does (for whatever reason)...
              This is exactly what my concern has been. I have no doubt that if my son becomes a scout, I'll want to be a volunteer and have some role in the pack and eventually the troop. Heck, I'd probably be a SM if given the opportunity. So is this more about me than him? I guess that depends on how things go a few years into it. If he hates it and is begging me to let him quit and I refuse because I want to remain active myself, then that's obviously the wrong reason for keeping him in it. But I'd like to think I'll be able to make the right call about that if and when the time comes, not just about Scouting but about anything my kids do.

              BTW, assuming your name is Dean based on your username, the boy we're talking about here is named Dean also. Great name.


              Originally posted by Tampa Turtle
              ...I am a bit jealous that some of you guys are former Eagles...
              Whoa whoa whoa there, Turtle... Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.

              Sorry, couldn't resist.

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              • #8
                For Soccer, I just put the boys in. My oldest was almost 6. For Cub Scouts, I waited until my oldest asked, and we joined the next fall. He started as a Wolf. My youngest joined the next year as a Tiger Cub. When they were cubs, I asked them almost every year if they wanted to do it another year. WIth Boy Scouts, I haven't, they've caught the bug--oldest is now a 14 yr old Life Scout and SPL (as of last night), youngest is a 12 (almost 13) yr old Star Scout and PL (as of last night. Good election night for us :-) )

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                • #9
                  For Soccer, I just put the boys in. My oldest was almost 6. For Cub Scouts, I waited until my oldest asked, and we joined the next fall. He started as a Wolf. My youngest joined the next year as a Tiger Cub. When they were cubs, I asked them almost every year if they wanted to do it another year. WIth Boy Scouts, I haven't, they've caught the bug--oldest is now a 14 yr old Life Scout and SPL (as of last night), youngest is a 12 (almost 13) yr old Star Scout and PL (as of last night. Good election night for us :-) )

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                  • #10
                    I echo what others have said, but also add that there is a grey line someplace where the lads need to be pushed a little.....er encouraged.
                    IMO, you can't take him to a meeting or two, then if he didn't have fun and therefore didn't like it, just let him quit.
                    Nobody is going to like every aspect of anything. Even adults, but especially a little kid. They need to be introduced to things, AND encouraged along the path.
                    My oldest is only 7, well almost 8......I'm still tring to figure out where that line is.

                    My bet is you wont have any problems fulfiling YOUR goal to be a scouter. Sons like to be like dad.

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                    • #11
                      My son is 22 and still in scouts.. But at Tiger cubs, he was not so thrilled.. Part of it was that I had signed him up, and my son at 5 or 6 was already rebelling against a parents guidance.. My husband, an eagle scout and wanting him in Boy scouts but not so sold on the cub scout thing, feared his rebellion about being in Cub scouts would sour him from trying boy scouts later in life. But, few boys join boys scouts who did not join Cub scouts as by then they have found some other path of interest.

                      The solution was that he stayed in cub scouts through Tiger and go to summer camp. After summer camp, if he wanted to leave scouting it was his choice. Well after summer camp he was hooked and stayed in it as his own choice. I do not know if it was summer camp, or the fact that it was his choice and not his mother's, or a little bit of both.

                      Well, for normal kids I agree with AKdenLeader.. Introduce the scout to the activity, with the added advice you do your part to make sure the program is of interest to him.. But I doubt I need to give that advice I foresee a father who is eager to take on the Tiger Den Leader position. But, if you have a son like mine who is already showing his desire to make his own decisions.. Then, I would just suggest you talk it up, maybe ask the Pack in the area about some outside activity they may be doing that you can take your son to in order for him to see the other kids having fun, so he will want to join into the group.. Anyway, find ways to allow it to be his decision although you may have engineered ways that he came to that decision.

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