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  • Too harsh???

    So, I have an SPL who has been inconsistent in attendance at best. Last night; 45 minutes before the meeting that he'd been stating that he would be attending, a week before COH, I get an email. This is the following email thread (and I know that email discussions are bad news, but I struggle to resist responding)

    Boy: Hey mr bo I will not make it to scouts tonight so Joe (ASPL) will take over tonight.

    Me: Ok I was expecting you since next week is Court of Honor, and you are supposed to be the main speaker, and you told me last week that you'd be there tonight and at Court of Honor. I needed you to review the information, and to decide who would be in place of Joe, who will not be there for Court of Honor. I won't have time to meet with you between now and then. With this situation, I will be asking the next down in the chain of command who will be reading in place of Joe, and I will have somebody to take your place, in case you aren't there next week.

    Boy's mother: Scoutmaster,This is Stacy. I was not aware that Chuck was supposed to be there tonight. Chuck told me he was supposed to be but I did not get the option to explain.
    That is fine about next week.Chuck has his first basketball practice and was torn as to what to do, so now the decision has been made easy.
    Please know that Chuck will NOT be running for any leadership positions going forward.

    Me: Hey Stacy,

    I have no hard feelings with Chuck. He is a great boy! I'm surprised that you didn't know that he was supposed to be there tonight. It is Tuesday, and the last meeting before the Court of Honor, with Chuck as the main boy leader in the Troop, and should have been the main speaker at one of the three big ceremonies of the year.

    I understand that leadership positions require a lot of time, commitment and prioritization, so if he (ya'll) chooses not to run for a leadership position again at some point; I understand. As a leader in Scouts, I find that I give 40+ hours each week of volunteer time to make sure the boys have a good experience. Most of the time, I defer away my own son, in order to ensure everybody else is getting as much attention as I can provide. I take calls and respond to emails at all times of day and night, and many times, my wife and girls don't have my attention. I do realize leadership positions are difficult.

    I only ask the boys who choose to be leaders to give a couple of hours a week towards their role in Scouting, which hopefully helps them gain communication, citizenship skills, leadership, and organization. I try to ask for much less time than any other extra-curricular activity offered. I try to offer the Scouts opportunities to do things that they may never be able to do otherwise. I try to respect the Scouts who take on leadership roles by expecting the best of them. I honor these boys, and the boy leaders; and wish I could have had the opportunity to do this when I was a boy. It is something that they can look back on and feel proud.

    If I have too much to have asked of Chuck; to be present for meetings, to wear his uniform and to bring his book; to set an example for the boys that he leads, then I am sorry... I really don't believe I made a mistake in my expectations in the boy leadership.

    I bcced the ASMs on this email, and 2 of the 4 responded that i was being unfair to the family, and I was too harsh on the boy...

    Too harsh???

    If so, how would you have handled this situation differently? (obviously, the possibility of handling this in a phone call, as our next meeting after this is January 7, and the issue would be too historical to handle face to face)

  • #2
    Boy-led would lead me to deal with this situation with a SMC even if that meant getting in the car and driving over to the boy's home to discuss it in person. Sounds like Mom is way too involved in the boy's decisions. Sure there's sports and that can be worked around, but once the season's over he can get back in the saddle. Sounds like Mom made the decision that he's never going to do a POR again. That pretty much cancels out his Eagle and the boy should be given the opportunity to speak for himself. Remember if given the choice between only Scouts and something else, there's a 50/50 chance you can lose the boy. Ultimatums never work out very well for anyone.



    • Tampa Turtle
      Tampa Turtle commented
      Editing a comment
      I think this would have been the best course as others have said email always seems harsher than in person. But you are correct SPL is a big job and the boy needed to show up.

  • #3
    Not too harsh at all. I asked SM to do the same for Son #2 when he was shirking in his SPL responsibilities due to the soccer season. If I can fault you for anything, it's wasting the time typing. Eventually you'll learn to say save those bytes about hours of your time etc.

    Bottom line: Boy did not do job. Time to find another boy who will step up. That's all you need to say.

    Secondly: Missing CoH is a big deal, even if you aren't leading it. It shows where priorities are. It would be nice if a boy tells you those priorities in advance, but many times they don't even know what they are.

    Yes, Mom is more involved than should be, but Boy is not communicating clearly to Mom about priorities. It's a vicious cycle that is very hard to break. Better luck with the next boy.


    • #4
      Harsh ... depends on who's reading it and what frame of mind they are in. Generally though, emails are always read much harsher than intended. Always.

      There are some remarks in the email that are passive aggressive. Nothing that bad, but ....

      My advice would be to never send email in those situations, neither the scout or the mother. Instead, give the person a call. Email is great for facts and communication. But very bad for expressing disappointment or feelings.

      - Your conversation with the scout could have waited until the next time you saw him. Nothing was conveyed for coordination other than you telling him what you would do because of his failings or potential failings. That would have been a good short friendly conversation and probably would have built your relationship with him.

      - Call the mother directly and now to communicate verbally. Apologize.

      From what I read, you have a scout who was enthused enough to run for SPL. Now, it is questionable if they would stay in scouting.

      Fix it with good friendly conversation and apologies if necessary.


      • #5
        Not too harsh.
        Any more circumspect, and you risk not communicating your expectations, to the parent and to the rest of your troop.

        It's MUCH easier to let the boys know what you expect from an SPL than it is to fire an SPL later because he didn't know that there was work involved.


        • #6
          sounds like mom is being obtuse. you'd really have to have your head in the sand to not know that your son, the SPL and leader of the boys, would not need to be at the meeting prior to the COH and the COH. Would she have told the basketball coach "oh, I didnt know he needed to be at practice"? Im guessing not.

          So were you harsh? dont think so. the boy (and by extension the mom like it or not) made a commitment to his fellow scouts and the troop, and he is shirking it for another activity. Its your job to call him on that and get him to step up and do whats right, because others are depending on his leadership. Hopefully you dont lose the boy, but it doesnt sound like mom was very supportive to begin with


          • Basementdweller
            Basementdweller commented
            Editing a comment
            OP said that most of his troop is under 12 in another post.

            I wonder how large his troop is????

        • #7
          One more thought. If the SPL can't make an event, that's why one has an ASPL. Sounds like the SPL did the appropriate course of action and turned it over to his ASPL. Nothing wrong with that, that's how it's supposed to work.

          As SM, I can't always make every event, that's why I have good ASM's around me.

          When this SPL quits over this incident, the ASPL is going to take over anyway, but now you're down one boy, probably one of the better one's too. That's unfortunate.



          • #8
            I would not have done that exchange via Email or txt message.

            But before that I gotta ask........

            Was the lad elected by the troop or appointed by you because he needed a position?

            Did you hold your Troop Leadership Training (TLT) to begin tenure for the position?

            Does he have the SPL Handbook and have you sat down and reviewed it with him?

            If you held TLT, do you continue to meet with him weekly to offer guidance on how the meetings are going and is he holding PLC meetings???

            If the lad has not been trained then his failure is not his ,but yours. I

            You are not being too harsh. Our troop has an attendance policy of 80% for youth leadership.....It has not been a problem

            Train them, Trust them, Let them led/.


            • #9

              From your posts you seem a bit lost.

              I would like to offer a couple of suggestions.

              Do you attend roundtable? Do you know any of the other SM's in your area and are you familiar with their programs???? Do you know of a troop that you like their program or how they function????

              I am suggesting attending roundtable and finding a local SM mentor in your local area, NOT A UNIT COMMISIONER, but an active SM.

              I have a couple that when I have issues or questions I bounce ideas off.

              I have to ask about your Boy Scout Experience, Not counting cubs.


              • #10
                Interesting comment Basement, about finding someone to talk with NOT a UC.
                Sort of off topic, but not really... I have been struggling lately, with exactly your recommendation. I'd like to know a little more about how other units operate, since all of my experiences as an adult scouter are with only this one unit. I know that in some ways we have 'evolved' into doing certain things in a certain way. I don't want to fix what works, but at the same time it could be good to step back and breathe in some fresh ideas now and then.
                I see a little here and there at round table, on this forum, etc.... but I still really don't have a feel for what other units do. Not what the books say, but what they really do. Nothing specific either, that can be asked.... just general stuff. This is where I figured a good UC could be handy. They are supposed to get around and see other units....
                But I do recognize that this is very hit or miss. I've seen our a few times, but not much and when he does visit, it's in and out. So really, I can't say with good confidence that he knows how our unit works.
                I have a tentative mtg set with our UC soon. Can't hurt (I hope)

                Looping back to the original post and your response.... finding a SM in and area with a program you like could be difficult for sure. How are you supposed to know if you like their program, unless you visit them multiple times in different settings OR spend a whole lot of time with the SM and the folks from the unit? Anyway, I'm not being critical.... just troubled I guess on how to apply the advice.


                • qwazse
                  qwazse commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Camoprees, Woodbadge, camping every month. (That last one is why I pack in extra coffee. You never know who you'll cross paths with in bear country, but it's likely to be your kind of scouter.)

                • Basementdweller
                  Basementdweller commented
                  Editing a comment
                  So who exactly is your unit commisioner and how or where does his or her knowledge come from????

                  My point is find a SM who you know is running a successful program and ask them questions. A commisioner is a person who can set through a number of classes just like a cub scout den leader and end up with a certificate.

                  I know of several den leaders who have become commissioners, really???? Your going to offer advice to a SM about troop operations or issues when you have never been in his shoes????

                  Ahhhh, no thanks.

                  Honestly, if you want to find a successful troop in your area, just call your DE and he will steer you who to talk to. His bonus runs hand in hand with the success of your unit.

                • dedkad
                  dedkad commented
                  Editing a comment
                  With all the extra time I'm sure you have on your hands, you could always become a Webelos den leader. Then you can spy on the other troops under the guise of troop visits for the Webelos boys. I've learned a lot about how the different troops operate in our area by attending these visits and asking lots of questions.

              • #11
                A few things from my phone. One, I visited a different troop once a month for five months to see how other troops operated. I learned a lot. Two, we try to brief parents of youth leader expectations before elections so they know what their sons are getting into. Three, I always tried to talk to parents in person. If that won't work, then on phone. They are much less aggressive and more open to a friendly conversation. A quit easy voice always encourages listening. I once had a mother yell at me during what could have been a very difficult situation envolving several families. I told her I was coming to her house that moment to discuss (defuse) the situation. We had the matter settled 30 minutes later in her living room after a very friendly conversation. Barry


                • #12
                  Harsh? I see nothing harsh whatsoever. A very gentle and well padded reminder of what his responsibilities are.


                  • #13
                    Hey BD... Yep... I'm a new Scoutmaster, barely a year into the Boy Scout program. The Troop is 75 years old, but there was only one boy returning, so I told the WEBELOS group that if they wanted to cross over into the Troop, that I would be their SM (the old one had no desire, and hadn't for the past few years). We've been learning together. I crossed 12 boys, and now we're a 17. Camped 20 nights this past year. We've attended summer camp, been climbing, sailboating, caving, whitewater rafting, backpacking, and a variety of other things. The Scouts are working on advancement (4 - 1st class, and a handful of 2nd class). I know one or 2 other SM's in the District that I occasionally speak with about issues, but they seem to either talk up how well their Troop is doing, or struggle with similar issues.

                    Roundtable has been a session where we go in, do pledge, a presenter presents about a merit badge, and everybody leaves. No hanging around talking about issues, successes, and ideas. Maybe I just haven't "become part of the gang" yet, but everybody seems disjointed.

                    Our program in itself is going pretty good, but some stuff; I'm just struggling with, making it up as I go, and doing the best I can. I try to follow Greenbar Bill's teachings, and try to utilize the Patrol method throughout everything done in the Troop. I read constantly,, from this forum to to etc. etc. I don't have a UC, and my CC is very motivational... "Your doing the right thing." "The programming is great." You have a great grasp on the Patrol method." ETC.... But when I have issues, the standard reply is, "You'll figure it out."

                    That is why I reach out to various forums, and have found my way back here... To get honest, objective feedback. ideas, affirmation (when deserved) and constructive criticism when needed. Its all very helpful...


                    • Basementdweller
                      Basementdweller commented
                      Editing a comment
                      from what you said you do not need an SPL.

                      I would remove the position and have two PL's who alternate the role when it is required for an event or summer camp.

                      Honestly, rare is the boy who can be an effective patrol leader at 12 even more rare is an effective SPL at 12.

                    • qwazse
                      qwazse commented
                      Editing a comment
                      No UC is better than a useless one. Often you get the same result as you would talking to those couple SM's you know.
                      Lot's of scouters would gladly do the work of UC without the patch.
                      You'll almost always get split opinions from us ASMs, we all know we're just one step away from being stuck in the same quagmire as the SM's.

                      The CC is doing the right thing for his position. You really only need him to help you think through serious discipline issues. If the worst problem is Chuck and Joe not being on top of their calendar's, you're golden!

                      Like BD said, there's no rush to fill that SPL/ASPL position. The PL's can take turns presiding over meetings until your next election time. At that point, if your troop hasn't grown to four patrols, the boys may decide that they don't need an SPL, or one very strong leader will come to the fore, and the boys will elect him.

                  • #14
                    Getting into the details of how-much-time-I-give wasn't the right way to go IMO. It shifts the focus away from where the problem really is.

                    Simpler explanations are generally better… the boy knew what his responsibilities were when he took the position; the "team" counts on him to fulfill those responsibilities just like his sports teams, etc.; if he does not want to fulfill those responsibilities it is best he doesn't hold a position of responsibility but he is more than welcome to continue with the troop.


                    • bokris
                      bokris commented
                      Editing a comment
                      yeah... after sending my, "oh look at me" statements within the email, I realized that I should have known better... You would think that I might learn to hold my emails until the emotions are in check. After several years, I still struggle with the same issue I guess I won't struggle, once I actually stop doing it!

                    • bokris
                      bokris commented
                      Editing a comment
                      yeah... after sending my, "oh look at me" statements within the email, I realized that I should have known better... You would think that I might learn to hold my emails until the emotions are in check. After several years, I still struggle with the same issue I guess I won't struggle, once I actually stop doing it!

                  • #15
                    I like the thought of having a "pre-election counseling session" for the Scouts who are looking to run for the position (as well as their parents). I believe it will be a hard sell to keep the boys from wanting to have an SPL... As elections begin to be on the horizon, the Scouts really begin to look forward to them. They begin looking at positions they would like to run for, and as of late (elections are in January), have begun picking "running mates." IE. "Lets run as a team... You run for SPL, and I'll be your running mate for ASPL (appointed by SPL). We'll campaign on a dual ticket, and should be able to pull more votes than if running alone... Kind of funny. I have 2 Scouts doing this right now, one on a Patrick ticket, and one on a Taylor/ Andrew ticket.

                    It's getting pretty heated, and its still a month away....