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Merit Badges, Teaching and your son

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After 5 short years my son crossed over to a BSA Troop last night. :D As he starts his Boy Scout career, I need to relearn how to do things. I was his den leader for all these years and when it came time for the boys to work on a Webelos Activity Pin (or anything) I could plan it out, spend the time teaching the boys or just my son and sign off on it. How does it work in Boy Scout Troops?


I heard that I can't just work directly with my son and sign off on things. I was told my son has to have them signed off by the ScoutMaster. That's all fine and I was expecting that to tbe the case. I imagined a scenario where a boy can work with his dad on a Merit badge then go visit with the SM, show him any tangible things he'd done and be quized about the merit badge.


One of the existing dad's said, no you can't teach your own son. Someone else will have to teach your son his merit badge. That just doesn't seem right to me. What if a boy just wants to work on a merit badge by himself and go to the SM after the fact?


Don't get me wrong...I'm ok with someone else teaching my son. The Troop has a Dr as an ASM who is the best to teach First Aid. They have a guy who is a photographer and videographer who is the best for Cinematography. No question on that and I'm happy to do it. I'm also happy to teach a class on things I'm good at to everyone. BUT, my son is a driver and self motivator and I see him wanting to work on a badge that no one else is interested in and it could possibly be something I'm qualified for. I couldn't council my son on that badge?




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In Boy Scouts, the Scouts approach the Scoutmaster to say they want to work on a merit badge. The SM gives them a name or list of names of counselors to contact. The Scout and a buddy make the contact with the Merit Badge Counselor and start working on it. The SM doesn't quiz or sign off on individual MB requirements - that's the MBC's role.


That's how it's supposed to work, anyway. If your son has an independent interest in a subject, or if the two of you are working on a hobby together that falls under a MB subject, great! That puts your son a step ahead when it comes to working on the MB, but it doesn't mean you can sign off on a requirement. Some Scoutmasters allow their Scouts to work on MBs with MBCs who are their parents; others don't.


The bottom line, however, is that your son needs to be the person taking the lead on this, approaching the SM, deciding on what MBs to earn, etc. - not you. That transition from CS to BS is difficult for many parents. The best thing you can do for your son right now is to take a deep breath and a step back, and let him find his own space. If you're going to be a committee member or ASM, go get trained immediately. Take the online training. Hang out with the adults on campouts, not with your son.


Also, as a general principle, he might want to focus on his T-1-2 rank requirements first. A Scout can start on MBs at any time - you don't have to be First Class to work on them, as some people mistakenly think - but mastering the basics of camping and the outdoors is usually the best place for someone to start.


Addendum: Merit Badge Counselor is a registered position. If you're not on the rolls as a registered MBC, your signature or initials are invalid. An ASM or SM or even a random parent who's an expert can't just sign off on requirements willy-nilly unless they're also registered MBCs.(This message has been edited by shortridge)

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I am sure you already realize that this is just one of the troops peccadilloes, they will have others. I am not sure how they expect to police the not teaching your son anything. From whatever religious principles and values you hold dear, to driving a car to use of vocabulary, your son has learned quite a bit from you already.


They may mean you cant teach your son scout skills, but again, thats hard to enforce. It may be the troop is trying to reinforce the Adult Association method of scouting and they want your son to be exposed to different adult teaching him various skills and there is a lot of merit in doing that. Watch and see how its done, its possible the dad you talked to doesnt have all the facts. BSA wise there is no rule that you can't teach your son or counsel him in merit badges that the district/council has approved you for but you may wish to see how the troop culture operates for awhile to see how things are done

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There will be a bunch of answers to this, but start first with the idea that the advancement model is completely different in Boy Scouts. There are rank advancement requirements (which are typically signed off by someone within the troop -- every troop most likely has their own policy on this front -- in our troop, for example, Patrol Leaders and Instructors have this responsibility -- both are youth leadership positions).


Merit Badges are a completely different system -- every Scout goes to a registered Merit Badge Counselor for instruction and sign off. You are welcome to register to become a merit badge counselor (for one or more of the 130-some merit badges). There is no prohibition on you counseling your own son in a merit badge, but some troops discourage that (and can rationalize it in a few different ways).


There are many factors that come into play here, including your troop's policies. Our troop, for example, is pretty much the "any merit badge at any time" type of troop, where others will be more selective about which Scouts work on whatever merit badges at whatever time (an example -- some troops will not refer a Scout for First Aid merit badge when they haven't completed the rank First Aid requirements yet; you'll find that one of the first requirements of the First Aid merit badge is to complete the Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class First Aid rank requirements).


So my recommendation would be this -- if your son has a ton of initiative, that's great. Channel him into talking to his Instructor/PL and SM. They will guide him in what to do. You don't really need to facilitate this for him.


Meanwhile, find some subject areas that appeal to you, sign up to be a counselor, and take merit badge counselor training. Counsel some Scouts other than your son, and then you can see firsthand how the system works.



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Dan take three or four huge steps backward, put the scout book down or more to the point hand it to your scout........



This is his journey, not yours.... I might suggest just dropping him off at the meeting location for 6 months or so.....that way he can get to know the boys without dad interfering.



Merit badge councilor are the least of your problems right now.....give your son time and space.....

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First of all, can you counsel your son?


Maybe. I'd have to look up the actual rule but I believe the unit leader that opens up the blue card has the ultimate say in who the MBC is. Probably a non-issue in most cases but if I knew for a fact that there were an MBC that was not making the boys do the requirements, I would not allow any scout to work with them. Technically, I did invoke this rule when I invited a presenter to work on emergency preparedness with the boys. As part of it she did the first-aid rank advancement requirements and I signed off on those in their books and she did the First-Aid MB (she is an FA MBC) and for the boys that didn't have it, I gave them all a blue card and she signed off on them so I guess I assigned them a specific MBC.

As a SM and if you came up to me to ask to work with your son on a MB, it would depend. If I felt you had the integrity to do the job (not to easy but not to hard either) andno other reasonable option were available I would say yes. If you were an unknown or a helicopter parent or if another MBC were available, I would say no.


In actuality, I have been the MBC for my son in Environmental Science, but it was as part of a group and not individually. It is a bad practice to work with your son individually but depending on circumstances it may happen. I am an MBC for Astronomy and my son came back from camp needing 2 more requirements. There is no other MBC for astronomy in the troop. I will probably help him finish and sign it but understand that as SM, I NEVER work with my own son as an individual. I assigned an ASM that is his Scoutmaster that signs off of all of his advancement and other paperwork and does his Scoutmaster reviews. I would only work on a merit badge with my son with his blessing as pro-tem unit leader.



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Take some deep breaths, and step back.


What if a boy just wants to work on a merit badge by himself and go to the SM after the fact?

That's not how it's supposed to work. The boy goes to the Scoutmaster to get the name of a counselor, before beginning work on the project. That's the actual rule. The Scoutmaster can decide who can be counselors, and they often will not allow parents to do it for their own kids. But it is his job to give your son someone's name who will do it.


But again, you're way ahead of yourself here. Your son doesn't need to work on any merit badges for awhile. See if there's some other thing you can do as a volunteer to help the troop.

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Hi Alabama Dan! Thanks for your many years of service to the Cub Scout program. Yeh must have been havin' fun to stay in things that long.


I often tell folks the way to think about the transition from Cub Scouting to Boy Scouting is similar to how the same sort of transitions are goin' on in the rest of the boy's life. There's a transition to middle school. Along with that, there's a transition to middle school extracurriculars and sports.


All through elementary school, parents pretty much led activities, eh? They're soccer coaches and T-ball coaches and such. As your boy grows up, though, he'll move into activities where there are school-appointed band directors and paid professional coaches, and parents move over to being supportive through Boosters organizations. The same happens in Scouting. Activities become more challenging, and boys who are growing in independence need specialists to interact with and folks who have deeper skills in areas. They learn more - not just about the topic, but about how to see themselves as their own man and capable of interacting with experienced folks outside their family.


So your role as a parent changes if yeh want your boy to grow. It becomes more one of supporting his explorations and encouraging his goin' out into the world and working with others, rather than doin' it yourself. And then helping the program to work well by offerin' support. Boy Scouting is like that.


For a Merit Badge, the boy is goin' to approach his Scoutmaster and get permission, and then be directed to an adult with particular expertise in an area. If he's interested in Veterinary Medicine, he might be directed to a local vet who will meet with your son, perhaps show him around his animal clinic, sit and discuss a plan for having fun and learning the material, and eventually after a few meetings and some independent work by your son, test him out on the badge's requirements.


As others have mentioned, there's nothing to stop you from doin' the work for/with your son. It might be fun, yeh might find it fulfilling. But if yeh do yield to that temptation then I promise you when all is said and done you'll be disappointed with the long-term outcomes of your son's scouting experience. A better role to move into is one of support. Be the safe place at home that is necessary for a boy to go out into the scarier world with confidence. Encourage him, drive him to meetings when he asks, but let the work, the successes, and the failures be his.


It's hard, eh? It takes a lot of deep love and genuine effort by parents to take those gradual steps back. Most good troops try to help parents by being pretty firm about "parents don't counsel their own sons," at least at the start. In the rare case where a parent truly is the best or only local "expert" in a field (you're the only Nuclear Scientist who can be found), then of course most units will do what makes sense.


If I could make a suggestion? I'd say yeh need to give your son some space to make Boy Scouting his own on his own terms. Pick a couple outings to go on, but don't go on every one or even a majority. Step back into a committee role for your first year and help in small but important ways. Give your son time to learn the lay of the land, and then more time to engage successfully. After your son has been in for a stretch and made it his new home first, then there's room for you to come in and start trainin' as an Assistant Scoutmaster and learn the ropes which are very different from Cub Scouting.


I think you'll find that in the long run, hard as it is, you'll like the outcome.




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While there is NO official BSA rule about being an MBC for your own kid, many troops discourage it, and I can see why (Adult Association Method). Considering how involved you were in your son's CS career (and that's great!), now might be the time for him to stand on his own, to interact with other adults and take charge of his own scouting. I know my kid most definitely does not want me to be part of leadership now that he is in a troop. I promised him that I would not become an ASM for at least 2 years and that I would be involved in committee only. He wants some freedom away from his leader parents (poor kid, he usually has at least one of his parents and most of the time both at any given campout, hike, den meeting, event, etc)


Having said that, you could still donate your considerable talents to the troop as a whole. You can become a registered MBC for any MB you feel you have enough knowledge on. I would strongly encourage your son to do his MBs with someone other than you most of the time.


That doesn't mean you can't help your kid with his MC work, but it should be mainly his job. But for instance, a lot of MBs require some kind of field trip..no reason why you shouldn't be the one taking him and discussing various things.

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In the latest edition of the "Guide to Advancement, 2012, Section


Any registered Scout may work on any Merit badge (unless otherwise restricted in the Merit Badge) at any time:

--Needs approval of the SM (signature on a Blue card #34124)


The SM is responsible to confirm that Merit Badge Councilor contact information from the Approved Council list is made available to the Scout, but a Scout can choose ANY approved Merit Badge Councilor (or event like Jambo midway or Merit Badge event).


The SM should still consider and approve if appropriate.


In section a Merit badge councilor is not limited to a # of badges that can be approved for, and once approved can council ANY Scout (including their own son, ward or relative). Scouts are encouraged (but not required) to associate with adults outside their own family.


Merit Badge councilors are a District function-approval, not a unit function.


In my opinion, an approved Merit Badge councilor has as much integrity as any other Merit Badge councilor to council any Scout. Otherwise, the District should be alerted to remove them.


It goes on and on on Merit badge Counseling, but that should be enough to answer the initial post.

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Hi AD.


I need to relearn how to do things. I was his den leader for all these years and when it came time for the boys to work on a Webelos Activity Pin (or anything) I could plan it out, spend the time teaching the boys or just my son and sign off on it. How does it work in Boy Scout Troops?


Actually you need to unlearn as Yoda would say. There are some VERY BIG differences between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. And while variations may exist, the general consensus is that the Scout is responsible for his own advancement, does it at his own pace, and he needs to be on his own with his patrol to both succeed AND FAIL (emphasis, not shouting) in order to grow physically, mentally, and morally.


While BSA does not have any national policies regarding parents signing off on son's advancement in Scouting, the SM is the one in charge of who signs off and which MBCs a scout uses, and is the "gatekeeper." In the troops I've been in and worked with, with very rare exceptions and to be honest I can only think of 1 case, MBCs do not sign off MBs for their sons, nor do leaders sign advancment for their kids. The one exception I know about was for an Atomic Energy/ Nuclear Science MBC and a small group of Scouts. Oh one other, at summer camp teaching classes.


In regards to regular advancement, same thing. I know of excellent SMs who refused to have anything advancement related with their sons: no conferences, no sign offs, etc because they did not want ot give the appearance of favoritism. Also part of teh advancement process is to get them use to interaction with adults, and having dad or mom sign off defeats the purpose. Also sometimes leaders have harder standards for their kids than teh rest of the group. I know my son gets that form me on occasion.


Besides being a new scout, he needs to focus on the basics, T-2-1. And IMHO his PL, SPL, and other older scouts should be the ones signing off.



ONE MORE THING! The key thing you MUST LEARN NOW is the question, "Have you asked your Patrol Leader?" ;)

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Yah, I guess that I've never been very into quotin' things out of books as authoritative, at least not ones that aren't Revealed Texts. And even those yeh have to read in context. ;)


I think the actual quotes from the G2A are "any scout may work on any [badge] at any time as long as he has the approval of his unit leader" (emphasis mine). Similarly "the scout may have a [counselor] in mind with whom he would like to work. He may also want to take advantage of opportunities at merit badge fairs or midways, or at rock-climbing gyms or whitewater rafting trips that provide merit badge instruction. This is acceptable, but the unit leader should still consider the recommendation and approve it if it is appropriate. A unit leader should consider making more of the process than just providing an OK. "


Da problem with just quotin' those random sections is that it really doesn't give a good picture of best practice or allowable local changes or all kinds of other things. For example, my council will only approve a counselor for 5 badges at any given time. That's not somethin' I agree with, but it's somethin' that's fairly common in councils, eh? It's up to the council advancement committee who they register for each badge, and they can use any criteria they like. Sometimes a chartered organization may limit MB counselors only to people who have passed their own adult screening or leader training, because their youth protection rules are stricter than the BSA's. Sometimes camps restrict badges by age or by rank for practical and safety purposes. Sometimes outfitters that offer Whitewater MB or Climbing MB restrict the offering to boys over a certain age because of insurance limitations.


And on and on. There are more things on earth than are dreamed of by your guidebooks, Horatio. :)


From a practical point of view, there are few things as potentially disruptive and contentious in a troop as parents signin' off their own kids on a bunch of stuff, especially if they are unit leaders or assistant unit leaders. Heck, it's contentious even in Cub Scouting, eh? In Boy Scouting it can be positively toxic. It's worth avoidin'. A troop that doesn't want to permit the practice is goin' to have the support of most of its members, and in the end can simply tell a family that disagrees to take their scouting elsewhere. Membership and the free-will contribution of other folks' time is a privilege, not a right.




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All of the above, and ask yourself this question:


What is the best way I can assist all of these boys in this troop around my son?


Just as the one skill your son will be gaining is how to tap other folks besides Mom or Dad for assistance, there are all those other boys who need someone to call on for something, a couple of them may be best served if that someone is you.


Example from my experience: on the campout after son #1 crossed over, I took for granted the SPL knew how to season a dutch oven. One melted oven later, I realized that this fine young man could benefit from a little direct supervision on setting up a cooking fire -- not a blast furnace, another dad realized that the QM could use a little coaching on tracking our troop's cast-iron cookware -- not to be confused with summer camp's aluminum gear.


Have fun. Get trained. Watch son git 'er done!

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First off, welcome! It is a LOT different and can be a difficult transition for a DL. I 2nd stepping back for a while, maybe helping on the Committee somewhere before training up for an ASM. If you do ASM maybe with work with boys other than your son--you know be in the vicinity but not engaged. It can be hard. Let him work with other adults.

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